Aug 14, 2023 Schools
For many years, the benefits of having choice at school have been well known. This could be choice around the variety of subjects that students can follow, sports they can pursue, or extra-curricular activities that they can be involved in. Many of the top performing schools across the globe provide their students with a wide range of choice in these areas. Now more than ever, schools are also offering choice regarding the curriculum that a student follows.
Kristin School in Albany on Auckland’s North Shore has always recognised the importance of nurturing and extending each individual learner’s strengths and abilities. An educational innovator, Kristin was the first school to introduce the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme to New Zealand alongside the national curriculum NCEA.
The results of this dual offering speak for themselves – by providing students with the ability to select the curriculum that best suits their learning style, Kristin students consistently perform at the top level amongst their peers.
Senior School Principal David Boardman says: “As educators, we know that no two students are the same. They have different passions and strengths when it comes to subjects, they learn in different ways, and they respond to different teaching styles depending on what works most effectively for them. Student choice provides freedom and autonomy to determine the direction in which they want to go, how their understanding will be assessed and which skills they wish to learn. The learning becomes more personalised, resulting in greater student ownership and better outcomes.”
Providing this choice to students, when classes are separated as content and assessment styles are different, creates challenges for schools in regard to resourcing and ensuring there are suitably trained staff to deliver the programmes and resourcing.
“But the results are worth it. We know that one model does not fit all and that this choice is critical to student engagement, success as well as the development of a positive mindset and culture within the school.”
Kristin has been offering the IB Diploma Programme since being authorised as the first New Zealand IB World School in 1986. Since then, it has also chosen to offer the Primary Years and Middle Years IB Programmes. In Years 12 and 13, students have the choice to follow the IB Diploma or to take NCEA Levels 2 and 3, with approximately half of students choosing each pathway.
David says another benefit of being able to offer an international qualification alongside a national one is that it broadens the perspectives of all students, regardless of which curriculum they choose.
“Ensuring that your school and students have an outward looking internationally-minded approach is critical for the development of students, who will be working in an increasingly globalised world. It is also critical for workplaces, as we need to develop future leaders who can appreciate the different challenges and opportunities that a global economy holds. Students of today will need to develop consideration of multiple different cultural backgrounds, and the skills to be able to communicate, cooperate and work with others from these backgrounds.”
This idea of collaboration and the value in diversity is not new. Charles Dickens published an article ‘International Education’ in 1864 which stated that “a citizen of the world at large has tolerance that comes from acquaintance with different ways of thought.” Confucian education also believed in “learning through positive relationships with people from our nation and beyond.”
International-mindedness does not come from just being part of a multicultural environment, it needs to be nurtured and developed through an inclusive and supportive curriculum and ethos within schools. Its development depends on integration into all parts of the curriculum and the wider vision of the schools and communities.
David observes, “Kristin is proud to have been at the forefront of dual curriculum schools in Aotearoa New Zealand and the wider Asia-Pacific region. We have seen over the past three decades the benefits and strengths that it brings to both individual students, in enabling them to achieve to the best of their abilities, and to the wider school community in how it changes and challenges perspectives.
“Kristin Alumni go on to study around the world, winning places at top universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Brown, Duke, Harvard, The New York School of Performing Arts, Melbourne, and Sydney. They have achieved this through both pathways as it is not which they choose that is important, rather which works best for their needs and style.”