James MacDonald is Chair of the IB Asia Pacific Regional Council and Head of School at NIST International School in Thailand. We wanted to find out more about the role of the regional council and how their work supports schools, educators and students, as well as supporting the IB itself.
What is the role of the Asia Pacific Regional Council?
The Regional Council plays an important and strategic role as an advisory group for the regional director. In practice, this means besides offering a range of advice and input to assist the regional director (Ian Chambers). In addition, we also play a role in promoting the IB. For example, the council’s last two Spring meetings took place in Japan (2014) and Thailand (2015) where members met with high ranking government officials in these respective countries. We have found the regional council can be quite useful in opening doors for the IB organization in different locations around the region.
What are the council’s key areas of focus for 2015?
As an advisory body, the council does not focus upon particular annual priorities that it identifies, but instead discussions are largely guided by the strategic direction of the IB and developments in this region. Some of the topics that come up very regularly and in various forms include the balance between growth and quality and how we can increase access. That said, as our most recent meeting took place in Thailand we could say making high level connections between the Thai government was something of a priority for us this year.
How does the work of the council benefit schools, educators and students in the region?
The IB is a large organization spanning many countries. I know of no other educational organization with the same scope and breadth of operations. The organization is filled with hard working and dedicated people, but ultimately IB education is not delivered by IB staff: it is delivered by teachers in schools in partnership with the IB.
A properly functioning council, made up of school heads and external members, is just one way for the IB to help ensure there are tight connections between the IB organization and those directly delivering the curriculum. In addition, the council also provides input into decision making. I believe that if the Regional Council can help the IB make even better decisions and establish even tighter connections with schools, then this must benefit schools, educators and students in the region.
What do you like most about being part of Asia Pacific Regional Council?
The same thing I love about being a school head: the people. The council is filled with passionate, intelligent and committed individuals with very impressive backgrounds. There are countless times at meetings when I learn new things and I am challenged to think about an issue from a different angle. I also think that in a small way we are able to support our regional office and, as an educator, helping out and learning at the same time makes being a part of the Regional Council a wonderful experience.