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Inside the IB Career-related Programme with Chantell Wyten

The IB’s youngest, but arguably most innovative and future-ready offering is the Career-related Programme (CP). We talk about the history of the CP, its core elements and the benefits it offers schools, teachers and students. I’m joined by Chantell Wyten, Senior Curriculum Manager at the IB and knower of all things CP.

Hi, I’m Zach and welcome to the IB Voices podcast, available for streaming on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher. The IB’s youngest, but arguably most innovative and future-ready offering is the Career-related Programme (CP). The CP is an educational framework that incorporates the values and mission of the IB, the rigor of the Diploma Programme (DP) and career-related education that prepares students for further education, apprenticeships and even employment. To talk about the history of the CP, its core elements and the benefits it offers schools, teachers and students, I’m joined by Chantell Wyten, Senior Curriculum Manager at the IB and knower of all things CP.

So, I know you were teaching in the UK when you were first introduced to the CP. I want to ask how that came about, but first: what is the IB CP all about?

Chantell: Absolutely. So, the CP, when it was first introduced, had the moniker of being a marriage between the academics and the vocational, the career-related aspects of learning. Pulling together a hybrid education. Then, as the IB has gotten to know how schools implement the CP, it’s more of a case of it being completely flexible; flexible over time to student needs and school needs.

One of the things I say is that it’s truly the most international of our programmes. It acknowledges local qualifications, puts them together with IB qualifications, and has our stunning signature core, which helps to drive the entire experience for students as well. So, I think as much as it’s called a Career-related programme, it really fits into the IB area of a broad, balanced curriculum and very much holistically focused on every individual child.

Zach: So, the school you were teaching at became one of the first CP schools?

Listen to the full interview on the IB Voices podcast

Chantell: Yeah. We were quite lucky to be involved in piloting the CP. I joined in on the CP journey around 2009, where it was introduced to our local district in the UK as an alternative pathway, as a potential for something we could grow. And it was a huge amount of risk. At the time it didn’t have a huge amount of structure or curriculum attached to it, but it did have things that we thought our young people needed: learning about personal and professional skills, thinking about transferable skills having the opportunity to do an ethical, reflective project. All these things sounded really different to what the educational offering was in the UK at the time, and it was something new that students would be interested in.

What worked so well for us though, is that our students were eager to give back to our local school community. So it was really a two-way collaborative process to develop that curriculum from scratch. And isn’t it great that the IB gives schools permission and flexibility within its own framework to do that? We had students going off and doing phenomenal things from art to science to engineering and going to university.

Zach: I’m glad you said that because I think there is a stigma when somebody says that it is forgoing university or college.

Chantell: The CP is suitable for students who want to go to university for further education, career training or to directly enter employment. But we’re finding increasingly that most CP students are taking up the offer of university and are being welcomed by universities all around the world. So, it’s great to know that the students have a full reach of where they can go and what they can do.

But I think the exciting thing about the CP is that it keeps a check on the, as well as other qualifications. It posits the question that if students are able to study whatever they want and whatever proportion they want, what are the outcomes? We know the educative benefits of personalizing curriculum and making it as inclusive and accessible as possible.

And there’s no combination that the CP can’t fit: it’s vibrant, flexible, and growing. And for me as an educator, I guess that’s where I felt like I belonged. I wanted to become the voice of something that could be really powerful, really expansive and hopefully the right education for young people.

“The CP is suitable for students who want to go to university for further education, career training or to directly enter employment.”

From one school to more than 250, how have you seen the impact of the CP grow?

Chantell: That’s a really good question. I guess you could look at the impact in three ways: you could look at it from the individual perspective, you could look at it from the IB internal perspective, and you could look at it from a school perspective.

Looking at the individual journeys, I’m still in contact with a lot of the students that I taught and have seen their resilience over time. Through the ups and downs of life, I think the CP makes and supports a student more resilient, more autonomous and more able to cope with challenges. And I also find that the CP student stories are just so inspiring because they’ve found what they want to do (or don’t want to do) with their lives post-graduation.

Zach: I really like that in the CP, you’re exploring something that you think you’re interested in, but there’s also value in exploring something to find out that you’re not interested in it at all.

Chantell: Absolutely. The CP totally prepares students for that. And I think it also prepares schools to think in that way, too, by asking them to manage their curriculum in a different way. It might be a little bit complicated on the timetable for a bit, or it might involve experiences outside the classroom or that the school hasn’t considered, but once a school starts leveraging their community assets, the world’s their oyster. It really helps the school see beyond what’s in the school’s own environment/context and really connect into the community. I think that’s the CP success story on behalf of schools. It fosters connection and collaboration – but it’s complex, and it’s not easy to do. I believe the CP can help facilitate that, though, and that’s a fantastic thing.

For schools that have the DP and are looking into adding the CP, how do they work together?

Chantell: That that is a question that schools ask, “Does introducing the CP compromise the DP?” I think it’s really important for each school considering the CP, as a standalone programme or in collaboration with the DP, to really consider both frameworks. Schools must own those frameworks, unpack them and talk about how those things sit within your school. It is very much a systemic issue as to how every school chooses to conceive the CP and the DP. But where I see the CP or the DP everybody from the administrator to a parent to a student, has a clear idea of what that programme means, what value the programme offers and what the vision for the programme is as well.

For example, you might have the DP in place for students who have a variety of skill sets and/or a variety of academic interests, and you might have the CP for those students who want to be more immersed in one particular field. I think schools often fear that there’s going to be an issue with introducing new career-related areas, or not having the right career-related area, but there’s a lot of opportunities, especially virtual ones, to work collaboratively with other schools or industries.

I think it’s so, so important to just do an appropriate portrait or survey of what the actual circumstances of the school are and how they evolve over time, so that you’re putting in the right programme for the right reason.

“Through the ups and downs of life, I think the CP makes and supports a student more resilient, more autonomous and more able to cope with challenges.”

And for schools that are considering the CP, would you mind elaborating on the CP core?

Chantell: The CP core was designed specifically for the CP. So, the core has four parts to it:

  1. Personal professional skills course, which is all about the skills that young people need professionally and personally and having a look at things like intercultural understanding and ethics.
  2. The service-learning component is all about taking action and community engagement, something that’s really complex when you’re a 16 to 19-year-old. And you’re not just raising funds for a charity or a small project that you want to carry out, but it’s a project that has an impact on the community and an impact on you. The CP gives students the skills and the dialogue basis to talk those sorts of experiences within service learning, and also to work collaboratively with others.
  3. With language development, this goes together with the IB’s multi literacy, multicultural foundation for developing international mindedness. In a way, the function of language development is like Theory of Knowledge in the DP. Like theory of knowledge, it gives the students a different kind of articulation and a different kind of lens through engaging with language learning.
  4. And finally, there is the reflective project. And it’s very similar to the DP’s extended essay, but intentionally designed for a CP audience. The purpose of the reflective project is for the student to pick an ethical issue and be reflective on it. They have to choose appropriate research to support their ideas, and to challenge their own ideas. It can be a challenging piece of work for the students to complete. But, the fantastic thing is, is that they’ve taken the time to really immerse themselves in other people’s perspectives to create their own value stance.

So, as a result of the CP core, what you see at the end of the CP is a lot of really proud students who’ve been able to basically project manage a really complex piece of research, which makes them totally ready for university. And now perhaps you can understand why so many of our students go to university.

This is what education is now about. It’s about young people not waiting for permission to take action. Young people, seeing the opportunity, seeing the gap, being entrepreneurial, being active and making those changes before they leave school. They’re not waiting to graduate. They’re not waiting for university or employment. They want to take action now.

Zach: I look forward to living in a world run by CP students!

Chantell: Yes, exactly! And thank goodness they’re coming!

Thank you Chantell for your infectious enthusiasm and your passion for the IB Career-related Programme. If you want to learn more about the programme, its curriculum, the core, and more, visit Join us next time for more stories from our students, schools, educators, and more.

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This interview was conducted by Zachary Fernebok, Product Marketing Manager for the Diploma Programme and Career-related Programme at the International Baccalaureate, and one of the hosts of IB Voices. Listen to more stories from students, schools, educators and more on the IB Voices podcast.

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