Farah Abdul Wahab, the CP Coordinator at Al-Rayan International School (ARIS), Accra-Ghana, shares how the school navigated the COVID pandemic to ensure their first ever cohort of CP students could graduate this year.
Tell us about your school.
Throughout the years, ARIS grew as a school to become a “diverse community of learners that are committed to inspire, empower, and transform for a better world.” Its core purpose and values match greatly with the IB philosophy, where the school is dedicated to nurture creative, resilient and socially responsible students who are ready to become agents of change in the global community.
The school now offers the full continuum of IB programmes. Why did you add the CP to the PYP, MYP and DP offering?
At ARIS, the educational model is centred on the students’ personalised learning, performance and experiences. We believe in student agency and in allowing them to take ownership of their learning. During the primary and middle years, students go through so many changes and develop different skills, which motivates them to explore specific fields like entrepreneurship, design, sports and many more. We noticed that some of them start to have a clear vision on what they want to become in the future. They needed a flexible framework that allows the school to transform students’ passion into a career within a recognised educational model where students develop the necessary skills for their future careers.
This is when ARIS realised that it was time to introduce the CP to its community. This programme will open doors for many of our students to pursue their passions as careers while still in high school. ARIS’ journey of the IB Career-related programme started in 2019.
Can you tell us about the CP authorization process?
Our authorisation journey was very interesting. The verification visit was scheduled for March 30 2020. However, two weeks before the date of the visit, Ghana registered the first two cases of COVID-19 and we entered into lockdown. ARIS Director, Dr Fatma Odaymat and our Head of school, Mrs Alpana Mukerjee, refused to postpone the visit and decided to host the IBCP verification team in a pioneering virtual visit.
We put together the online structures and procedures and made adjustments to meet the requirements of the visit and provided the visiting team with all the necessary documents and interviews to meet the ARIS team. Moreover, the school had training sessions with the teachers, students and parents to take them through the use of zoom and other tech tools to ensure a smooth visit.
Despite being the first virtual verification visit taken by IB and ARIS, it was a very successful one. We received our authorisation letter from IB in May and we started teaching in August 2020.
How has the CP worked for your first cohort?
CP Pioneers: “Our first CP cohort started with 10 students who believed in the programme. These were 10 risk taker students (we call them the pioneers), who were so passionate about what they want to do in their future and saw the CP as an opportunity to study what they love.”
We had nine students opt for a career-related study (CRS) with Pearson BTEC and chose pathways in Business, Hospitality and Engineering, and one student opted for Art and Design with Savannah College of Art and Design. They customised their learning by choosing the DP subjects that will help maximise their university admission.
Once the students were inducted into the programme and were given a thorough orientation, they saw how unique and different it was from other programmes. They had to meet the rigorous demands of the DP subjects, prepare reports in their career-related studies, write an academic essay, prepare 3 portfolios for the CP core components and gain workplace experiences through the internship. These varied learning experiences created more balanced and rounded students, allowing them to connect their learning between the classroom and the workplace.
What our CP pioneers loved most about this programme is that all subjects and classes that they studied were connected to the career they wanted to pursue. So even though the workload was heavy, it did not feel as stressful because all the learning experiences were very relevant and meaningful to them.
“I was very proud when I found out that a CP student pursuing business (the student combined her CRS with DP subjects in Chemistry HL , Biology HL and Maths AI SL) was able to pass the entrance exams for two universities and got acceptance to pursue pharmacy in Hungary.”
What’s next for some of this first cohort?
Applying to universities was a process that our students thought would be more challenging. But our experiences demonstrated otherwise. All our CP students got accepted to their universities of choice and they even got their acceptance letters relatively earlier than others from different programmes. I was very proud when I found out that a CP student pursuing business (the student combined her career related studies with DP subjects in Chemistry HL, Biology HL and Maths AI SL) was able to pass the entrance exams for two universities and got acceptance to pursue pharmacy in Hungary. This experience proved to us how versatile and flexible the CP programme can be. It just requires a clear vision on what the students want to do and with a little bit of research and preparation ahead of time, their journey towards their future will be set.
Farah Abdul Wahab began teaching in 2010 as Head of the Graphic Design Department in a local university in Accra. Her interest in the IB philosophy began when her son joined ARIS. I was very impressed with the framework and the learning environment that allows students to become active and independent learners. Farah joined ARIS as the MYP design facilitator in 2019 and is now the school’s CP coordinator.