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Costa Rican IB association embraces its role in the community

There are 17 schools in Costa Rica that are authorized to deliver the Diploma Programme (DP) with a further 3 schools planned by 2017. The Costa Rican IB Association, Asobitico, continues to be instrumental in the implementation of the DP in Costa Rican schools and is currently working with the Ministry of Education in collaboration with private sectors to do so.

Daniel Samper, Executive Director at Asobicito, gives an insight into the valuable role played by IB Associations as they support their local IB community.

There were two motivations that lead to the creation of Asobitico: Social equality and educational reform

Social equality: High quality public education was part of the Costa Rican identity. Sons of presidents and businessmen attended the same schools and played in the same neighbourhoods as those of coffee pickers and taxi drivers, and gained the same quality of education. That situation has changed in the last 15 years, and so Asobitico was founded to make the highest quality education available to all students once again. Our motto is “any student who has the interest and is willing to put in the hard work, can access an international quality education”.

With the help of local private schools, businesses and a foundation (The CR-USA Foundation) Steve Aronson (founder of Café Britt) and Liliana Lloyd (founder of the British School of Costa Rica) founded Asociación de Colegios Del BI de Cost Rica – Asobitico. We now support 10 schools across the country, provide scholarships to 500 students, and are selecting 10 more schools this year.

Educational reform:Traditional education systems in Latin America focus on memorisation. We feel that after 11 years of formal education people should have more than the ability to do basic mathematics, read, write and memorize. The IB means that graduating students that have strong analytical and critical thinking skills, they can do research and have strong values, they become people who can solve the problems that our society faces.

Benefits and outcomes of the IB in Costa Rica

After IB implementation, we find that teachers’ mentalities change and we see an increase in the overall quality of the schools. But the most positive impact is the paradigm shift … as teachers understand the IB´s education they become aware of a new and different paradigm for what education can be. They move towards a more integral education model that rewards students for that which they do well vs. focusing on that which they did not memorize, a model where critical thinking, creativity and social awareness are promoted and valued. Students at our schools are treated them much more like human beings rather than automatons and we believe that this is vital to our countries efforts.

We (Asobitico) chose to take on the responsibility of educating our future generations and, to us, education is much more than books and exams, it´s personal growth and realization, it´s providing students with the skills and abilities to accomplish their goals. It´s about people much more than it is about grades.

We´ve also seen that the competition presented by our IB public schools has caused private schools to look to the IB in an effort to remain competitive. We are pleased to see that this is raising the quality of our private school sector as well.

How to help schools during the authorization process

The largest challenge is supporting our teachers in changing their mentality from the traditional focus and understanding the IB philosophy toward education. The systems are almost opposites and one must pay special attentions to the teacher’s methodologies, their understanding of the IB´s evaluation method and the type of feedback they are providing students.

We have hired a former public school teacher and IB coordinator as full time Academic Director so that we have someone who´s only job is supporting schools in this process. We´re aware that this task is difficult but the potential gain once we achieve this will be exponential for our community.

Tips for anyone thinking of setting up an IB association in their region

If I could give one piece of advice it would be to look at your association as responsible for cultivating an IB community of students, teachers and schools heads. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. Having a strong IB community is not only the main reason for being an association but it´s the way one can actually accomplish its goals. The larger and stronger our Asobitico IB community becomes the easier it is for us to achieve our goals.

I´ve seen the amazing work done by The Florida League of International Baccalaureate Schools (FLIBs), Texas IB Schools (TIBS) and by many other IB associations—and we have learned from them—but I cannot say that Asobitico represents the standard IB schools association, especially in Latin America. I like to think we´re breaking the mould and showing a different model, one where IB community is at the core of everything we do, where the association sees itself as an NGO that is largely there to serve it´s country, state or district by enabling access to an IB education.

Thus I would recommend that people should seek to set up organizations that can have an impact in their region, to realize that IB associations can be successful not-for-profit organizations themselves, and can impact public policy and the education systems of their region by cultivating a strong sense of community amongst its members.

I would also recommend that IB graduates are made participants in the management of Associations, most of the active members I´ve seen are active or retired IB educators and I think that complementing this with IB graduates is a winning recipe.

Setting up, a webnews channel for students to celebrate, share and showcase their IB experiences

During a school visit in 2013 a student raised his hand and asked us why we weren’t enabling more communication between our students in the different Costa Rican schools. There is a strong sense of community between the IB World Schools in Costa Rica, but the students wanted something more, something designed just for them. The result was IbBiTicoNews, an online newspaper where IB students from Costa Rican schools create 100% of the content.

We simply provide a platform where they can come together. That is how we approach all our social media; we provide the channels through which the students can interact, and content is key. But the content must be theirs not ours.

1407-photo-ibbiticonews reporters pic 1 for GN6-Daniela Solano1407-photo-ibbiticonews reporters pic 3 covering the football for GN6-Daniela Solano

We feel the paper has been incredibly successful and would like to see it grow further, we would love to see students from other countries become a part of our initiative.

I met the student a year after he raised his hand, he had graduated but he was proud to see that his request had not only been addressed but was bringing students together.