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Celebrating the legacy of Dr Siva Kumari

During her seven-year tenure, IB Director General Siva Kumari initiated and oversaw many new projects that transformed the way the IB supports its community. Here are the five key initiatives that played an instrumental role in strengthening the IB mission.

Siva

In 2014, Dr Siva Kumari became the seventh Director General of the International Baccalaureate Organization (IB) and the first woman to hold the post in the 52-year history of the organization. She joined the IB in April 2009 as Asia Pacific Regional Director. The following year she was appointed first Chief Operating Officer, with global responsibility for research, university recognition, school improvement and professional development. She also managed the relationship with schools, governments and foundations across the three IB regions: Americas, Asia Pacific, and Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

Dr Kumari’s unwavering commitment to schools was evident as she travelled the world to co-create and co-develop curriculums with IB educators and other experts. Her relentless efforts to make the IB accessible to more students fortified a sense of common purpose within and beyond the IB Community.

Empowering IB World Schools

One of Dr Kumari’s early initiatives strategically focused on improving services to the IB World Schools. This work led to the creation of an entirely new department at the International Baccalaureate, with 2017 marking the launch of the IB World School’s department, often referred to today as IBWS. The aim of the new department was to provide excellent service to the diverse needs of IB World Schools at a global level while retaining regional expertise and creating a more personalized approach.

With the objective to empower and bring together the IB Community, each IB World School is assigned a dedicated point of contact. This innovative approach has enabled the IB to provide a higher level of service to IB World Schools and foster collaboration among schools with similar needs, goals and challenges. Adrian Kearney, the Director of IB World Schools, highlights how this change has allowed his team to support schools, noting, “this new department provides partnership to authorized schools in the areas of school effectiveness, improvement and innovation leading to a high-quality implementation of IB programmes”.

The IBWS framework also led to the creation of online platforms and networks to facilitate learning and teaching. The subsequent addition of the Programme Resource Center (PRC) enabled educators to navigate and search for programme materials and resources more quickly and even added languages beyond the traditional English, French and Spanish. “At the core of our mission is to provide excellent services to the IB community. Dr Kumari’s implementations ensured that the IB community feels valued, assured and empowered in their work to achieve the IB mission”, adds Kearney.

Enriching the IB Community  

Dr Kumari’s vision as Director General also focused on ensuring educational equity for both educators and students. In this respect, one of the most notable milestones in Dr Kumari’s tenure was the historical announcement of the elimination of the candidate registration fee. Beginning with the November 2019 cohort, the long-standing US$172 application fee for students registering for the Diploma Programme (DP), Career-related Programme (CP) and Middle Years Programme (MYP) examinations was eliminated. This decision removed a notable financial barrier for students seeking access to these IB programmes. “The decision to eliminate the cost barrier opens the door for more students around the world to engage with the breadth of the IB programmes”, comments the Director of Outreach and Conferences, Haif Bannayan, “it also contributes to IB’s vision to improve access to education and to engage with more schools, educators and students with a shared mission to create a better and more peaceful world”.

A second significant goal for Dr Kumari was to find ways to address the shortage of educators around the world and enable teachers to advance their knowledge and careers regardless of their socio-economic circumstances.  In 2018, Dr Kumai launched a tuition-free, online Master of Education (M.Ed.) programme available to all educators worldwide as part of a collaboration between the IB and the University of the People. The M.Ed. programme focused on IB approaches to teaching and learning and was developed specifically to support and inspire IB educators.

In 2020, the IB celebrated the first graduates from the scholarship initiative and increased the number to 140 tuition-free scholarships in partnership with the University of the People.

Andrea Smith, Head of Enterprise Business Planning, comments: “The collaboration between the IB and the University of the People aims to eliminate accessibility barriers to high-quality teacher training and development. With the launch of the innovative M.Ed. programme, Dr Kumari has made a significant contribution to global education by helping increase the number of skilled teachers who are familiar with IB pedagogy and are committed to educating future generations of students”.

Enhancing Learning and Teaching

As Director General, Dr Kumari oversaw the introduction of a new IB programme, the Career-related Programme (CP), and the launch of an innovative assessment model, now known as the MYP eAssessment.

In 2014, the IB officially launched the CP as a standalone programme available to all IB World Schools. It was first introduced as a pilot programme in 2012 and grew under Dr Kumari’s tenure into a substantial offering, growing from a few pilot schools to more than 250 schools in 2021. This is the youngest of IB’s four Programmes and is built for students who are eager to tackle a career-related discipline early in their studies. Designed for students aged 16-19, students in the CP undertake a minimum of two DP courses and complete the CP core, a complementary course of study consisting of four components and a career-related study.

The programme offers a unique combination of academic and professional development, that enables students to focus on studies that relate directly to their chosen career path. Chantell Wyten, Senior Curriculum Manager, adds, “Similar to the other IB Programmes, CP is designed to offer a holistic educational experience, enabling students to personalize their learning experience by choosing IB subjects and career-related studies that provide diverse pathway options upon graduation”.

The MYP eAssessment was launched in 2015, to meet the needs of today’s students who are increasingly digitally aware and engaged with technology. This innovative assessment model has been internationally recognized for providing students with a richer experience and offers teachers access to a wide range of contemporary media content to facilitate discussion.

The MYP eAssessment has enhanced the way IB educators approach learning and teaching and increased the digital awareness of students. “The introduction of the MYP eAssessment is representative of how the IB has leveraged technological innovation and affordances to enhance the IB approaches to pedagogy and to offer authentic assessment. The design of the MYP eAssessment reflects more than exams onscreen, but pedagogical practice that enables students to demonstrate enduring cognitive skills and conceptual thinking”, adds Dr Nicole Bien, the Director of Learning and Teaching.

Dr Kumari leaves behind a legacy of progressive education that is more accessible to all. Her dedicated service to the IB, talent, and ideas ensure the organization is well-positioned for the future.

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