The Way it Takes

Varduhi Grigoryan-Avetisyan, English School of Mongolia, Mongolia

This article looks at the way the schools take when looking into PYP authorisation and the main challenges it brings.

Today the world is full of international schools offering a variety of curricula combinations, using different approaches to teaching and learning but still having one vision in common: making the world a better place through improved education and schooling systems.

Founded in Ulaanbaatar (capital city of Mongolia) in 2011, English School of Mongolia has been successfully running the Cambridge International Curriculum for years; it has been very successful in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme implementation since 2015; ESM is the only FOBISIA School in Mongolia, it is also authorized as a BSO (British Schools overseas) member school. However, the school decided to take the developments further looking into the PYP implementation!

It’s not a secret that any new journey will require effort: reconsideration of standards, practices, shifts in mindsets and new vision on already existing things. No matter how successfully you have been functioning as an international school, PYP brings in a different fresh breath impacting the already established ways of living, changing all of the school community.

Being in Mongolian culture where education is valued with traditions being very strong, as a school we faced a challenge of having the community value the new approaches to learning and teaching. Considering knowledge-based education was the main goal of the school, we started receiving hesitant feedback on what the school is now offering: student centered, concept and context driven curriculum, where the young learners have an opportunity to take the responsibility of their own learning, have their voices heard and experience the empowerment of the inquiry based learning; where the transdisciplinary learning and teaching is the core of the student education and the skill development is the main learning outcome.

Even in the initial stage of consideration of IB PYP implementation, we are focusing on a number of aspects we found to be challenging: changing the mindsets of the parents, implementing new practices related to the planning, teaching and assessing; and reviewing existing policies to make them direct reflections of the standards we are aiming to having in place. ESM has taken the way of going slower but having all the necessary steps taken with confidence. Interestingly, we are having “educating for the reason of having better education offered” effectively bringing out the changes we are looking for. The parent evenings, coffee mornings, open door days, information meetings – all contribute to the better understanding of what PYP is and why we want to make it part of the learning journey that our students take. The change in the parents’ mindsets is very important as they are to be part of the student learning from the very beginning to the very end. We have started with a series of teacher trainings to ensure the teachers take this change with a profound understanding of how to move towards the PYP implementation and what the main difference is compared to what they have been doing before. This, in turn, is giving us a good opportunity to review the standards and the policies the school has been following until now. With everyone being part of the review process, the idea of having school community support for the purpose of having “better learning happening” is now coming true!

I will confess that reaching out to each member of the community with successful outcomes is impossible. There are struggles with some strong individuals who do not find inquiry-based teaching to be the way to go, who still consider knowledge to be the only important aspect in the school curriculum, but I believe this is everywhere. Anything new is a challenge; it takes time before this “new” becomes a common thing. The way to reach the “change” may seem very long and disappointing at times, however, it is always empowering when you see the difference you are looking for and know that it is worth taking this way!

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Ms. Varduhi Grigoryan is currently the head of the preschool and the Junior school at ESM. Having the experience in international school with the IB programme implementations, she has been going the “change” path for several times, seeing the cultural background as a strong aspect to be considered when moving towards certain reviews of the practices in place. Being an IB WSL she has seen the difficulties the schools experience when starting the IB programme introductions in a variety of contexts. This makes her understanding of the reality strong enough to have it shared with the IB school community.

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3 Responses to The Way it Takes

  1. Glenis I Blas 11 June 2019 at 7:50 pm #

    When I read it, I really felt that the we are going through the same experience. I am glad, you kept strong in these changes, finally that is the way we should be if we are really convinced that these ones deserve all kind of “fight”. A better education for children needs strong leaders and teachers who sees these changes as an opportunity to contribute positively in making our planet a better world to live.

  2. Alejandro Castellanos 11 June 2019 at 8:25 pm #

    Being a teacher for the past 46 years of my life, changing to IB hasn’t been that hard because it seems tp be “a dream come true”, though at the same time means me being re-educated to be a teacher.
    I believe that a well-designed strategy to train teachers and the entire IB community is of the greatest importance, as it will make clear how to promote students’ agency by using adequate sequences and questions through each line of inquiry.

    • Katrina Viloria 16 June 2019 at 7:06 am #

      I agree with having a well-designed strategy to ease transition. I also want to highlight the importance of time. Big curricular and structural changes such as introducing a new programme requires time…if we take a step-by-step approach and make student and teacher progress visible, they will help address some issues.

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