I remember being in complete awe of my niece’s school in Manhattan, New York.
A few years ago, while I was visiting New York, she had asked me to accompany her to school on Special friend’s day which is a day for grandparents and other family members to visit and interact with the children during the class sessions. This was a time much before my elder son was even thought of so schools, teaching methods, learning styles etc. were not even remotely present in my mind-space, however I knew they were details that would arise soon. My visit to this private school was my first exposure to a very different kind of education than the one I had grown up with. Needless to say it was one of the most fascinating and enlightening experiences I have ever had. It was refreshing to able to string the words happy, fun and learning in the same sentence.
I left the school with one thought – “When the time comes, I somehow need to try and give my children a similar educational experience.”
The very first thing I noticed as soon as I entered my niece’s classroom was the exceedingly stimulating environment. The class room was covered with the work done by the children and teachers were focused on finding exciting new ways to encourage thinking and learning. The level of interaction and engagement with the students was something I had never seen before and I was astounded by the speed with which the children were learning. Math integration was being done through games and problems solved collaboratively as well as independently. The children were encouraged to ask questions along with each thought they had being used as a learning opportunity. I noticed that the teaching method was targeted less towards the children memorizing and more towards application, where they were taught to develop the skills and self-discipline they will need for a life-time of learning. I wondered at that point whether there would ever be a similar style of education in India. Sure enough, a few years later I heard about the IB (International Baccalaureate) board and I had a replenished sense of hope that maybe I could after all provide a similar educational experience for my children.
My school years were the best years of my life. I was lucky enough to attend a school which focused on all round development. It was a school with a larger than life campus, a big field and playground area, clean classrooms, well-trained teachers in that board of education, exceptional extra-curricular activities and so on. The friends I made in school are still some of my best friends today. No complaints. The academic curriculum was a rigorous one and the school had a reputation for creating top level achievers with students getting into colleges of their choice in the blink of an eye. While for many of my fellow alums the memory of school now includes good grades, mine does not. At that time as my parents nor I knew any different, my school years flew by with above average grades. It wasn’t until much later when I started looking at options for schools for my elder son, did I realise that it wasn’t the lack of focused studying leading to average grades, but while the knowledge had been present, the application was absent. I realised that for many people memorising doesn’t automatically mean understanding and I had been one of those people. That was the problem right there.
So here is one of the main reasons I chose to expose my elder son to an IB board right from pre-school.
It was not about my likes and dislikes for each board, but rather about what kind of an environment I believed my son would thrive in. It was about the International standards and style of education that I wanted him to have the opportunity to experience. In the beginning like most parents, IB was an alien system to me and I had a million questions. I was not comfortable with my son attending a school which followed a board I had zero knowledge about. However, as my husband and I both had really liked the pre-school that my son is in now, we made the decision to take a chance and wait and watch the preliminary effects of the IB board. In a very short period of time, we were astonished with the progress. This pushed me to dig deeper into the underlying aspects of the IB board.
What each parent wants in a school differs. For me, the teaching method and learning style that the board utilized was at the top of the priority list because that is the sole factor that would determine the way my son would tackle life. This was followed by details about the school itself like safety, cleanliness, expansion plans and so on. It was very important to me that my child be taught in a way that would boost his imagination, creativity & curiosity. This is the definition of the IB board right there.
Teaching is done using age appropriate developmental activities. Rarely will you see a child being pushed to do something he/she is not ready for. The letters of the alphabet are carefully introduced using jolly phonics, an approach which motivates kids to want to learn more. Even before reaching the Lower Kindergarten level, children are familiar with most if not all the letters of the alphabet and how to write them. Numbers are taught using a child-centric approach. Some even start reading. Concepts are demonstrated and reviewed through various forms of arts & crafts. The assessment of whether a child has understood the concept is done through work books. Learning through play is encouraged. We often are under the impression that when a child is playing, he/she rarely learns anything concrete and of use. I have learned over time that exactly the opposite is true. As I always say, HOW they learn is far more important than WHAT they learn. What I love now more than the fact that my son can put letters together to create words and write them, is the way he applies what he was taught in school. For example, we will be passing by in the car and he will see the sign board of a shop with letters he recognises. While waiting at the traffic light, he starts to apply jolly phonics and puts the word together one letter at a time. No memorising, only recollection of the concept taught paired with his understanding.
While the decision to try out the IB board for my elder son was purely based on what I wanted for him, the decision for him to continue with this educational system was based on him. He is the type of child who needs to see, touch, feel and play to understand something. I saw that his imagination, creativity and curiosity was being nurtured every single day and this was an especially crucial factor for me, since a large part of the brain development happens during the first five years.
The IB board makes learning fun at the same time preparing our children for the real world. So, to all the parents out there who are searching for that one board of education which will be a good fit for your child, take time out to sit in the classrooms of an IB school. I promise you it will be well worth it. At least you know that the decision that you need to make eventually, will be an informed one.