Staff, students prepare for IB shift

In December 2016, Woodstock School made the decision to adopt the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (MYP)  and the IB Diploma Programme (DP).

The IB Middle Years Programme was instituted for grades 6-8 in July 2017. The IB Diploma Programme will kick off in 2019 and the Class of 2021 will be the first class to graduate with both an IB and an American high school diploma.

Woodstock will offer the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) exams to tenth graders for the last time in 2019.

This is a landmark in the history of Woodstock as the school is renowned for being the only boarding school in India offering the Advanced Placement program.

This decision could potentially lead to more competition for Woodstock, as there are many schools in India that have been offering MYP and DP for much longer. For example, one of India’s most prestigious schools, The Doon School, has been offering the IB programme since 2006. Kodaikanal has offered IB since 1975.

“It’s pretty weird because one of the main reasons I came to Woodstock was because it offered the AP program,” said Kuhu Singh, Class of 2021, who will instead work for the IB diploma.

Ms. Mou Maiti, the Upper Years academic coordinator, explained how Woodstock is preparing for this major change in curriculum.

“We are revising academic policies. IB requires some very specific policies and one of them is assessment. The way assessment is done in IB is very different from pretty much every other curriculum,” she said.

As the academic coordinator, Ms. Maiti manages the academics of the school and is also involved in the strategic planning of the upcoming MYP and DP.

“Language is also a very important policy,” Ms. Maiti said. “What languages are we going to offer? Are we going to keep to French, Spanish and Hindi or are we going to offer mother tongue in a more versatile way?”

Ms. Maiti has been teaching IB for the last 16 years in schools including Dhirubhai Ambani International School (Mumbai) and United World College (China).

Ms. Mou Maiti, academic coordinator

According to Ms. Maiti, some changes in the new curriculum include individual student research called “Extended Essay,” which is similar to the Interdisciplinary Project (IDP) undertaken by the Upper Years students in Maymester. Students will also have a course in critical thinking called “Theory of Knowledge,” which is like philosophy.

When asked about its benefits, she said, “What I’ve seen is, once you do IB, students become very strong, independent learners. It is very well accepted worldwide and I think it will really open up opportunities for you all.”

She added, “How are you going to be a risk taker in math? Those are the kinds of things that IB teaches you and that’s what makes it different.”

Mr. Bob Smith, MYP coordinator, is involved in designing the new Woodstock curriculum that meets the requirements of the IB organization. Mr. Smith has been working in IB since 2001, in both private and public schools in the United States.

Mr. Bob Smith, MYP coordinator

Mr. Smith said, “I think the benefit of IB is that it’s more skill-based, because the skills you learn in one class can be applied to another class, and even to life. You can call it trans-disciplinary.”

When asked about the potential negative impact of the shift on the last AP class to graduate, the Class of 2020, Ms. Maiti said, “That is one year we have to be very careful because there will be the grade eleven doing the DP and the grade twelve doing AP. It’s going to be heavy on teachers as they’ll be teaching two curriculums. We are going to make sure, obviously, that the seniors won’t feel neglected as they’ll be the only class doing AP.”

About the students that will not be able to cope with IB, which is known to be much more challenging than what is currently offered at Woodstock, Ms. Maiti said, “IB is demanding, I’m not going to say it isn’t. Especially with the first batch, there will be students who will struggle with it, because of course, it’s a new program. But I think if the teachers are trained well and if students are given enough time and resources to do things, it works out very well.”

For the training of teachers teaching grades 6 to 10, a huge MYP workshop was held on the first weekend of September. Some teachers are taking online courses and some have been travelling to other locations for training.

When asked about the workshop, Mrs. Amrita John said, “The workshop was not about writing out a curriculum. It actually focused on the designing of a unit plan. When you plan a unit, there are certain interdisciplinary projects you have to work on.”

Mr. Monish John, on the focus of the IB curriculum as a whole, said, “It’s not only about the subject, it’s about the worldwide view of things. So if I’m teaching football, for example, what I’ll be explaining to the kids is that you must must be an outstanding player, but you’re not going to be graded on your outstanding skill, you’re going to be graded on whether you’re following the instructions, and how good of a team player you are. Because in the real world, you cannot move around as an individual, you’ve got to be a team player.”

Although the present freshmen, Class of 2021, will only be undertaking the Diploma Programme starting eleventh grade, tiny changes to their curriculum have already been made, like the addition of a science course called “scientific inquiry.”

Siwon Park, Class of 2021, said, “I feel like everybody is really worried about the scientific inquiry course. We don’t really understand the purpose of the class and the grading isn’t consistent. Most of our classes now are supposed to prepare you for AP, but since we’ll be doing IB in eleventh and twelfth grade, we don’t think we’re getting the prep we need.”

“It’s pretty boring. We meet once a week and just do experiments and analyze them,” Savya Agarwal, Class of 2021, said.

Seniors are also adjusting to changes, with new teachers who are more experienced in teaching IB than AP.

“The new IB teachers are not used to teaching AP and since it’s my last year, it’s really hard for me to adjust to it and prepare for the AP exams,” Aarushi Vardhan, Class of 2018, said.

Tanya Aggarwal, Class of 2018, said, “It’s hard because IB covers a lot more than the AP, does so a lot of times teachers teach us extra stuff that doesn’t need to be learned. Yeah, we get that the school’s changing to an IB system, but we still need to graduate with AP’s, you know?”

Seniors aren’t the only ones questioning the move and the implications of it on the school’s future.

Jigya Talwar, Class of 2020, said, “A big part of Woodstock’s identity was associated with being AP. There are so many schools in India offering IB. AP made Woodstock special and I think it should have stuck to that.”

Photos by @faisalqadirabdu and @dorindahardage

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