About the MYP from IB

The International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Program (MYP) is for students aged 11 to 16. The MYP builds on the knowledge and skills imparted in the Primary Years Program (PYP) and prepares students for the rigors of the Diploma Program (DP). But the MYP is not merely a stepping stone between the two. Studies show that MYP students routinely outscore non-MYP students on the IB diploma, as well as surpassing non-IB students on critical academic skills. While schools looking to acquire IB certifications have the option to choose merely one of the four IB programs, enrolling your child in a school that offers all three of the main IB World school programs is highly advisable. Although technically independent, each program tier builds on the knowledge and skills acquired throughout all the years of an IB World education.

The MYP in particular has demonstrated its capacity for instilling in students important non-academic qualities, like global awareness and civic-mindedness. MYP students complete one long-term project, the significance of which resides in the fact that they develop university-style skills: academic research, proposal writing, and individual thinking. With little teacher interference, students develop their own topic and are responsible for not just knowing their subject, but also knowing what they need to know to complete the assignment. Developing the cognizance to identify what they do not know is an important academic competence for developing research skills.

So there you have it! I hope you understand a little more about the MYP and about what I do 🙂 I love being the MYP Coordinator at my school, because I love witnessing the critical transition the students make in their learning and personal growth. Please let me know in the comments: what would your project proposal be about for your long-term project?


The No Homework Movement

In 2012 French president François Hollande vowed to abolish homework as part of his education reforms. Many individual high schools in Germany and the United States are also experimenting with a ban on homework. And St. Jude’s Academy already has a “No Homework” policy in effect. This means that during class after the lesson, students are assigned follow-up questions to reinforce the understanding and learning of the concepts covered in class, which also allows teachers to evaluate which students require additional assistance. Students will not be assigned additional homework unless they did not use their time effectively during class.

So why is the international “No Homework” movement gaining momentum? Because administrators and educators are finally listening to science: studies frequently reveal that there are no academic benefits from homework for children. In fact, assigning homework can actually have negative implications. At best, homework wastes time for the high-achieving student who already understands the concepts being taught in class and is merely being assigned an additional redundant workload. At the worst, it frustrates and demoralizes struggling students who are condemned to spend hours alone at home fighting their way through problems they cannot receive assistance on until the next time they see their teacher. Homework is not productive, nor is it conducive to meaningful learning. Homework has been cited as an “energy zapper”, making children resentful towards learning, demoralized about their progress, and generally more stressed out. It can also burden parents, who are suddenly expected to take on the role of teacher when their children present them with an insurmountable set of math problems.

Abolishing homework frees up more time for children to de-stress and to engage in other noteworthy pursuits, like extracurriculars and sports outside of school. Reducing the length of a lesson and increasing time for in-class work provides students with the opportunity to ask their teachers instead of their parents or paid tutors for help, and effectively reinforces the learning of new concepts.

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Benefits of Non-Semestered Classes

In Ontario public schools since 1976, semestering has reigned supreme. It is when the school year is split into two semesters, and students attend four courses in the fall season, each lasting 75 minutes, which ends with a week of exams before the next four courses begin sometime around February in the spring of the new year. This status quo is now the subject of debate and is being studied by OISE researchers to see whether or not public schools should make the switch to non-semestered classes. A school with a non-semestered timetable has students enrolled in all eight classes all year around with shorter class times and only one exam season at the end of the school year in June.

But why are some researchers recommending a standardized switch for all Ontario public schools to non-semestered classes? The biggest reason: continuity. Let’s imagine a scenario. Abigail is enrolled at a public school with semestering. In the fall in grade 9 she has math class for the next four months until she takes four new classes with new teachers in February of the next year. But then Abigail enters grade 10 in September, and this time she has math in her second semester in the spring thanks to her randomly assigned timetable. Because she last had math class in the fall of last year, in her first semester of grade 9, she will be entering grade 10 math without having taken the subject for one year! This will make it much harder for her to learn new material that builds on the foundation of last grade’s curriculum (as opposed to another student who had math in grade 9 semester two and then in grade 10 semester one. This student only has a learning gap of two months, from summer vacation).

Another issue with semestering is how it affects students involved in extracurriculars and sports. When students have to miss school every week for sports commitments and away games, they often miss the same class every time because their schedule only has four subjects held on every day. Missing school is much more manageable with non-semestered classes because the greater variety and number of classes results in a mixture of subjects being missed. This makes it much easier for students to catch up.

Another benefit of non-semestering is how it affects students’ attention spans. With semestering, having only four very long classes each school day does not promote active learning. With shorter classes and more variety of subjects, non-semestering is conducive to attentive learning by students. Non-semestering also encourages multi-tasking and organizational skills because students are responsible for eight classes instead of four. This also better prepares children for the rigors of university life, where students must take at least 5 courses per academic year. Semestered students therefore have an added challenge when acclimatizing to university life because they only have experience taking four courses at one time, or even three if they took a spare in grade 12.

So there you have it, all the benefits and reasons why it is a good idea to support the movement towards non-semestering. That’s why I am proud to say that where I work, at St. Jude’s Academy, non-semestered classes are offered to help our students reach their ultimate learning potential.

Private Schools: Concept-Based Learning

What is it, why do private schools have it, and why do Ontario public schools need it?

Concept-based learning is offered and endorsed by certified IB World private schools. It is a distinct teaching method within the toolbox of learning styles utilized by private school teachers. Think about a straight line versus a cube. The latter would visually represent the multifaceted teaching method of concept-based learning that elicits a deeper level of learning. In a more traditional and simplified learning method—like a straight line—facts comprise the majority of the subject matter and merely skim the surface, striving only to impart content knowledge and the memorization of information. Take a look at this illustration:

work blog graphhAnother dimension to concept-based learning is context: looking at the big picture and identifying universal themes, and then zeroing in on their small-world application. All of this facilitates the development of critical thinking skills, and brings students to the forefront of twenty-first century learning. Knowledge is ever-changing, so training the mind to be flexible, to seek out and recognize global patterns, to construct a steady framework from which to digest information is an invaluable skill to say the least.

It could be argued that Ontario’s public school educational system relies too heavily on the archaic discovery-based learning model, which has been criticized by leading education researchers like Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006). Certified IB private schools are proud to offer concept-based learning, which they have been motivated to implement because it augments an internationally standardized education (which is what IB schools offer).

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One Student’s Private School Experience

I wanted to try something a little different in between my usual posts about Ontario’s private school and education realm! If you are a parent or student, I hope you will still enjoy! So far I have been reporting on education news and statistical trends, but I want to provide an opportunity to look at the human experience of private school.

The Globe and Mail interviewed Queen’s University Engineering graduate Robert Lee, now 27, who is the Senior Manager of Strategic and Business Initiatives, Asia Pacific, at VeriFone Inc. Robert Lee attended a Toronto private school all his life, and when it came time for applying to university, he said: “I applied to seven schools and I got into all of them. … One hundred per cent of my graduating class went to university”.

When asked about how his private school experience affected his education, Robert Lee responded to the interviewer by crediting his success at university to his independent school education:

blog image quote work 2


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How to Solve Declining Math Scores

My previous post was about the decline of the liberal arts in our Ontario education system, and the countless studies that testify to the importance of not overlooking the arts (as they provide countless skills to students). Yet here I am, a few days later, now reporting the decline of math numeracy in Ontario and other provincial schools, as evidenced by declining student scores on standardized math tests across the country!

The C.D. Howe Report—published in May 2015 by associate professor of mathematics Anna Stokke—is the definitive report on the “math crisis” in Canada. Please take a look at some of the most important statistics:

  • the portion of Grade 6 students meeting provincial standards fell to 54 per cent from 61 per cent over a five-year period
  • Ontario’s Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) showed that the proportion of Grade 3 students who meet provincial standards on math tests also dropped, from 71 per cent to 67 per cent in 2013-14

I’ve only related some of the data from Professor Stokke’s 20-page report which establishes that there definitely is a problem, and a worrying trend in regards to children’s declining math numeracy. Math students are failing to either understand the meaning of mathematical procedures or perform them quickly and efficiently without the use of a calculator. Many math students do not know basic multiplication and division, they don’t know that a remainder is different from a decimal point, and they struggle with simple algebra. But why is this an issue? 

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Why Schools Must Not Overlook the Arts

Numerous Ontario articles and op-eds have been written about the “decline of the arts” and the “liberal arts degree” in universities. There is an increasing belief among students that ultimately the arts offer less bang for your buck, and that in a struggling job market a business or science degree is better insurance for landing a career in the higher income brackets. As a result, less and less students are choosing liberal arts electives in their remaining years of public high school, resulting in dwindling enrolment in the humanities at universities (as you can see from the below graph).

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