Friday, January 5, 2024

Parents as risk takers

I'm a parent myself and so I know how stressful it can be to choose a school for my children.  In my case, because I'm an educator and my children attended the same schools where I worked, it was also a case of trying to find a job I would like in a country where we could live easily as a family, as well as one that offered the IB programmes that we were all engaged in - this narrowed down the search considerably!  In my role as a school visitor, I meet with parents in every school I visit and the first question I invariably ask is, "Why did you choose this school for your children?"  I typically get similar answers - some parents intentionally sought out an IB school as their children were already in one in a previous country or location, some parents found a school that was close to where they were living, some parents tell me that they didn't really have much choice as the school depends on benefits offered by their employer, some parents talk about the reputation of the school and for others it seems it was just luck.  There has also been a time when I asked this question and I was told by a father that he actually was using this school as a "holding pattern" as his children were on the waiting list for a more prestigious school in town.  Having said this, he went on to say that his children were so happy at the school that he had now changed him mind about moving them when a space became available.  Invariably parents talk about the change they have seen in their children, the increase in motivation and interest in what their children are learning at school, the skills that their children are developing which will benefit them in the future and the values that are embedded in an IB education.  Sometimes I meet a parents who tell me that they went to an IB school themselves and so wanted that choice for their children.  Most parents, it seems, are risk-takers: even if they don't know much about the IB itself, they appreciate that the traditional system of education that they went through is not the best preparation for a changing world, and they are therefore seeking something different for their own children.

The parents often ask me question as well - especially once they know that I'm also a parent and that my children went to schools and moved through the PYP, MYP and DP.  Of course they want to be reassured that the choices they made for their own children were good ones.  Up until recently I have not had hard data to back up my responses in these conversations, but recently I came across an IB publication about research on the programmes and I downloaded and read the PYP document.  Here are the key findings from research:

  • A study in public elementary schools in the USA found improvement in school climate in PYP schools - citing increased attention to social-emotional learning and the whole child, transdisciplinary instruction and greater teacher collaboration due to the requirements of the PYP.  After a school was authorised the study showed significant improvements in safety, caring relationships, fairness, parent involvement and a decrease in bullying.
  • In Colombia a study of PYP students shown the overwhelming majority (89.3%) enjoyed being a student in their school.
  • A study of the PYP exhibition in China, Kenya, Mexico, Russia and the UK showed that the exhibition helped develop critical thinking and international mindedness.
  • In Australia, a study about wellbeing showed PYP activities and practices promote wellbeing and again indicated more positive school climates, higher levels of teacher engagement, student participation and wellbeing.
  • A global study has shown robust results with regards to the assessment literacy of PYP teachers and assessment cultures within PYP schools, based on a holistic and ongoing approach to assessment - the researchers found a rich array of assessment activities and strategies as well as a strong grasp of the evidence required to assess student growth in knowledge, understanding and skills.
  • Also in Australia, students at PYP government schools performed at higher levels in reading and numeracy in Years 3 and 5 when compared with students in similar Australian schools.
  • In New Zealand, achievement in PYP schools generally exceeded achievement when compared to schools with similar student populations.

It's good, of course, to have the results of research studies carried out from around the world, but I think the biggest advocates of a PYP education are the students themselves.  Over and over I hear that the students are happy and engaged in their learning, and as a parent I look at my own children, now successful adults in their 30s, and feel thankful that we were also risk takers in choosing to live and work in various countries in Europe and Asia when they were younger.

Image by Daniela Dimitrova on Pixabay. Free for use under the Pixabay Content License

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