Covid 19 has had the greatest impact on schools and education than any other event in recent history. Overnight, schools around the world had to shift en masse to online-learning. This scenario has been ongoing for longer than anticipated and has the potential to last through an entire academic year. Virtual classrooms are the new norm, with teachers, students, and guardians aligning themselves with the various forms of e-learning. Schools are not merely intended for the completion of academic syllabuses. They kindle curiosity and open young minds to the world around them. This is essential for a student's balanced growth, however, in an online learning context, this aspect is one that is difficult to nurture.
International School Dhaka (ISD) embraces the IB (International Baccalaureate) philosophy which develops a strong connection between what students learn in the classroom and the real-world context. Instead of students engaging in formal exams at the end of Grade 10, the MYP (Middle Years Programme) students engage in an eight-month long project in addition to their usual subject classes. This project is the culmination of five years of learning in the MYP, where each student engages with a topic of personal interest. Students must draw from their knowledge skills and understandings to successfully execute a long term project, working independently, and managing their own time.
In an online learning environment, independent, self-directed learning plays a significant role since teachers are not physically in front of students to provide assistance and guidance. The MYP personal project aligns well with current circumstances since it is based on the premise of developing independent learners. Each student is assigned a teacher supervisor who acts as a guide through the eight-month long project. Regular meetings occur where students discuss and update supervisors on progress and targets. The emphasis is on the process rather than the product since the growth of the thought process is far more significant than the execution of the product or outcome. Students are assessed on four criteria which evaluate the students’ ability to investigate, plan, take action, and reflect. Strong points are usually found in ideation and vision however, the project challenges students to develop research, self-management, communication, and thinking skills which are known as Approaches to learning (ATL).
This year’s MYP Personal Project consisted of 41 projects showcasing the individual passions and interests of the students in grade 10. Projects can be based on any topic as long as it includes a challenging goal which is embedded in a real-world context known as global contexts in the MYP. The global contexts provide a purpose for each project goal so that students can explain why they have chosen a specific goal for their project and how it connects to the real world
The projects that were recently exhibited online showcased a wide variety of topics, ranging from music composition, caricatures of historical figures, and gardening projects to fitness plans, Spanish lessons, and photography. ‘Gardening’ was a project that aimed to increase growing plants by creating mini-gardens that would provide fresh produce for a family. The mini garden was grown and nurtured and then donated to a family. ‘The Differently-abled’ aimed to raise awareness and challenge thinking around people with disabilities and their role in society. Another project titled ‘Job Opportunities’ explored the employment market for autistic youths in Bangladesh. A project with a more creative angle involved caricature artwork of famous historical figures. Yet another project involved producing 'Braille Toys' to donate to a blind school, where students could learn and practice Braille through play.
Education aims to build students of character and purpose, individuals who are independent and able to contribute to their community. Through the MYP Personal Project, students embrace their learning and connect it to the real world. They are inspired to develop empathy and compassion for others through action and agency. And they are empowered to think creatively to generate potential solutions to the problems we face in our world today.
The writer is vice principal Curriculum K-12 at International School Dhaka