Son1 attends an International Baccalaureate (IB) World Continuum School. I have no idea what the ‘world continuum’ bit means, but I do know that there are students enrolled from more than 80 different nationalities, and the importance of diversity and acceptance is hammered home to them.
I have to say, I do enjoy seeing the sea of faces in the playground, and all the myriad shades of skin and hair colour – there are Scandinavian children with the whitest blonde hair, Asian kids with beautiful, dark, almond-shaped eyes and perfect skin, and smiley, dark-haired youngsters from countries such as Iraq and Jordan. Other nations well represented at the school include Germany, France and South Africa.
Four IB programmes are offered, and something that’s quite different from the education I experienced is the focus on presenting their work orally. Besides breeding a new generation of toastmasters, I do think all this speaking in front of the class is instilling a level of confidence in these school kids that’s sure to be valuable in their careers down the line.
But it also comes with its fair share of angst. (Being a risk-taker is another key IB ‘principle’, and as my friend put it, if your child isn’t a risk-taker, another system might be better).
Personally, I’ve been really impressed with the IB curriculum, especially by the way it encourages ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking; however, this weekend saw me nervously chewing my lip over Son1’s homework.
The words ‘Prepare an oral presentation (two minutes – not more, not less)’ immediately got my attention – as did the instructions to rehearse the speech, paying attention to clarity of voice, expression, posture and eye contact. Remember, these children are 8, going on 9 – and only cue cards were allowed.
The prompt we used was finding a bottle on the beach with something inside it. Son1 had to continue the story. At first, it was like extracting teeth – he ummed and ahhed, dropped his pencil, half slid off his chair, then ran off to the toilet, his mind a blank. It was only when we hit on the idea of a bottle from the Titanic that his imagination started firing on all cylinders.
Suddenly, his brain synapses went into overdrive. I could almost see his electrically excitable neurons lighting up, and out of his mouth flowed a (rather inspired, I thought) story about raising the Titanic from the seabed. To paraphrase, there was a magic ball in the bottle that was dropped over the shipwreck site, creating enormous waves that caused the Titanic to come to the surface.
“That’s great,” I encouraged, as he really got into the swing of it. “And was the ship in one piece?” (Yes) “As good as new, really?” “And what about all the passengers? Were they all brought back to life and reunited with their families?” Clearly, I needed a happy ending to history’s best-known maritime tragedy.
“Oh no, mummy!” he said, his eyes shining with story-telling glee. “They had blue skin, and their faces were falling off. They were zombies! There was a message with a handprint of blood, telling me I had to shoot them. All of them.”
If I do manage to make a writer of him, I think it’s safe to say his genre will be fantasy sci-fi.