Providing 11 to 14 year olds with an enriching and engaging learning experience, one that is relevant for the student and the location of the school, and one that can also be sustained through the oftentimes transitional faculty of many international schools, can be one of most difficult challenges for many schools. However, a growing number of international schools, including theHarrow International Schools, the International School of Bremen in Germany, The School of Research Science in UAE, the British Schools of America, and Beacon Academy in Indonesia think they have found the answer with the International Middle Years Curriculum.
It is a curriculum that is directly addressing the learning requirements of young teenagers says Executive Headmaster and Chief Operations Officer of Harrow International Schools, Mark Hensman. "We all know that learning for students needs to be more relevant and inquiry-based," he says. "We also know that this applies in particular to the Key Stage 3 curriculum," he adds. "The recent emergence of the International Middle Years Curriculum has therefore been a breath of fresh air and a relief for those who have been looking for a middle year's curriculum which builds on the National Curriculum but takes it much further," he continues. "For us in the Harrow International Schools, the International Middle Years Curriculum has been a great launching pad into 'big ideas' while remaining grounded in the National Curriculum."
The students at The School of Research Science in Dubai are experiencing this first-hand. One recent IMYC unit (with its big idea that: 'the desire to know more drives exploration and aspiration') linked students' learning to space exploration which involved a live web-chat with a member of The Mars Society in the USA (8 hours behind UAE time), who shared expertise and answered students' questions. "The web-chat was a huge exploration for the school," says teacher Ryan Ball. "The student's liked talking with someone on the other side of the world who was a real expert. Anything like this, that is slightly different from the norm and very engaging, stays with them. The IMYC's encouragement to use technology has really helped us to do exciting learning things like this. This is our second year of learning with the IMYC and we are seeing the students developing skills that we wanted them to have, for example, learning to work on a six week plan with a final outcome; standing up in front of peers to present their own ideas; improved listening skills; and the students making links and actively looking for links with other subject learning."
At the International School of Bremen, teacher Martyn Robinson-Slater says: "Our students are becoming creative and innovative thinkers, developing an appreciation of others in society. They are also becoming reflective and independent learners, not only willing to take risks but also to manage these risks, so becoming effective communicators of information and knowledge. We can already see that the IMYC is preparing them well for the IB Diploma."
Supporting a teenager's learning needs
The International Middle Years Curriculum (IMYC) is a curriculum that has been designed to meet the very specific learning and developmental needs of 11 to 14 year olds. The work that went in to creating the IMYC involved several years of research with teachers, headteachers, children, parents, neuroscientists, psychologists and other experts of adolescents. It also drew on the experiences of its sister curriculum; the highly successful and rigorous International Primary Curriculum (IPC).
A crucial determining factor of the IMYC was one we all know, regardless of whether we're teachers, parents or scientists; that adolescence is a tricky time for many students and adults to handle. One of the researchers whose work influenced the IMYC was Harry Chugani, a neurologist at Wayne State University in Detroit who sums up the state of many students during their middle years: "Adolescence is a time when brains are absorbing a huge amount, but also undergoing so many alterations that many things can go wrong," he says. "The teenage years rival the terrible twos as a time of general brain discombobulation."
It is this 'fine tuning' of the brain that influences how 11-14 year olds respond to the way they learn and the way they are taught. The very specific needs caused by this fine tuning are addressed and supported in the IMYC and by meeting these needs, the curriculum creates an enriching learning experience for students. At Rainbow International School in Seoul, South Korea, Principal Emin Huseynov says: "Before [learning with the IMYC], our students were using many resources in different classes but they were not able to link any of their subjects. It was a hard way for them to learn. Now with the IMYC it's different, they make links to all their subjects so all the learning makes sense to them. Now the students are learning together, working as a team, they are learning to work out their problems together and learning from each other. They are happy, the behaviour is good, they are more engaged. They are getting hungry for more learning."
The International Middle Years Curriculum is now being used by international schools in 18 different countries including those in Qatar, Oman, China, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Kenya, Thailand, Netherlands, Qatar and the USA as well as national schools and academies in the UK.
More information about the International Middle Years Curriculum is available at www.greatlearning.com/imyc