by Benjamin Hebebrand, Head of School, Madison Country Day School
Madison Country Day School adopted the InternationalBaccalaureate Diploma Programme (DP) in grades 11 and 12 six years ago. We are now considering adopting the International Baccalaureate’s curriculum frameworks of Primary Years Programme (PYP at MCDS would be pre-school through grade 5), and the Middle Years Programme (MYP at MCDS would be grades 6 through 10).
Such a sequence of curriculum frameworks would of course make sense for our school as all teachers, parents, and most importantly students would begin to focus conversations, ideas, and professional development (parent education as well) around the central ideas that span all three frameworks.
International mindedness is one such central idea. What is it? “International mindedness is an attitude of openness to, and curiosity about, the world and different cultures. It is concerned with developing a deep understanding of the complexity, diversity and motives that underpin human actions and interactions,” according to the International Baccalaureate.
It is important to note that this definition includes both an “attitude” and an “understanding.” When asked to define the essence of each curriculum framework, I usually equate 1) the PYP to an inquiry-laden curriculum framework (This is an attitudinal process of taking joy in questioning everything and learning how to find answers); 2) the MYP as a transdisciplinary curriculum framework (This is both an attitude and an understanding with taking joy in comparing and contrasting ideas from one domain to the next and beginning to understand the inter-relatedness of our world); and 3) the DP as an analytical curriculum framework (This is understanding the complexity of our world).
Broadly put, children first train in and celebrate a spirit of inquiry; then adolescents make connections among academic domains; and lastly the emerging adults analyze how and why ideas are different in an effort to understand our world. In a 2013 IB position paper entitled “International Mindedness in the 21st Century,” we learn that “in the 21st century, internationally minded learners need the skill to be “comfortable with tensions, complexity, contradiction and overlaps.” The IB Diploma Programme was the first curriculum framework introduced by the IB in 1968 with the idea that students need “to understand and manage the complexities of our world and (then we) provide them with skills and attitudes for taking responsible action for the future…in the belief that people who are equipped to make a more just and peaceful world need an education that crosses disciplinary, cultural, national and geographical boundaries.”
The IB in 2013 has enhanced its thinking on international mindedness by defining characteristics of international mindedness. They are 1) global engagement; 2) multilingualism; and 3) intercultural understanding. These three characteristics are entrenched in the ten IB Learner traits.
A good communicator (this being an IB Learner trait) in the 21st Century can communicate in a variety of ways in more than one language (multi-lingual); an exemplary open-minded person (another IB Learner trait) can identify and think about one’s own perspective and perspectives that are different than one’s own (intercultural understanding) ; and a knowledgeable person (another IB Learner trait) has developed awareness, appreciation and commitment necessary for both local and global engagement. It is interesting to note that multilingualism enhances intercultural understanding and global engagement promotes intercultural understanding.