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One of the most popular questions I am asked by parents is ‘what makes an IB school different from other schools? Firstly, IB schools specifically aim to make students more internationally-minded. That may sound like a cliche, so let’s explore what it really means.

What Makes an IB School Different?

One of the most popular questions I am asked by parents is ‘what makes an IB school different from other schools?’

And it’s a great question. There are actually several differences between schools that offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) and more traditional types of education.

Firstly, IB schools specifically aim to make students more internationally-minded. That may sound like a cliche, so let’s explore what it really means.

At OYIS, we promote international-mindedness in several ways. Following IB’s frameworks, we use thematic units of inquiry in the Primary Years Programme (PYP) and the Middle Years Programme (MYP) to get students to think about a range of global issues. For example, these could be about the environment, relationships or how we can help in our community. Within these, teachers introduce key skills (including literacy and numeracy) and content. In general, this is not a curriculum based purely on academic tests and grades. It is far more about discovering and discussing real-world issues and then showing students how they can then connect to these important topics.

At Osaka YMCA International School (OYIS), we help students make these genuine differences in their communities, which aligns with the YMCA’s core values of ‘Connect. Encounter. Transform.’ We encourage students, especially in the Diploma Programme, to get out of the classrooms and into their neighborhoods in order to bring about meaningful change.

In addition, the IB approach to teaching and learning differs from the traditional ‘chalk and talk’ approach. Our teachers use inquiry-based learning – and often assessment – to get students to actively take part in their learning. Students become researchers, inquirers and thinkers. By doing this, they are more engaged and tend to learn more deeply about a particular topic.

Another advantage of IB schools is that they offer a complete pathway from preschool to Grade 12. At OYIS we start with the Primary Years Programme (PYP), where our students are introduced to real-life situations and encouraged to learn in a transdisciplinary way – moving across, between and beyond various disciplines. At the very start of their education, PYP students are placed at the centre of their learning and are encouraged to develop their own voice and thoughts.

Students then move to the Middle Years Programme (MYP). This builds on the inquiry and concept-based learning that started in PYP and adds in extra subject-specific knowledge and skills. MYP students study across eight subject groups, developing a range of additional skills while continuing to focus on service learning. Students complete MYP by creating a Personal Project, a creative and individual piece of work that helps them learn valuable research and analytical skills.

The MYP is the perfect pathway towards the IB Diploma, which OYIS students study in Grades 11 and 12. The strength of the IB Diploma is its depth and breadth. It requires students to have a deep understanding of their subjects; at the same time students need to study a broad range of subjects across six different groups. In addition, students undertake research to complete an Extended Essay, study Theory of Knowledge and complete Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS). CAS is something I am particularly passionate about as it encourages students to take on new challenges and develop leadership skills – something universities and future employers also value highly. 

In turn, the IB Diploma is the perfect pathway to college and university. Research shows that universities tend to prefer IB Diploma graduates as they are well-equipped to cope with the demands of further education.

It is for these reasons that OYIS decided to become an IB continuum school – the only one in Osaka City – as we wanted to offer a smooth, logical path to students from preschool all the way through to Grade 12. 

It is not an easy pathway, and there may well be some bumps and twists along the way, but by the end of it students will have finished an enriching journey that prepares them both on an academic and personal level. And that’s what makes the difference.

 

Written by Mark Beales, Principal, MYP/DP

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