It's that time of year when...

By Karen Taylor, PhD., Director of Education and of the Institute of Learning and Teaching, Ecole Internationale de Genève

There is a strangely intense feeling at the end of each school year, something that combines exhaustion, anticipation, exhilaration and anxiety all at the same time. It’s true for teachers and true for students, even if not exactly for the same reasons. I am thinking in particular right now about those students who have been waiting apprehensively for the results of their IB exams. In addition to all the emotions involved with leaving one’s school, one’s friends, perhaps one’s country, there may be the sense that one’s entire future is riding on those results.

What if you are an ‘excellent’ student, but exam anxiety overrides your ability to demonstrate the knowledge you have acquired? What if academics are not really ‘your thing’ but you had to push yourself to ‘get through’ a programme? What if you memorised all kinds of content knowledge and the appropriate structure for answering exam questions but you won’t retain it much beyond the end of the exam period? What if we know that there is more to education than sitting an exam?

Even if one were to take the perspective that high-stakes exams are a rite of passage if nothing else, the stress and anxiety involved in the process seems to stand at odds with a number of definitions of education and its purpose such as this (Kemmis, et al., 2014, p.20):

Education, properly speaking, is the process by which children, young people, an adults are initiated into forms of understanding, modes of action, and ways of relating to one another and the world that foster (respectively) individual and collective self-expression, individual and collective self-development, and individual and collective self-determination, and that are, in these senses, oriented towards the good for each person and the good for humankind.

Ecolint is a non-selective school offering the IB Diploma and/or Career-Related Programmes on each of our three campuses. Just as in other schools across the globe, in early July we wait for our exam results with the aforementioned combination of exhaustion, anticipation, exhilaration and anxiety.

There are many benefits to the approaches to learning and teaching promoted by the IB programmes. The IB philosophy that underscores the importance of intercultural understanding seems to be of ever-increasing relevance whether one is thinking about geopolitics or the global economy. On a purely practical level, the acquisition of an international qualification like the IB diploma Programme  is particularly important to globally mobile families and allows students to go on to tertiary education nearly anywhere in the world. At the same time, those students undergo a rite of passage that results in a set of exam results that is far from a holistic picture of who they are as a learner or as a person.

A few months ago I wrote a blog about assessment, referring to the Coalition to Honour All Learning, a network of schools across the globe who are seeking to challenge the status quo on school leaving certificates by focusing on “a more inclusive approach to educating the whole child for lifeworthy competences.”

This year, Ecolint’s year 13 students will all go on to the next stage of their lives carrying with them the Ecolint Learner Passport. The aim of the passport is to provide students with the opportunity and the means to show who they are, what and how they have learned, in all their rich multifacetedness. This brings us one step closer to the more holistic approach we wish to take in the future.