Nanaimo school applying to offer international program

Aspengrove School hopes to become one of a handful of schools in B.C. to offer a well-regarded international education program.

Aspengrove School in Lantzville hopes to become one of a handful of schools across the province to offer a well-regarded international education program from age three to graduation.

The private school was granted candidacy status for the International Baccalaureate diploma program for Grades 11 and 12 students, which means staff must work over the next year to meet a number of requirements before getting authorization to offer the program.

The IB program is taught in close to 3,500 schools in 143 countries.

“It’s recognized worldwide for having high standards,” said Zinda FitzGerald, Aspengrove’s head of school. “It takes the best in teaching practices. Universities love students who have gone through the program.”

Aspengrove already has the IB primary years program for junior kindergarten to Grade 5 and the middle years program from Grades 6-10.

If the school’s bid to offer the diploma program is successful, it will be one of only a few in B.C. offering the IB program from the start of a child’s formal education until the end of high school and it would also be the sixth school on the Island offering the diploma program.

The others are in Victoria, Shawnigan Lake and Comox.

Before Aspengrove can offer the diploma program, it must go through a rigorous approval process that includes extra training for teachers, working with a consultant to develop course outlines that follow the IB philosophy and standards and proving that the school’s scheduling ensures all students have access to the necessary courses.

“We hope to be authorized by September 2013,” FitzGerald said. “It’s a lot of work, but it is exciting.”

Once authorized, the school will be subject to regular evaluation visits, teachers must send off samples of student work for evaluation, some exams are marked externally and the school must continue to send teachers for training to maintain program standards, FitzGerald said. Five teachers were sent to Florida at the end of June for the initial round of training.

The school waited to apply until student numbers grew enough to justify offering the program and until students and families felt ready and were asking for it, FitzGerald said.

The diploma program aims to produce well-rounded students who view the world from a range of perspectives and each student must participate in community service, write an extended essay on an independent research topic and take a theory of knowledge course on top of the regular course load.

“In the end, it’s about helping them reach their full potential,” said FitzGerald. “It’s all about teaching them to want to find out more, be curious, to take action.”

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