Yesterday I attended the International Baccalaureate Association of Japan meeting at the K International School of Tokyo. The goal of the organization is to serve the international IB schools in Japan by being a forum to share ideas and advocate with the IB for our needs. We are also trying to support the Japan Ministry of Education (MEXT) goal of spreading the IB curriculum to 200 local schools in Japan by 2018.
Ayumi Hoshino the head of the IB initiative here in Japan reported that there are 36 IB schools in Japan, 13 of which are article I. 12 of those are Diploma Programme (DP), 3 Middle Years Programme (MYP) and 1 Primary Years Programme (PYP). The head of the PYP school, the Sunnyside International School from the Gifu prefecture (near Nagoya) was in attendance. It is 2016 and two years into the project and 13 Article I (registered officially with MEXT) schools is way short of the MEXT goal. It was really unrealistic because the IB curriculum is such a mind shift from traditional nationally-based schooling in Japan. However, it is my opinion, that it is the perfect curriculum for Japan’s needs in this global economy. It prepares students to be leaders in the global economy. Japan needs to reach out to other cultures to continue its economic success and with aging demographics, the young people of today may be needing the “intercultural competence” that a well-run IB program can do.
There are lots of challenges in spreading the IB to Japan. Officials at MEXT are bureaucrats, not educators and there is some disconnect between them and schools. There is a lack of communication about IB initiatives like workshops and there are a lack of trained and experienced Japanese speaking educators to support Article I schools applying for IB authorization. There are a range of workshops in Tokyo in early August in Japanese. SOIS will be sending several faculty to them. The IB Asia Pacific region is also planning on hosting its big leadership conference in Yokohama for the first time next March.
I spoke to Ayumi privately to urge her to continue working with universities in Japan to recognize and recruit IB diploma graduates in both English and Japanese programs. Professors from Tamagawa and Tsukaba were there and they not only accept IB graduates, but they also offer IB certification for teachers. More schools are coming around to the IB here but it will take time. OIS has sent several students through the IB track to the prestigious Osaka University. It would be good to get the other large public universities doing the same. They are the “Ivy League” highly selective universities in Japan, which differs from the USA, where mostly private schools are the most selective.
Finally, we had a long video conference with the leader of Pamoja Education, which is the only online provider for the IB. They offer many IB courses online and these help schools individualize student schedules and reduce expenses for covering language classes and others that do not have big enrollment. Pamela is rolling out the concept of “team teach” which means schools can have students take the regular Pamoja course, but with greater support of a “site-based coordinator” (SBC) at the school. The SBC would supplement the online course by working with the students on homework, conducting field trips, leading discussions, etc. The student benefits by being able to interact with more students from all over the world and have not one but two teachers. I think this blended learning model is the future of education and I would like to experiment with it at OIS. Pamoja announced new courses which include the self taught languages, English A Literature option, Theory of Knowledge and the three natural sciences (biology, chemistry and physics) which is very exciting! Above is a slide from the Pamoja presentation showing the Team Teach model. The slide below is the self taught language model. The online portion is in English which all the different language students take together and the blue circles are the individual languages which could be done online or with a tutor at the school.