Education with a purpose.
That is the philosophy behind the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at North Saanich’s Parkland Secondary School, the only English-speaking public school on southern Vancouver Island offering the IB diploma program for students in their final two years of high school.
“There is a purpose to why we are being educated and the purpose is to create a more peaceful world, where there is more inter-cultural understanding, where students are really grappling with real-world issues,” said Lizanne Chicanot, Parkland Secondary’s principal.
The school will hold a virtual information session about the program on Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. with registration details available on the school website as it prepares to welcome its fourth cohort of students in the fall of 2021.
Chicanot said students in the program are not just acquiring facts. “Part of their mission is to create a better world through education,” she said. “It’s not good enough to just learn about physical bodies, for example, in biology. What will you then do with your knowledge that helps your community, that helps an international issue? Students are also expected to do cross-curricular projects. So they are expected to take on real-world issues, learn about them and find ways in which they can contribute.”
A typical cohort in the district-wide program consists of 25 to 30 students from the Peninsula and beyond, with two or three students qualifying as international students, said Chicanot.
“We began to offer the IB program to provide students with an academic challenge, particularly for students who are going on to university, because it really prepares students well for university,” she said, adding later that the University of Victoria considers completion of the full diploma as the equivalent of first year university.
This preparatory aspect appears when considering that students in the program have completed an extended essay, described as an independent, self-directed piece of research captured in a 4,000-word paper.
High school students usually don’t write papers of that length and depth, said Chicanot.
“But because they (IB students) are still at high school, we have all of the supports in place to help students navigate those challenges,” she said. “One of the things I say to students is that you are going to be challenged by this program and that you are going to struggle. We would rather you’d be challenged and struggle while you are still in school with all of the support versus when you are at university.”
The program also allows students to combine creativity and service through the program’s CAS (creativity, activity, service) component, benefiting the school community at large.
CAS students last year organized a music-themed event that included musical performances and an instrument petting zoo that allowed students to try out different instruments, she said. “The students definitely enhanced the school because there are those students who are thinking about ways they can provide service to the community, service to the school. They are thinking of creative ideas.”