High School Vice Principal
What happens if your family relocates just as you are about to start Grade 10? Or if you want to begin the IB Diploma Programme but you’ve never experienced inquiry-based learning that requires you to be self-motivated and independent? At UWCSEA we are lucky to be able to provide an answer to these questions: you enrol in the Foundation IB (FIB) course. Designed to provide both breadth and depth of learning, the one-year FIB provides both a perfect introduction to the UWC mission and learning programme and a solid preparation for the rigours of the IB Diploma Programme (IBDP).
The FIB group is typically highly diverse. Students come from a range of educational systems and cultural and national backgrounds and many of them come as boarders. All are new to the College. Most speak a number of languages, with English often a second or even third language for them. They are looking to share their experiences, extend their thinking and prepare themselves for the IBDP academic programme. Their positive approach and new perspective make them an important part of the Grade 10 cohort.
Students tell us that some of the academic challenges of the FIB courses are connected to new ways of learning. Critical thinking, independent research projects, working collaboratively, or creating new solutions and knowledge are sometimes new skills to acquire. The ability to devise research questions of their own, to use a wide range of sources and analyse data are all essential skills for the IBDP. FIB courses are designed to build these skills. One student said, “At my last school teachers told us what to think but in the FIB programme my biggest challenge has been to understand many new perspectives and think critically about my own.”
FIB students also have the opportunity to focus intensely on two defining aspects of the College: the UWC mission and the UWCSEA profile. Students develop the skills and qualities of the UWCSEA profile, while focusing on all five elements of the learning programme. For many students it is the first time they have been involved in an outdoor education trip or service activities. This introduction to the UWC mission and the learning programme is also excellent preparation for both Project Week in Grade 11 and the Creativity Activity Service (CAS) component of the IBDP.
Most importantly, the specific FIB service learning and outdoor education programme has a significant impact on students. On East Campus, this programme involves working with fishermen on Bintan, who are members of the Panglong community. This community used to be a sea people but they have had to transition to the land, and now need to develop an income that’s land-based. Students work with them to develop ideas around how they might tap into the tourist industry on the island. Helping them to set up, advertise and market a tour and appeal to tourists visiting the area is a new venture for both the community and the students. It requires students to not only understand the challenges faced by the community, but also to adapt their academic learning to a ‘real world’ situation.
One FIB student described the learning that took place through the Bintan project: “Before this trip, we were discussing what we could do to solve it or we were creating goals that we thought were right. But when we actually visited this village, it appeared that some goals or solutions might not work, because we had been thinking theoretically … When we went there we saw real life and different situations require different solutions and goals. So it helped to understand the problem from inside, to see it and how a solution would need to work.”
This ability to adapt their thinking, to apply academic learning to practical situations, to collaborate and to stretch themselves beyond what they believe they can achieve are critical for success in Grades 11 and 12. The FIB year is intense and challenging but students finish with a deeper understanding of themselves as learners and as members of the UWCSEA community.