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Parent Involvement and the IB Course

April, 2009
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family_reading  The role of parents in terms of the education of their own child is a crucial one.

  The open-minded approach to projects and investigation is very helpful. Parents are encouraged to visit IB schools and participate by educating pupils and staff as to their own perspective on these topics, and the relevance of their own work to them. Each school should be involved in the community. In Shanghai there are many opportunities which enable schools to practically contribute to the lives of Chinese children such as ‘the Giving Tree’ and ‘River of Hearts’…

  Academically the role of parents can be crucial in each of the subject areas and also the more difficult area of Theory of Knowledge (TOK). The role of the parent in developing the thinking skills of their children is vital. As we know from both professional psychology and lay psychology, the role models set before us do influence our behavior and values. Therefore the more a student sees their parent reading the more likely they are to do it themselves, particularly if the habit is ingrained from a young age as “family reading time”. It is of little use to ask students to read if we do not set a good example for them to follow.

  Also, the role of debate and discussion without fear of condemnation for views held (no matter how controversial), is usually a very challenging part of parenting. This gets exponentially higher when students are following the DP program. How does a parent respond to the academic challenges being put in front of their child when they may hold views diametrically opposed to the views being illustrated? On the one hand the parent will feel obliged to allow as much freedom as possible, but one may also understand the protective role that a parent plays in the life of their children and although governments and organizations may try to draw up legislation which increases the freedom and responsibility of the student or child, it must be balanced with an understanding of parents for whom this is a very direct challenge to their own culture and beliefs.

  No-one would deny the normality of parents passing on values and behavior patterns to their children, so within international schools it is my view that the understanding of the curriculum (Theory of Knowledge in particular) and possibly some aspects of History, Business Management, and the Experimental Sciences are best served with parental involvement and at the very least communication with teaching staff being emphasized by all schools. This may take the form of information booklets, parents’ evenings and open days, as well as direct participation from an ‘external’ viewpoint. This will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if handled well it should benefit all the students to hear from the real world outside of school from parents who are experts in certain topics.

  Something you may not be aware of is that the IBO developed its community theme website (http://communitytheme.ibo.org/everyone) with the idea that all participants in the programs have a role to play. Parental interest in the IB is that of a participant, not just from a point of view of guiding their son or daughter’s choices when picking options, but more explicitly by the theme adopted by the IBO in 2007 of “sharing our humanity”. The theme has already provided and will continue to be a basis for discussion, debate and interaction across the IB community until 2010. The topics covered at all age levels are provocative in terms of ability and interest. They are (adapted from “High Noon” by J. Rischard in 2002) and are as follows:

  • Global poverty
  • Peace and conflict
  • Education for all
  • Global infectious diseases
  • The digital divide - uneven access to information and communication technologies
  • Disasters and emergencies

  The “guided question” approach to these areas appears to be a sensible option in terms of breaking down what these topics actually mean. Be aware though that views on these topics tend to be controversial and sensitive. The polarization of views occurs when we approach these questions and topics from a purely national viewpoint. The other polarity is that of political correctness or expediency. Our knowledge and understanding of these topics is tainted whether we like it or not by our own (lack of) knowledge of other countries and cultures that approach and see these issues differently.

  We all have a part to play in the educational process. The role of parents is one part, which up until now has been implicit rather than explicit. Perhaps the balance should shift. After all, one of the key aspects of the IB Learner profile is to be a risk taker. It is important for us all to take a risk and be more involved as parents in our child’s IB course.


By Richard Naylor

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