Comox Francophone school will offer International Baccalaureate program for Grade 7s this September

This September, École Au coeur de l'île won't just be starting in a new school building — the Francophone school will also be offering the International Baccalaureate middle years program to its students.

This September, École Au coeur de l’île won’t just be starting in a new school building — the Francophone school will also be offering the International Baccalaureate middle years program to its students.

The International Baccalaureate (IB) middle years program will be offered to students in Grades 7-10, and this September, the Comox school — which is moving from its leased space at Cape Lazo School to a new building on the site of the former Village Park Elementary School — will begin by offering the program to Grade 7 students.

Principal Michel Tardif expects about 13 students will begin the program this year.

“It’s something that, from our school perspective, we’re looking to create that sort of niche within the community and within the school,” he said. “We’re really looking forward to that. Students are excited; I think they enjoy the potential in that. Staff are excited. It means more work, but I don’t see it as work. I see it as a positive investment of energy and time into learning.”

The IB middle years program, for students aged 11 to 16, provides a framework of academic challenge that encourages students to embrace and understand the connections between traditional subjects and the real world and become critical and reflective thinkers, according to the IB website.

The program consists of eight subject groups integrated through five areas of interaction that provide a framework for learning within and across the subjects. Students are required to study their mother tongue, a second language, humanities, sciences, mathematics, arts, physical education and technology.

“It encompasses a lot of what we believe in, such as learning to learn,” said Tardif. “It provides an open-minded and integrated approach to learning.”

École Au coeur de l’île will be the second Francophone school on Vancouver Island to offer the IB middle years program.

“It’s an environment to create learning as a way of life rather than a means to an end of school,” said Tardif. “It provides a bit of the flavour of our school, being a smaller school in terms of numbers. This for us is very important with the number of students we have and small classes. It provides another vehicle for us.”

École Au coeur de l’île will become the sixth school in the Francophone school district, the Conseil scolaire francophone (CSF), to offer the IB program.

“We find this program really appropriate for the 21st century,” said Amin Saad, the CSF’s co-ordinator for secondary instruction and for the IB program. “This is a very crucial period of time physically, intellectually and socially for students … the IB middle years program is designed to help them find a sense of belonging in an ever-changing world and help them in relating with others … and to foster a positive attitude of learning.”

Saad feels the IB program is beneficial to students and staff members in many ways.

“It will help (teachers) work more efficiently with students, will help students be more aware of what’s happening in the world, helps them to get a very good, solid education in different subjects,” he said. “Another component we feel is very important is the approaches to learning, the way students learn. I think this program offers very good opportunities for students to learn how to present information, how to study, how to work as a team.”

Saad feels students who come out of the IB middle years program are well prepared for their further studies.

“The students learning about all these components, especially the approaches to learning, they will be more prepared for Grade 11 and 12 and even more prepared  for university admission,” he said.

Saad wishes lots of success for IB at École Au coeur de l’île and the parents and staff who asked for the IB program.

“It’s a fantastic program,” he said. “Lots of schools have opted to go with this program because it’s a very well-defined program. This program includes lots of problem-solving activities, lots of organization, debates, hands-on experiments, debates … this is what we need in our schools. It’s very promising, and working together is very important, so I wish good luck for everybody with this program.”

School District 71 is also hoping to offer IB to its students, as Highland Secondary School is currently going through the process of applying for the IB diploma program for Grade 11 and 12 students.