HCHS pole vaults into the 21st century with the IB PYP Program

HCHS pole vaults into the 21st century with the IB PYP Program

Written by Danika Dy, Jenie Co, and John Donado with contributions from Ms. Joy Chang, the Campus Journalism Program Teacher-Advisor Campus Journalism Program

Hope Christian High School Principal Mrs. Angeline Tan–Tiller heartily shared her experiences of challenges and victories, as she described and put into reality the IB PYP (International Baccalaureate Primary Year Program) curriculum that benefits our young 21st-century learners.

On September 29, 2020, Hope Christian High School was granted full authority by the IB Organization to implement the said curriculum. Being the first Chinese–Filipino Christian school recognized in the IB Organization in the Asia Pacific Region, it is the school’s honor to live up to its mission: “being committed to continually provide quality Christian education relevant to the changes and challenges of the times for the glory of God.”

The school head with her keenest of observation coupled with a global perspective recognized the flexible and adaptable nature of the curriculum that could run side by side with the ever changing needs of our time. “How would I

make education relevant? How could I help students relate what they learn in everyday life?” she shared during the interview. “IB respects ‘individuality’ – individual identity, individual skills. It is not a one size fits all type of education. Learning happens not the way it used to, but students learn more – they can openly inquire, research, and explore,” Mrs. Tiller replied when asked about how she decided to adopt the IB curriculum.

In today’s lifestyle where everything is rapidly changing – from the way we conduct our life’s affairs and face life’s challenges, most of our current learners are not simply interested in listening to class lectures, memorizing facts, to name a few. The requisite for the 21st century success is innovation. “We shall innovate to better our teaching and learning. Fortunately, by the loving grace of our Heavenly Father that embraced the school in every season, HCHS was able to overcome the change, and will continue to thrive with the change.”

The Birth of the IB PYP Curriculum

Shifting to a new curriculum took some time to roll in full throttle. Here is the school principal’s recollection during the interview:

“In my fourth or fifth year as principal in school, I was trying to see whether we are on the right path. To know the expectation of the community, we called for a stakeholder’s meeting where each representative coming from the board of trustees, student or SCO, alumni group, parent, teacher attended the meeting. We were divided into five groups and we conducted a SWOT analysis to identify the school’s weaknesses and strengths. It came up that the groups wanted to see HCHS teaching more than a textbook.”

That was when Mrs. Tiller explored the possibility of a curriculum that was responsive to the 21st century needs of students. After careful study, she came to the conclusion that the IB curriculum provides the curriculum and instructional approach that will bring out the best in a student, making them globally competitive and at par with the rest of the world. “What are the characteristics of a 21st century learner that fit the 21st century worker? Being an effective communicator, critical thinker, creative, and problem solver. This is what the workforce is looking for.”

She added, “Education in an IB school has a global perspective. When you become a leader, you do not want your sphere to be small, but to have a wide experience and see the wide perspective.”

What makes the IB PYP curriculum even more appealing is that it is consistent to Christian values. She continually narrated, “It took me two years to convince the board of it. The IB learner profile – it is inclusive and encompassing of what a Christian should be, being caring and respectful.”

The Changes

Ms. Tan-Tiller wasted no time in putting both the curricular and physical changes necessary to institute the changes.  To make sure the changes translate into the classroom, two consultants experienced in international education and teacher training provided professional development workshops and coaching on 21st Century Education, literacy skills, and inquiry approach throughout the succeeding school years in 2018-2020, Teachers collaborated to develop units of inquiry and reflected on their teaching practices.  Even the physical structures of the classroom from pre-school to junior high school had to be changed and new furniture had to be brought in to reflect the collaborative nature of the learning process.  Gone are the teacher platforms.  The teacher role has moved from the “sage on the stage” and is now replaced with the “guide on the side”.

The Curriculum at Its CORE 

According to one Chinese proverb, “Only he who has traveled the road knows where the holes are deep.” In the context of education, the proverb implies that the path to learning requires deep learning, learning that comes from understanding concepts in real life.  The IB PYP curriculum provides for an inquiry process where students ask questions and explore the answers to these questions with the help of the teachers–answers which they construct through literacy activities, meaningful discussions, hands-on activities, and important of all, in activities where they act on the application of solutions to real-world problems. In the culmination of their elementary education, in the last unit of a study entitled, “How the World Works,”  grade six students choose a world issue and explore a line of inquiry of their own choice and construct their own answers to the inquiry questions.  This is the type of education that the IB PYP provides for, one where they know how “deep” the holes are as stated in the Chinese proverb.

 Talking about the IB curriculum, last January 26, 2021, Vice Principal for Academics and IB Coordinator Mrs. Jan Laurice M. Ong, together with the Upper Elementary Supervisor Mrs. Jhudelle C. Navarro, graciously shared their experiences and views about how the curriculum works with students.

“The learner profile is the best descriptor of how we develop the students because of the holistic aspect of it. One particular activity or engagement to develop the social and emotional of students is through personal wellness – the spiritual aspect giving time for the children to socialize with each other. During breakout sessions, children mingle with friends, teachers, counselors. They express their thoughts and ideas. Sharing something is part of the emotional side,” explained Mrs. Ong. “IB does not have any right or wrong answer. Usually, IB wants us to express our thoughts, any way you want – you can draw it, you can sing it… We encourage ways to communicate their ideas, express their thoughts in a way that is comfortable.” The IB program wants you to be who you are. Your own character, personality, and skills.”

Upper Elementary Supervisor Mrs. Jhudelle C. Navarro mentioned during the interview, “We want our students to have ownership, to have their own voice and choice. They have personalized learning goals for a particular topic.” It is a common misconception that the program is secular while in fact, it is inclusive. Everyone is given equal opportunities. The program encourages students to inquire and ask questions.  Another good side to view the IB program is when teachers teach concepts outside of the textbook. In a way, teachers become more lifelong learners that profile also fits the 21st-century educators. Students and teachers come together and learn from each other. They grow together.

“Before I learned in this program, I was somehow lazy and irresponsible, But thanks to the teachers, they really strived their best to change us, students, in a good way with the help of this program. The two really important things that I like about the IB PYP program is that it helped me develop my maturity and responsibility.” – Stephen Joaquin Dominguez, Grade 7 student who completed the PYP program last year.

“IB PYP gave us a chance to participate in activities and to have an adventure that we wouldn’t forget.” – Naomi Janelle Dionisio, Grade 7 

In PYP, students can do more with their knowledge and skills; they go beyond the walls of the classroom at an early stage. They do not just think about the problems and solutions but they explore it in more depth and provide innovative solutions. 
Erica Sadang, Grade 5 PYP Teacher

What the Future Holds

 In our current society, communicating and respecting other people’s perspectives and differences create harmony – this leads us to the essence of the IB mission “to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.” The world is developing and evolving as time passes by. And education need not be frozen in time. As emphasized by the school principal Mrs. Tiller, “We need to continually improve our way of teaching and learning to raise students to be inquirers, critical thinkers, problem solvers, innovators, and communicators while being caring, respectful, and empathetic. PYP is an example of a dynamic program that keeps changing along with the times.”   And, yes, it is an all time truth – learning is a never-ending process.