The High School at Vancouver Island University’s curriculum is going International Baccalaureate (IB). The private school will be the first in Nanaimo proper to offer the IB program for their grade 11 and 12 students.
The IB program is world-renowned and closes with a separate exam process and awards a separate diploma along with a normal BC Dogwood Diploma. There are seven other schools on Vancouver Island offering the program, with the nearest to Nanaimo being Aspengrove School in Lantzville.
The High School Principal Catherine Brazier says the transition is something that they’ve been working on for a while.
“It’s something that’s been talked about for years,” says Brazier. “Coming out of the pandemic we just felt we need something to re-energize everybody and this seemed to be it. It’s just felt right.”
The small school is a unique one. Created in 1996, it’s one of only two high schools in Canada to be a part of a university. It’s got a capacity of around 100-120 students, boasting around a 15:1 student-to-teacher ratio.
Also unique in that, it’s only a three-year process, enrolling students from grades 10 to 12. The final two years will be formally taught in the new program, but Brazier says all three will be taught the ‘IB philosophy.’
“There will be a focus on preparing Grade 10 students for the rigours of the IB program should they decide that’s what they want to do,” she says.
As for the program itself, Brazier says it focuses on real-world education as well as book smarts.
“IB is not just courses,” she says. “It is a comprehensive educational program that takes into account academics, social justice, and all aspects of developing young people.”
The philosophy is based on the ‘learner profile’ which is ten attributes valued by the organization. That includes things like being open-minded, reflective, and a risk-taker.
Teachers spent last summer training for the swap and this last school year preparing their courses for the new style of teaching. Brazier says having a network of other IB schools has helped them prepare for the change.
“Being part of a small school, I only have one teacher for each department, but with IB there is a whole network,” says Brazier. “It’s such a collegial organization, we’ve just been blown away by the offers of help.”
As for the parents, who have the ultimate say over the support of students, they were on board for the swap.
“They were just as excited, if not moreso, than the staff and felt that it was a good expense to be able to offer something of such a high caliber to our students,” says Brazier.
The new program starts at The High School this September.