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On 13th November (Thursday), 2014 we interviewed Mr. Gustav J Gropp, Principal of Oakridge International School and discussed the benefits of studying in an IB School and how its curriculum prepares students to tackle life’s challenges. Below is the transcript of the interview.
Oakridge International School: Oakridge International School is an IB (International Baccalaureate) affiliated school located in Hyderabad, India. The school provides both IGCSE, CBSE and IB syllabi. However, in the 9 and 10 grades, students need to take up the IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) course.
The school also offers checkpoints for grades 7 & 8 which are conducted by the CIE (University of Cambridge International Examinations). Oakridge is an academic institution with facilities to provide diverse academic streams from Nursery to Grade XII. It has four day-schools in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mohali and one boarding campus in Visakhapatnam city.
The school was established in 2001, by an educationist Shomie Das (an alumnus of The Doon School).
Oakridge believes every child is special and has a treasure within. It envisions a stimulating learning environment by providing highly motivated facilitators, innovative educational methods and quality infrastructure that helps to discover, nurture and bring out the treasure present in each child. The school is well-equipped with world-class math and science facilities and promotes a number of extracurricular activities.
Mr. Gustav J Gropp, Principal of Oakridge International School: Mr. Gustav J Gropp, Principal of Oakridge International School, is an active educational leader with over 35 years of experience in the field of education and training. During his career span, Mr. Gropp has lead, facilitated and participated in the growth of students, teachers and parents in a learning environment worldwide.
Before joining the Oakridge International School, Mr. Gropp has established a new IB Kindergarten to Grade 12 Campus in Abu Dhabi, UAE, which offers the IB PYP (Primary Years Programme), MYP (Middle Years Programme) and DP (Diploma Programme) along with the National Curriculum Model American Diploma program for non-IB students. He has been a lifelong learner and has served in various capacities in the field of education globally including – South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the United States of America, Jordan and Oman.
Q1: Tell us something about the vision of Oakridge International School.
It is a great place to come and learn. We believe that every child has a specific gift and talent locked up inside them and if we create an environment where they can develop intellectually and emotionally as well as physically and spiritually, they would really realize the treasure that is inside them. We are also looking at them, becoming responsible and creative citizens, not just learning about their own country but also have an understanding of other countries.
Q2: What should parents look for in an IB School?
In the context of Oakridge, IB allows schools to create an environment of learning that fits in with the local population and also exposes the students to thinking that is international. Obviously, the rich heritage of India is a stimulator for the students to step onto and stretch it even further. Few of the parents want to put an emphasis on mind, body and spirit development, so that these kids can be compassionate, responsible, innovative, and committed to change not only in India but also in the global environment.
Q3: How is an IB curriculum different from traditional curriculum?
Every school has a specific mission statement that it draws from its values – the values of the community and the values of the system that we follow. With an IB curriculum, we create certain learning vehicles through which we can instill those values in the students. In an IB curriculum, there are items that we call attitude to learning (the drivers for the curriculum) and those are – knowing how students learn, knowing how they know.
The other one is – how to articulate or communicate the understanding they get from the learning. Other key values are organizational skills, collaboration (working with other students, communities etc.), knowing how to use information technology, critical thinking and problem solving. And most importantly students learn to reflect on what they do. Once those things are settled, the curriculum is designed and content is imported into the curriculum, so that these competencies can be instilled in the students.
The next step is to hire teachers and train them so that they can deliver these curriculum and further assess the curriculum – whether what students have learnt is mapped with what teachers think they have taught. This is the major difference between IB curriculum and state-level curriculum. The benefit of assessing is – students really feel successful if they know what they need to do and can show that they can do it – it’s a high success rate and builds self-esteem. Then finally comes, the ability of the students to live up to the school’s vision.
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Q4: What values does the IB curriculum instill in a student?
We find that what we call as a group of skills, values, attitudes that we like to instill in our students.
Given below are the values:
- The Art of Reflection
We have ingrained all those elements on a rotational basis into the learning units of our design. The above values are instilled in our students through various practical exercises.
Q5: In what ways does the IB curriculum prepare students for future challenges?
I think as I have spoken from the element that form the reality of the Oakridge IB curriculum – the outcomes of each of those values, subject and learning areas are remarkable. Every time students get through an education, even if it’s just an endeavor of primary school, they need to have at each grade in each subject about 30-60 opportunities in 1 year to be able to articulate what they think and what they observe. This actively instills in students the ability to speak in public, be more confident, learn to organize thoughts, use research technology, and develop interpersonal skills.
Q6: How well is the IB certification accepted in India and globally?
Currently, there are 112 IB schools in India. All universities in India accept IB certification. Looking at the responses from Universities and Parents whose kids are in IB Schools in India – it is growing rapidly. It is noticed that children who receive an IB certification, their education doesn’t necessarily stop in India. There is a good opportunity for them to be trained further abroad then come back and make a difference in India.
Q7: Highlight pros and cons of the IB program in India?
The following are the pros and cons of the IB program in India:
IB prepare students for subsequent studies in a way that is far more thorough, in touch with modern ways of learning and the ways that universities run. Universities pay heavy emphasis on students’ owning responsibilities and accountability for their studies. So in an IB program, especially in the last two years students do have a subject choice in align with what they need to do in a university. There are also three specific areas added to the curriculum:
- Community Action Service (CAS): That expects students need to spend 150 hours on community in action. They should have done research in respective subject area and find why they need to go to the community and take actions on what they have learnt in school. This has to be done as part of the IB diploma program.
- Theory of Knowledge (TOK): A course which is compulsory for DP students and taught in the final two years of the IB diploma program. Where they have to do they are able to learn about customology.
- Extended Essay (EE): Students are given a task to write a research paper of 4,000 words on any topic of their choice. They are guided by Mentors on how to do research for information, refer books, how to recognize research papers, and teach IB students the entire process of how to write a research paper, before getting into a university.
- Balanced: IB has a very balanced curriculum. Students here (besides learning in a classroom environment) are given the opportunity to go to different communities, field trips, meet faculties & students from other countries and professionals from different companies, while they are studying in an IB program. This makes students able to balance life, efficiently manage time and become future ready.
Some students purely of their age and level of maturity can sometimes struggle with time management. There are intensive programs in the school to help them keep track and plan their studies with the help of Mentors. There is also a consultation done with their parents to make sure that parents understand the importance of support at home.
Q8: What is the future scope of the IB school curriculum in India?
Students whether they land up in University or not, should be undergoing IB program because it enhances the opportunity for them to become more knowledgeable about themselves. IB has grown significantly over the last ten years or so. In a social environment, when IB students begin to show their confidence, self-assurance, articulate what they think and solve problems, more and more students want to become a part of an IB school.
In India, where schooling and education is a non-profit exercise, it’s probably better for IB schools to develop here than anywhere else in the world. I do think there is a great scope, since IB organization is working with universities, schools and societies, to make IB opportunity more accessible in India.
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