You are launching an entirely new curriculum, exciting! Can you give us a brief overview of Pearson Edexcel iPrimary and iLowerSecondary?
It is exciting! In fact, Pearson Edexcel iPrimary and iLowerSecondary are not just new curricula, but complete one-stop international programmes for children aged 5-11 (iPrimary) and 11-14 (iLowerSecondary). As well as the learning outcomes in the curriculum itself, we also provide a wealth of additional support in the form of lesson plans, progress tests, professional development, and teaching resources.
What are the main principles and philosophies behind Pearson Edexcel iPrimary and iLowerSecondary?
We know that the most popular curriculum type in International schools worldwide is a ‘British style Curriculum’ – but there is actually very little support for an international school that wants to teach this way, short of downloading the curriculum documents form the UK Government website!
So our guiding principle was to develop programmes that help to bridge this gap. We provide an internationalised version of the English National Curriculum that is particularly suitable for non-native speakers of English (both teachers and students), while explicitly preparing students for success at International GCSE and beyond.
This is achieved by providing not just a curriculum and formative assessment, but having the whole support package in place.
Who is the curriculum for?
The programme is for any international school, anywhere in the world! We believe it provides a well-rounded foundation for upper secondary education, be that a local curriculum, the English curriculum, or an international programme such as the International Baccalaureate.
Can you give a brief overview for parents of what is included in the program, and the learning outcomes?
The programme covers a complete set of learning outcomes for English, Mathematics and Science across nine grades – in UK terminology that’s Key Stages 1-3.
The learning outcomes are broadly based on those of the latest English National Curriculum (2014), but with a number of key changes for the international school context.
Parents can be confident that, by providing an internationalised version of the English National Curriculum that is particularly suitable for non-native speakers of English while preparing students for further study, the programme really does offer a comprehensive international education.
Additionally, the assessments at the end of year six and year nine are benchmarked against international standards to provide further reassurance in the programme.
Does this curriculum emphasise the importance of facts, with more knowledge as the goal, or does it lean toward transferring of information for application?
It’s a great question – and one we grappled with in the development of the programmes.
We know that in many areas of any curriculum, content is important not only in and of itself but also to provide engaging stimulus material that really encourages students to learn. So we have to be mindful that learning facts and figures absolutely has its place in a rounded curriculum, and it’s hard to meaningfully teach skills without content.
On the other hand, in this rapidly changing world in which many of our children will be employed in jobs that we don’t know even exist yet… it’s undeniable that equipping them with the transferable skills they need to enquire and the means to apply them is of vital importance.
So, the short answer is – it’s an even balance!
This balance manifests itself across the different subjects in different ways. In Science, there is a ‘Scientific Enquiry’ strand that is woven throughout the curriculum so skills are taught both in the context of specific content and also more broadly; it is vital our future scientists and engineers develop the skills to approach problems scientifically. In Maths, problem solving develops at age appropriate levels to give students a toolkit of methods to use to approach different problems, rather than learning a particular trick or ‘shortcut’.
In English, through the use of speaking, feedback, drama and roleplay, students are introduced to ‘soft’ skills such as adaptability and empathy.
What about for teachers? How will the program help them teach to the best of their ability?
We believe that teachers are going to really love the amount of support they get from the Pearson Edexcel iPrimary and iLowerSecondary programmes.
In addition to lots of support resources – full, exemplified Schemes of Work, Units of Work and lesson plans for every year, subject specific Teacher’s Guides, and a wealth of Progress Tests – the programme also comes with a lot of Professional Development opportunities included.
This CPD comes in two forms – face-to-face training locally and ongoing webinar support for teachers throughout the year. Additionally, we encourage schools to appoint a co-ordinator who receives extra support to guide teachers through in-school CPD sessions as follow-ups to our webinars and other teacher training.
Finally, all Pearson Edexcel iPrimary and iLowerSecondary teachers have access to our dedicated forum, where they can share ideas with the rest of the community as well as ask for help from Pearson staff directly.
Are there options for personalised learning throughout the curriculum?
There certainly are – in fact, we like to think that the programme offers support and structure where schools want it, and flexibility when they don’t.
Our unit and lesson plans for teachers all include suggestions for differentiating lessons by student needs, as well as ideas for extension work for those that need stretching and challenging.
In the English curriculum, we have some suggested reading texts but we certainly encourage schools to use a wide variety of materials, and as much as possible these should be from a local context to remove any barriers to access for students. Similarly, in our Science curriculum the use of local contexts are very actively encouraged, and examples are truly global rather than British.
What are the next steps for students who have been through the whole programme and finished lower secondary?
After finishing Pearson Edexcel iLowerSecondary we’d expect most students to move on to study for International (or UK) GCSEs, as that is what the programme is intended to build towards with the majority of schools following a British style curriculum.
However, the combination of internationally benchmarked content and a skills-based curriculum mean that it wouldn’t pose a problem to move or transfer to another programme such as the IB Middle Years Programme.
What are the elements that make this curriculum suitable for non-native English speakers?
We’ve taken a lot of care over our English curriculum.
The level of English required to access the English National Curriculum objectives is, understandably, rather high for a non-native speaker. Conversely, some international programmes require that students follow an ‘English as a First Language’ or ‘English as a Second Language’ pathway right from the start of primary school at the age of five.
Our approach is intentionally something of a middle ground. The English curriculum has lots of scaffolding for non-native speakers, and develops at a different pace to a traditional ‘first language’ curriculum – but also encourages the use of authentic native speaker texts from the outset.
A prime example would be poetry. In order to get the most out of the study of poetry, it’s vital that some of the nuances of language are understood; this is rather inaccessible for the average non-native speaker at the age of seven. So, while not removing it completely from earlier grades, we move the deeper study of poetry later in the programme to enable students to really get to grips with the content and be able to enjoy it, rather than struggle through.
By the end of Pearson Edexcel iLowerSecondary, a student will be prepared to begin an International GCSE in English as a First or Second Language – whichever is most appropriate for them – but the route they have taken to get there is different to a ‘pure’ E1L or EAL pathway.
How is it assessed, internally or externally?
There are internationally benchmarked external examinations at the end of each programme, in year six and year nine, in all three subjects.
Additionally, we also provide progress tests for each topic, in each subject, for each grade – as well as full ‘end of year’ progress tests. These are marked internally but we do provide updated tests and marks schemes each year so they are excellent for tracking progress and providing summative assessment.
Are there any plans for future development?
Absolutely – we intend the programme to continue to evolve.
For first teaching in 2019, we are adding a Computing/ICT curriculum for all nine grades, and future developments include Early Years Foundation Stage content for pre-school/Kindergarten levels – plus other plans we can’t reveal just yet…