The International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum has been influential in shaping the educational landscape in many countries around the world.
This curriculum emphasises a holistic approach to education, focusing on the development of the whole student. It encourages students to explore multiple disciplines and engage in a broad range of activities, including academics, arts, sports, and community service. This approach promotes well-rounded individuals with a balanced set of skills and knowledge.
It also promotes inquiry-based learning, encouraging students to ask questions, think critically, and develop research skills. Students are actively involved in the learning process, which helps foster their curiosity, problem-solving abilities, and independent thinking skills. This approach moves away from traditional rote memorisation and promotes deeper understanding and application of knowledge.
In today’s time, the amalgamation of the international school environment and IB curriculum can collaboratively create an ideal environment for students. In the discussion of the importance of international schools and IB curriculum, International School Aberdeen (ISA) can be considered as the pinnacle.
Delivering Educational Excellence
As Scotland’s first international school, International School Aberdeen educates children from ages 3 to 18 and takes pride in using best practices in education from around the world.
With a student population of 550, it delivers educational excellence in a safe and caring learning environment. Its strength is diverse intelligence, providing something different when it comes to independent education.
ISA provides the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma. Students are challenged to reach their maximum potential through academic success and personal growth, becoming learners for life and socially responsible, active global citizens.
The school is split into preschool (ages 3-5), elementary (ages 5-11), middle school (ages 10-14) and high school (ages 13-18).
Pinnacle of IB Education
What is unique about ISA is that it is not selective – the IB Diploma is open to all students, regardless of any previous educational background.
ISA also has a teacher-to-student ratio that is one teacher for eight students, which is not only considerably better than UK schools generally but more generous than other independent schools.
In 2022, it continued its 100 per cent pass rate in the prestigious Diploma, with students surpassing global grade point averages. The average points per ISA student is 37 (the worldwide average is between 30 and 31). The results from the May 2022 exam session also recorded an ISA student earning the top mark of 45 points – a score that less than 1 per cent managed to achieve worldwide.
However, at ISA, education goes far deeper than league tables and exam results, and it does more than just prepare students for academic success – it enables them to connect with each other and the wider world.
While good exam results are important, they are no longer the limit of what schools must provide. Schools of today must think deeper. And this is what sets ISA apart and an area in which it excels.
Promoting a Sense of Belonging
ISA promotes a sense of belonging for every child and honours a steadfast commitment to providing exceptional care for every child, and encourages students to practice acceptance, empathy and understanding.
It educates 50 nationalities in an environment that encourages not just mutual tolerance but active learning from peers. ISA knows healthy communities and positive learning environments are always built on the quality of human relationships, and it believes each person is unique, valuable, and worthy of respect.
Every year ISA holds a successful International Festival where cultures from around the world are celebrated. It focuses on developing essential social and emotional skills to ensure students become multi-cultural, self-aware, and open-minded, encouraging collaborative skills via lessons that routinely encourage discussion, debate, and engagement with a wider world.
The school teaches the pre-university International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme, and it is a registered testing centre for UK IGCSE qualifications.
Striking the Right Balance
The IB Diploma offers both balance and choice across six subject choices – three at the Higher level and three at the Standard level. But to gain a full IB diploma, students must also complete a core programme including an ‘Extended Essay,’ a ‘Theory of Knowledge’ presentation and a reflective record of a ‘Creativity, Activity, Service’ (CAS).
As well as regularly timetabled classes in Dutch and French language, ISA also offers after-school ‘Home Language Groups’ in Arabic, German and Italian.
ISA clubs include Environmental, Model United Nations, Duke of Edinburgh, Amnesty International, National Honour Society and Student Council. A theatre production occurs each year. High School students participate in the study or community service and language immersion trips, Model United Nations, and the Duke of Edinburgh programme.
Alongside more traditional support such as UCAS and international university applications sit the likes of Morrisby psychometric testing of grade 10 pupils with its externally interpreted, one-to-one meetings and small workshops representing the increasingly diverse methods ISA is employing to give students a uniquely broad insight on how they might earn post-school qualifications.
Advising Better Routes
ISA’s dedicated High School counsellor works closely with students and their families, while each subject area has a curriculum coordinator plus two counsellors to advise on university routes.
The quality of teaching and the commitment to providing exceptional care for every child is at the heart of everything ISA stands for, and its team of experienced teachers understand that policies and processes are important, but it is the quality of relationships that determine the strength of leadership.
ISA teachers come from the UK, US and other nations and are university certified; most hold advanced degrees and are registered with the General Teaching Council for Scotland.
Reinforcing the School Values with Ideal Leadership
The Head of School, Mr Little, is exceptionally well supported by members of the senior leadership team. Each is highly skilled and experienced in their field, and all staff reinforce the school values as they successfully fulfil their roles and responsibilities, working together to ensure the highest standards of education and care are maintained across the school.
Student well-being sits at the heart of everything ISA does and everything it stands for; the school hasn’t forgotten the foundation of excellence in care, demonstrated by reaching the finals in the Student Well-being category of the Independent Schools of the Year Awards 2021.
ISA has two full-time counsellors for Elementary and Middle School, as well as a High School counsellor and a social-emotional counsellor.
In a recent report published by Education Scotland (the country’s governing body responsible for supporting quality and improvement in Scottish education) following a school-wide inspection in March 2023, it states, “Children and young people at ISA experience a highly inclusive school community where well-being is valued and promoted” and that the “very positive relationships and respectful interactions between staff, children and young people” is key to the shared understanding of the importance of well-being across all school stages.
ISA’s ‘no surprises’ culture means that no one should be blindsided– if a piece of information or background knowledge is critical in ensuring a full and robust picture of a child’s situation (academic and otherwise), everyone should know about it. A pre-arranged meeting or a chat with a teacher outside school can ensure good, open lines of communication, as well as regular Parent Teacher Conferences.
Thriving on Global Platforms
ISA students with IB Diplomas have not only gone onto prestigious global universities, including Cambridge, Oxford, Edinburgh, Glasgow, York, Carnegie Mellon, and Boston but have thrived there.
One of ISA’s most well-known alumni is NFL star David Ojabo, who is now based in the US as Outside Line-backer with the Baltimore Ravens. The school is proud to share that one of its Grade 9 students, Pranav, the right-handed batsman and left-arm spinner, has been selected to be part of the 2023 Cricket Scotland National Boys Under 15s team. Furthermore, Grade 7 student Mahati Sriramula and Grade 10’s Daniel Martin beat the odds against over 900 UK entries and were hailed as winners in national coding competitions this year.
Earlier this year, more than 30 ISA Middle and High School students submitted excellent artwork for The Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture School Art Awards 2023. ISA’s Grade 9 student, Dannia Dirya, won the North Regional prize out of over 800 submissions from students across Scotland.
Addressing Personalised Needs
More staff resources mean more specialist subjects from age five, including languages, art, and music, from specialist teachers. It means offering programming skills and robotics to children from the age of 11 as well as more learning support staff. It means on-site technicians supporting a one-to-one Chromebook programme from age nine upwards, with younger children having regular access to technology.
Each day students begin their day with their advisory teacher. If required, students receive personal learning support when acquiring English as a new language or other academic needs.
ISA also promotes key STEM subjects and focuses on the role of science and technology-based programmes in educating the workforce of the future.
It operates an electronic sign-in system at reception where every visitor receives a lanyard and visitor pass. ISA has security guards on duty every day, and it regularly conducts staff training with external security consultants.
A Prestigious Institute
ISA is accredited by the Council of International Schools and the US Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. ISA is an IB World School authorised to deliver International Baccalaureate programmes. ISA Preschool is regulated and inspected by The Care Inspectorate.
Its counsellors are members of the Scottish Guidance Association, Council of International Schools, Independent Schools Careers Organisation, and the Overseas and National Associations for College Admission Counselling and abide by the NACAC Statement of Principles of Good Practice.
ISA also regularly partners with the local authority, Aberdeen City Council, on educational initiatives and it recently worked with Education Scotland to complete a school inspection where it recorded unprecedented ‘sector leading’ results.