Journey to PYP Authorization

17 February 2010

Article by Latha Kumar, Lower School Lead Teacher.

Have you heard about the PYP curriculum?” It was in 2003 that I first heard that question from an expatriate teacher who was then working at AKJA. All of us who were in the staff room shook our heads, and he went on to explain that it was a relatively new programme offered by the IB for the primary years and it was based on inquiry based teaching and learning model of education. Soon we were hearing more about it, and in early 2005 Mrs. Ahmed came back from a PYP for Administrators workshop, full of enthusiasm and marvel about the PYP. She encouraged us to take “baby steps” in implementing it and we were soon declared a “Candidate” school for the PYP. Much as she mentored the process, the underlying philosophy and methodology became much clearer to all the teaching staff only after the “Introduction to the PYP” workshop conducted by IB facilitators in 2006. Since then, we’ve had our focus on the big goal: obtaining authorization.

There were several changes at the school, both at the management and staff levels, but teachers at the Junior School were sent on IB and other professional development workshops on a regular basis. These teachers returned, equipped with better insight and knowledge of the PYP and other contemporary trends and practices in education and facilitated in-house workshops to impart their learning. We, at the AKJA, are very fortunate to have a team of committed, professional teaching staff and they were quick to absorb and internalize the new teaching ideas and methods. We also conducted workshop for parents to educate them about the philosophy and curriculum of the PYP. We are also blessed with a supportive and enthusiastic parent body, and students who responded quickly and positively to the PYP implementation. Since the underpinning IB philosophy echoes that of His Highness, the AKES and the school Board were forthcoming with their co-operation and support in any way they could.

Notwithstanding the several leadership changes and instability that plagued the institution at the start of the academic year in 2007, the leadership team headed by Ms. Wanda decided to go ahead with the authorization road map, with Mr. Sayani, the CEO of AKES prodding us along. Mr. Ndungu deserves full credit for initiating self-study task groups to audit the various areas of the PYP at the school. They were: Philosophy, Organisation, Curriculum, Assessment and Action. Each task group consisted of two teachers, two parents, two students and a board member. The groups met a few times and came up with an action plan in their respective area. This was an invaluable exercise and brought the school community closer together.

Another huge undertaking was the revision of the Programme of Inquiry. The teachers did a collaborative audit of the existing POI , both vertically and horizontally, and Mr. Ndungu and myself collated the document into a working one suited to the demands and requirements of our school.

Our next challenge was having a PYP co-coordinator in place. This was resolved when Ms. Stela Ghetie joined the school in August 2008, and she accelerated the whole process with Ms. Belinda at the helm. Ms. Stela was instrumental in putting in place all the necessary steps for authorization, and one of her main jobs was corresponding with the IB. In her calm, efficient manner, Ms. Stela took us through the process with minimum stress and fuss. I have heard of schools that go berserk with frenzy when preparing for accreditation and authorization visits. Before we knew it, the IB authorization team was in school in March 2009, and school life went on as normal.

Then there was the anxious, nail biting wait for the result: did we make it? The Authorization team was very positive, and so were we. The manner in which the good news was announced by Ms. Belinda was very unusual: she asked us to assemble in the courtyard immediately, that there was an emergency, and she looked convincingly worried. Ms. Christine and Ms. Stela played along, and everyone was speculating, though some of the teachers guessed! Most of us were clueless, and it was hilarious to listen to the students speculating! Did Moshi die? Has there been a fire at the school? Are we taken hostages? There was a thunderous applause when the news was announced and the whole school was ecstatic: WE ARE AUTHORISED! THE ONLY AUTHORISED PYP SCHOOL IN NAIROBI!

Congratulatory messages were trickling in, and Mrs. Shah (mother of Rishi and Saloni) sent a cake for the teachers the next day. We carry on, the students, staff and parents at the AKJA, the torch bearers of the IBPYP. We are confident that we will come out with flying colours in the Review Visit scheduled for April 2010.