ASTANA – Kazakhstan is hoping to raise a new generation of young, motivated, educated and inspired citizens who will be prepared to compete for jobs and services in a global market.Astana’s Miras International School is facilitating these hopes by offering the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma programme, a two-year, pre-university course in English that provides a challenging, internationally focused, broad and balanced educational experience for students aged 16-19. The school has been authorised to offer the IB diploma programme (IBDP) since March 2011. The programme has been designed to address the intellectual, social, emotional and physical well-being of students and to equip them with the basic academic skills needed for university study and their chosen profession. It also aims to promote the development of values and skills needed to live a fulfilled and purposeful life. The IBDP is now taking off due to the ever-increasing skills students now need to succeed in college, the workforce and beyond. The Guardian newspaper called the IBDP “more academically challenging and broader than three or four A-levels.”
Diploma students take six subjects selected from six subject groups. Typically, three subjects are studied at higher level and the remaining three are studied at standard level. In addition to these subjects, students undertake three core requirements: theory of knowledge; creativity, action and service and extended essay. Theory of knowledge challenges students to think in different ways; creativity, action and service provides learning opportunities that extend outside the classroom and extended essay allows the students to work independently on a research project.
Secondary School Principal of Miras International School Willem van der Sluis arrived in Astana from the Netherlands in August. “Miras International School is one of the few established international schools in Kazakhstan offering the full International Baccalaureate programme. The diploma programme was implemented last academic year and 100 percent of our first cohort passed its exams and is now enrolled in top universities around the globe. The school strives to support each student in reaching their full potential, such as one of our grade 10 students, who plays for the national hockey team,” he said.
IB students not only regularly gain access to the world’s top universities but get scholarships or scholarship opportunities and credits for their courses.
An essential element of these international programmes is, of course, intercultural awareness, as grade 12 student in the IB programme Tine Kristin Bjornoy explains: “My life as a student in the IB diploma programme at Miras International School in Astana has taught me much about my abilities as a student and also about different cultures which I have become integrated with during my year as a student here. I started the IB diploma programme last year, with little knowledge of what this different educational programme would involve. Being completely new to Astana, and Kazakhstan also, the impressions were many. Miras International School is a school with great diversity. Being able to be part of the diploma programme, where I have educated teachers from all corners of the world, enriches the whole teaching experience … As a student here, now involved with my second and final year of the IB diploma, I have already made several new self-discoveries where I can see my potential and abilities. To be able to be part of small classes where there is a great amount of interaction with my classmates and teachers, this has ensured that I receive the guidance which is important to me during my final years of schooling. Within my class, despite it being a small one with a total of four students, the nationalities vary from different areas of the world. This allows me to interact with different cultures every day, which aids me in my understanding of the diversity in the world. It is no secret that the diploma programme requires work and effort from the student … however, I have also realised the unique position this places me in. In the diploma programme I have developed my skills in each subject and enriched my knowledge. My life as a student in Miras International School is motivating and will definitely pay off in the future.”
“The more I teach the IBDP, the more I appreciate what it offers and enjoy teaching it,” said English teacher and CAS Coordinator Petra Macleod. “It has the reputation for being a rigorous programme of study and it really is. This means that by the end of the two-year period, students obtain a solid, all-round education. Most importantly, the IBDP encourages individuals to inquire independently and challenge themselves. It has been a privilege to introduce the IBDP at Miras International School these past two years and it is extremely satisfying to see the fruits of our labour: good academic results, of course, being one of our main achievements, and students being accepted to prestigious universities all around the world. But the IB Diploma offers so much more. As CAS [Creativity, Action and Service] coordinator, I have been able to witness individual student growth and get to know who our students are. Completing 150 hours of creativity, action and service over 18 months, students constantly set themselves new goals and are given the opportunity to reflect on their actions and how they have benefited other people – and themselves! The IB programmes are much more than a philosophy – they are a way of living and learning.”
“I know that the role of a diploma coordinator in an IB world school is crucial to the success of the programme. I am responsible for providing information, guidance and administrative support to candidates, colleagues and parents … The diploma programme has just entered its second year at Miras, but looking at the availability and access to resources like teaching material, et cetera, it does not seem so. The results of the first cohort were quite impressive and the students successfully entered Canadian and UK universities,” Suman Sethi, business and economics teacher and diploma programme coordinator said.