Parents sometimes ask why we chose International Primary Curriculum (IPC) as our core curriculum for Zion International School of Phnom Penh (ZISPP). Our goal at ZISPP is to empower children with the tools and capacity to reach their full potential and to become leaders in the community and the world. In order to do that, they have to be able to be problem-solvers, they have to be able to synthesize information and apply it to new paradigms and solutions, and they have to be able to innovate—we want to unlock their inherent creative abilities and enable them to be able to create new solutions to solve tomorrow’s problems. Traditional curricula, even much of that used in the United States of America, is focused on pouring information into children’s heads and then testing them to see if they can remember the facts, figures, and information that they were taught. This is fine if you only want a child to understand things as they exist today. But in today’s world things are constantly changing. Children need to become life-long learners—what they learn in elementary school, in high school—even in a university—will only help them for a short time. The world is changing rapidly, and in order to have successful careers and be effective leaders children need to learn how to learn—and have a passion and desire that motivates them to continue to learn throughout their life.
IPC is specifically structured to help children learn how to learn—and to help them develop a thirst to always be learning and doing—so that they never stop learning throughout their life. IPC is project-based—our children focus on a subject specific for up to a month at a time, and they dive deep into that subject matter—asking questions, exploring ideas, and learning how to solve problems within that topic area. They learn by doing—rather than just passive listening to and then repeating information on homework sheets or forms, they are getting their hands dirty, so to speak, actually creating, understanding the world around them, and applying the knowledge they receive to solve real-world problems. They still learn the facts and figures—our teachers make sure they understand the necessary basic principles and knowledge—but they also have opportunities to apply those principles to make, to do, and to create. They become active learners—fully engaged. When a learner is actively engaged their understanding of the subject matter increases dramatically, and they retain the information they are learning much longer. In addition, they become adept at applying what they have learned to the next area of knowledge that they explore. In this way, they become active, self-motivated, engaged learners, and develop the problem-solving skills and creativity that will allow them to lead and grow throughout their life.
A significant benefit of IPC is that children are taught about subject matter in context that is relevant to the subject matter. Too often students in traditional schools ask, “Why do I need to learn this stuff?”. The material is boring or less engaging because it is not taught in context that is relevant to the subject matter. But when problems and real-world scenarios are presented, then the information becomes relevant—the curricula provides a “why?” for the learning—and the children become much more engaged, much more willing to process the information mentally, and develop a far greater motivation for learning and remembering what they are being taught. For example, some of our students recently studied how to set personal goals that help them to learn better, how they are the same or different from other people, how climate and weather patterns affect life around the world, which types of food are grown locally and the importance of a balanced diet, how artists use different materials and techniques for their work and the reasons why different art works are produced, also practical skills such as how to use maps and remember important journeys, and so much more.
Too often in education we treat children like they are products on an assembly line in a factory—we treat them all alike. We give the same information and assignments to every child and hope they all turn out the same. But that is not right! Every child is unique and special. Each child’s talents and abilities are different, and each child learns at a different pace. IPC’s project-based approach to learning, discovering, and applying knowledge is a fantastic way to ensure that every child gets the individual opportunities they need to unlock their maximum potential. Sometimes parents ask—why doesn’t have my child have homework sheets? Homework sheets are usually ok for having children repeat back what they learned—but they are a terrible way to acquire new knowledge and apply what they are learning. IPC’s approach is far better. Research shows that traditional homework is much less effective than helping children to explore and discover the world around them, and helping them develop the skills to think deeply about what and why is happening, and to solve problems and challenges by applying what they have learned. You can best help your child learn by helping them explore the world around them every day! Ask them questions, participate with them in learning about subjects that interest them—in short, help them love learning every day!
To summarize, we chose IPC as our base curricula because:
1) It allows our students to be fully engaged in learning—they are active learners because they are doing, rather than just sitting and listening. They are involved and take individual responsibility for their own learning.
2) It encourages and motivates a love for life-long learning and exploring new areas of knowledge.
3) It teaches the students how to solve problems—not just regurgitate information. This makes them far more successful in later educational opportunities, in their careers, and in every aspect of their life.
4) It encourages and promotes creativity—giving them opportunity to explore their inherent talents and develop new ones.
5) It promotes better verbal English skills, and better communication skills in general, as students need to talk more with the teacher and talk more with each other and solve problems together as they explore new subject matter areas.
6) It allows them to adapt more quickly to new paradigms—an important skill since so much in the world of science, technology, and commerce is changing so rapidly!
7) And finally, it does all of this FAR BETTER than traditional kinds of curricula that are not project-based—and which do not help students learn how to explore the world around them, become problem-solvers, and develop a love for learning throughout their life.
At ZISPP, we also recognize the importance of helping students prepare for and develop strong skills and abilities in STEM subject matter areas—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. These subject areas are critical to empowering a student to be successful in today’s world and tomorrow’s. Our IPC units are very focused on areas that teach children skills in these areas. In addition, we have invested in a superb state-of-the-art Learning Lab—our computer and technology lab offers students a rich experience in gaining important technology and science skills. Our Waterford Early Learning software gives young children a tremendous boost and head start in learning to read, write, and speak English. Our InfiniD simulation software is incredibly powerful at helping students engage in STEM learning, learn how to solve problems, and work together as a team. Think of it—if you are 30 seconds from being completely destroyed by an alien space ship you are definitely engaged and working hard to figure out how to solve the problem at hand! And the students love the excitement and adventure of the missions they experience—which reinforce the knowledge and subject matter they have been studying in their IPC curricula as well as providing a rich and engaging environment for developing STEM skills. No other school in Cambodia can offer that type of experience to your child.
We are excited about the ability to offer a dynamic, rich, learning environment to our students at Zion International School of Phnom Penh. We hope you will join with us helping your child become an active, engaged, life-long learner!