Common curriculum challenges faced by international schools
By Bambi Betts
In my role as a traveling consultant to international schools, I am frequently asked, What
are other international schools most concerned about? What work are they pursuing?
What obstacles are they encountering? How are they meeting the challenges?
The same quality that makes it possible for international schools to “turn on a dime”–
our independence also represents our major challenge. Deep resources must
constantly be committed to better understanding the relationship between learning and
the place called school. And we often feel alone in that challenge. So it is not surprising
that we all want to know what everyone else is doing and how they are doing it.
As each school is independent, with its own particular conditions, there is no singular
direction. However, based on the 60 plus schools the PTC has worked with onsite over
the past three years, here are some observations.
Security issues aside, by far the most common overarching issue is the attempt to
design, implement and monitor a truly effective curriculum. This means a curriculum,
which capitalizes on the constant fresh thinking of new faculty, as well as transcends
individual teachers and fully implements the school mission. The notion, now validated
by research, that a guaranteed and viable curriculum is a major catalyst to more and
better student learning is giving real voice to the centuries- old concept of curriculum.
Within this overarching goal, schools are particularly dealing with the challenging work
of transitioning from curriculum that is based in knowing things, to a curriculum that is
based in conceptual understanding. Many struggle with the infamous tendency of our
schools to swing one way or the other, rather than to seek the solution that is truly
improving learning, which lies somewhere in the middle.
Many also grapple with the level of prescription required by the curriculum. Should the...