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Providing a rich and stimulating curriculum that engages all learners has always been integral to the ideology of Si Ri Panya International School. The growing number of nationalities, languages and cultures in Si Ri Panya provides children with an opportunity to experience and be part of a unique and diverse learning community. However, providing a curriculum that is relevant and inclusive to such a diverse community comes with its challenges. Si Ri Panya International School strives to not only overcome such challenges but aims to excel with their creative curriculum to be the island’s leading school in providing their students with an innovative and relevant education designed to equip their children for the demands of 21st-century living.
To do this the school redesigned and launched a new, child-driven and child-centred curriculum which is built on the needs and interests of their students.
The origins of this curriculum has a core belief at its very foundation and a new term used to describe this: ‘Irresistible Learning.’
‘This is what we strive to provide for all our students’, explains Nicola Bunchay, Director of Si Ri Panya. A curriculum that is so motivating and inspiring to our children that they cannot fail to engage and enjoy all aspects of learning.’
To ensure this, an honest and fearless approach had to be undertaken, to see what was working in our current curriculum and what wasn’t ‘ explains Faye Reading, Lead Curriculum Developer. ‘ Even though we follow the British Curriculum in our school, our circumstances are very different to most British schools and this needed to be not only reflected in our daily learning but this uniqueness should also be celebrated.
At the foundation of Si Ri Panya’s new curriculum is the student’s voice. This is what they believe to be the driving force and success behind their curriculum.
‘When designing our curriculum, we talked to every student in the school, asking them not just what they would like to learn, but how. This is just as important if not more so. There are so many different learning styles and ways of learning. Many children thrive through learning practically, especially if English is a second language as it is for many of our students.’ Explains Nicola Bunchay. ‘ ‘Children learn creatively, using dance, music and drama, some through problem-solving, working in groups, and also students who enjoy being outside of the classroom. Learning does not solely have to take place in the classroom and our new curriculum reflects this, as voiced by our students.’ Explains Faye Reading.
The curriculum at Si Ri Panya is topic-based, which means all the learning each term takes a central theme - as chosen by the students and staff. All curriculum subjects are taught in context to this theme.
The school believes there are many advantages to learning thematically and that students learn more effectively when experiencing knowledge in a larger context. ‘They begin to see relationships and connections. Learning about wider themes and related concepts and facts more closely resembles how life is experienced outside of school and the classroom.’ Explains Nicola Bunchay.
In addition, each term's learning theme at Si Ri Panya provides students with a set of experiences that is designed to make learning within that theme ‘irresistible’. Experiences that include:
. opportunities for outside learning/trips and visits
. Child as teacher/leader - providing students with the opportunity to develop their leadership and teaching skills
. Workshops and learning within the community - to highlight to students that learning and skills can be taught by many people in the community and is not the sole responsibility of the class teacher.
One of the most successful elements of Si Ri Panya’s new curriculum is their end of term whole school learning events.
‘At the end of the topic, the students are given the responsibility of choosing how they will present their learning to their school and the wider community. This gives the learning a real-life context and reinforces to students that learning should have a purpose and it is their responsibility to pass their learning on to others, especially to each other. It is a celebration of the learning that has taken place involving all of the school and island community‘ Explains Faye Reading, Lead Curriculum Developer.
This ethos is evident in the school’s last learning theme ‘Through the Eyes of an artist'. To present their learning at the end of the theme, the students turned their entire school into an art gallery, hosting live art events, a living museum, a fashion show, poetry readings, live sculptures, song performances and work in collaboration with local artists as well as parents and the wider community.
‘Learning is brought to life in an engaging and inspiring way, it becomes a springboard for students to independently explore their own interests.
A key belief of our school is that learning should not have limitations but countless and endless possibilities.’ Explains school director Nicola Bunchay.
The school and its students have just completed their most recent whole school learning event based on their learning theme - Saving Our World. They held a community eco-fair where children sold and marketed products from recycled and sustainable materials. Any profits they made were donated to local charities on the island.
‘This is such an empowering way for children to see that their actions and learning are making a difference and impacting on their community’, explains Faye Reading. ‘This is the future of education’.
Another way Si Ri Panya is leading the way in innovative learning is by creating a school curriculum council - a team of students ranging from ages 5 all the way through to age 11 who meet on a regular basis to discuss the learning in their school and classrooms. This is a school where students are encouraged to take an active role in their learning, to question and evaluate, if needs be changed, to think of ideas, plan and most importantly engage in their learning -not have learning ‘done to them’ which many schools have done to their students in the past.
‘ This approach provides students from a young age the ability to develop the skills needed to become an effective citizen - to have the confidence to question, evaluate and challenge- skills that are relevant more than ever says Nicola Bunchay.
The feedback on the new curriculum so far from students, parents and teachers has been very encouraging- with termly reviews and questionnaires helping the staff and leadership team to stay connected to the viewpoints of their students and parents.
‘The school, it’s teachers and students are pioneering a new way of learning. Is it perfect? No, explains Nicola. ‘Our curriculum is very much in its early stages and is a working, flexible document which should change and evolve with the needs of our students and to what is happening in the world. Are we proud of what is happening in our school in terms of motivating and engaging students and making learning relevant to them? Absolutely! We look forward to continue working together as a whole school to celebrate and explore our learning - wherever that may take us.’