Education isn't all about note-taking and writing exams. Programs such as Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), Duke of Edinburgh, and Round Square offer challenging learning experiences. Advanced Placement offers a more rigorous curriculum in specific subjects, while International Baccalaureate, Round Square, and Duke programs encourage community service and regular physical activity on top of academics.
Janneke Frank, director of the Centre for Gifted Education at the University of Calgary, says these four options each offer unique opportunities for students with a variety of different learning styles. Kinesthetic learners who may not excel in academic-driven programs like IB or AP, for example, might flourish in a Duke or Round Square program that emphasizes community service and physical fitness, she says. On the other hand, high achievers may find the challenge they need to stay engaged in a structured, rigorous program like International Baccalaureate.
A student who is gifted is not necessarily an ideal candidate for IB, Frank says. Artistically inclined students may do better within a regular curriculum with an AP art class. "The creative divergent thinkers have a heck of a time staying on task," she says. It's also important to note that a student need not be gifted to do well in advanced programs. "In International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement, kids who aren't gifted tend to do better because they know they have to try harder, and they study more. They're more highly motivated," Frank says.
Vivek Prabhu, who just completed his International Baccalaureate diploma at Rothesay Netherwood School in Rothesay, New Brunswick, agrees. "The program is about working hard, not necessarily being naturally really smart," Vivek says. His favourite part of the program was a mandatory theory of knowledge course in Grade 11. "It challenges you to think outside of the box." International Baccalaureate also aims to give students an education with a world view. "It provides a very broad perspective on a global scale, like by learning a second language and studying other cultures," says Sandra Coyle, spokeswoman for the International Baccalaureate Americas.
Rothesay is also a Round Square school and last year Vivek travelled to India for a Round Square conference. Inspired by the trip, he wrote his Grade 12 extended essay on India's economic challenges between 1947 and 1991. The paper resembles an undergraduate thesis. "It really prepares them for college," says Craig Jollymore, who has taught at Rothesay for 15 years. "They're ready for a challenge when they get there."
Vicky Smith was surprised that her daughter Amelia's homework didn't increase significantly in her International Baccalaureate program. International Baccalaureate requires students to complete 150 "creativity, action and service" hours and Amelia has been a volunteer with the food bank and the Boys and Girls Club, organized walk-a-thons and read with younger students; "(Amelia) has really enjoyed it. I would definitely recommend International Baccalaureate to other parents," Smith says.
Coyle says the International Baccalaureate is for everyone. At Rothesay, Jollymore says that 35 of this year's 48 graduating students completed International Baccalaureate diplomas, while the rest earned International Baccalaureate certificates. "Students just need to be open to trying hard, and then the magic happens," he says.