By Marilyn Smith
These last weeks seemed very busy at Blackhall Kalimna with a major School Tour and the preparation and hosting of the Fringe Festival, showcasing a small sample of the huge artistic output our teachers and students are engaged in. Kalimna vibrated with sound and colour, with Visual Art, Media, Design, Music, Drama and Storytelling all vying for attention.
Preshil has continued to uphold a very rich tradition in all areas of the arts, deliberately nurturing imagination and creativity in our students in all areas of the School program; it is very important to us all that this is maintained and nurtured into the future. As the Secondary School moves ever closer to becoming a fully authorised International Baccalaureate school we are mindful of the choices we make to ensure that we do not lose sight of this fundamental element of our culture and values.
The IB does not privilege any one subject or group of subjects as more important than another. These programs do not work on a core of ‘important’ subjects and an array of less important subjects that carry less weight and are just ‘optional extras’. Some of the schools which offer the IB Diploma course do intentionally choose to restrict the subject choices they offer and to shape the public perception of the IB by deliberately distorting their branding of the course as narrowly focused, rigidly academic and inaccessible to the majority of students. They offer it as exclusive and exclusionist. None of these images is accurate.
Preshil exploits the full potential of the Middle Years Program as a vehicle for creative expression by ensuring that every subject offers opportunities for imaginative exploration of ideas and the genuine ‘performance of understanding’, in place of reductive tests and ‘choose the right answer’ assessment. We support the arts by ensuring that we offer separately Music, Drama, Media, Design and Visual Art. We further supplement this with our extra electives program which has up to 12 specialist areas across the whole STEAM spectrum. Students can pursue Ceramics, Sculpture, Zines, Photography, Film, Digital Art, Animation, Poetry, Music Composition and Textiles.
As we plan the implementation of the IB Diploma and the IB Careers Program the subject choices are opening up some very exciting pathways, which will allow our students to design a program to cater for their particular passions and ambitions. For example, ‘Literature and Performance’ is a dramatic alternative to the more recognisable English course and can be taken alongside Film, Music or Visual Art. ‘Environmental Systems and Societies’ can offer a very satisfactory humanity subject to augment a Science and Maths interest, but can also be chosen as a science alongside History or Philosophy. The extended essay offers an extra opportunity for the exploration of a passion and every student undertakes a project involving creativity, physical activity and community service. The perception that the IB is restrictive is a mistaken view that is proving very easy and satisfying to dispel.
I am always happy to make a time to talk about how the IB programs might work for every individual student.
Recently the Secondary School hosted our most successful tour to date, where we welcomed some 90 people to the campus. It was a pleasure to hear the feedback from parents, used to seeing conventional and outdated secondary schooling, and to know that they are choosing Preshil because it represents a genuinely contemporary education that will set their children up with the skills and capacities relevant to their future needs. We are delighted to find that our intake for 2018 is already indicating a third class at Year 7.
So, after this very busy and productive time, it’s just as well we only had a sold-out seven-course dinner for 120 guests to worry about last week! What amazing students and teachers we have!