A clear path for learners: two schools talk about their experiences of teaching Cambridge Primary and Lower Secondary
Can you tell us about yourself and your school?
At our school, we have successfully combined the Cambridge International curriculum (Lower Secondary, IGCSE, International AS & A Level) with the national curricula. In doing so, our students have the best opportunities to access both Spanish and international universities.
Why did you decide to introduce the Cambridge Lower Secondary programme?
Before we introduced the Cambridge Lower Secondary programme in 2014, we felt that there was a lack of consistency with our curriculum.
It was hard to track students’ progress, and the assessments that were taking place in this section of the school were not being used effectively in the next stage of their education (Cambridge IGCSE). It was almost as if one stage finished and another new one began, but there was no thread or link between the two stages. With the Cambridge Lower Secondary programme, the key learning objectives taught at Cambridge IGCSE are already being introduced in Stage 7 and built on in subsequent years.
Therefore, by the time students begin their Cambridge IGCSEs, they are already familiar with the key objectives, the assessment criteria and the Cambridge learner attributes.
How have teachers responded to the programme?
The curriculum has been designed to allow for a flexible approach. Teachers can tailor the Cambridge International curriculum to their culture and ethos, and to their students’ and school’s needs.
How do you use the assessments to improve standards at your school?
We use the progression tests at the end of each stage. These are very useful in tracking students’ progress and we use the results in our reporting to parents. They are easy to administer and cover all the objectives taught during each stage in the programme.
At the end of Stage 9, our students take the Checkpoint tests. For me, these are the icing on the cake.
They are externally marked and must be administered under Cambridge examination regulations, giving students a real sense of what to expect during their IGCSEs.
You may think this causes unnecessary stress for students at this age, but the school has a window of dates to run tests so they can ensure students are not overwhelmed.
How do the curriculum and assessments support learners’ educational journeys?
The biggest benefit for students is the consistency between the Lower to Upper Secondary programme. It gives students confidence and allows them to measure their own progression. If students understand their educational journey, they are far more likely to be motivated and engaged.
Assessment is a key aspect of any curriculum, but the difficulty comes with finding the balance between teaching and assessing. The opportunities for assessment are integrated into the schemes of work, but allow for a flexible approach so teachers can adapt the type and frequency of assessments to suit the needs of their class and school.
Rutdiana Anggodo is Curriculum Coordinator at Saint Peter’s Catholic School in Indonesia.
Can you tell us more about your role and your school?
I am responsible for the implementation of the Cambridge curriculum: the syllabus, lesson planning, teachers’ evaluation, exam results and resources. The Cambridge International curriculum is the main curriculum in place in primary, secondary and junior college, alongside three national curricula that are required by the government.
The curricula complement each other and the skills learned by students in the Cambridge curriculum can also help them to excel in local subjects.
Which subjects do you offer at Cambridge Primary and Lower Secondary?
We offer English, Mathematics, Science, Global Perspectives and the new subjects – Art
& Design, Digital Literacy, Music and Physical Education. For younger generations, the new Cambridge subjects really broaden their knowledge. They can relate to the topics because they are relevant to the world our students are living in.
Do you use English as a first- or a second-language curriculum?
We teach English both as a First (EFL) and Second Language (ESL). We can’t ignore the reality that children are exposed to the English language from a young age, even though English is not a mother language in our country. Through EFL, we are providing a platform for such children. On the other hand, we understand that not every student in our school has high exposure to the English language, so we provide ESL subjects to give equal opportunities to all students.
How does Cambridge Primary give students a strong foundation for their education?
The Cambridge Primary programme is well worth running in schools with international standards. The new subjects really equip students to face future challenges where the demands go beyond the grades they achieved in school.
Cambridge International has helped us to help our students develop soft skills, broader knowledge, and to understand the value of collaboration.
Curriculum development is defined as planned, a purposeful, progressive, and systematic process to create positive improvements in the educational system. Every time there are changes or developments happening around the world, the school curricula are affected.
Curriculum development is also defined as the step-by-step process used to create positive improvements in the courses offered by a school, college or university. The world changes every day and new discoveries have to be roped into the education curricula. Innovative teaching techniques and strategies (such as active learning or blended learning) are constantly being devised in order to improve the student learning experience. As a result, an institution has to have a plan in place for acknowledging these shifts and then be able to implement them in the school curriculum.
7 Strategies for Developing Your Own Curriculum
Developing curriculum is a tough assignment for first year teachers. However, understanding what to expect and preparing ahead of time can be of great help. Here’s a list of strategies for curriculum building from various teaching professionals.
Learning to Build Your Curriculum
If you’re looking to develop your own curriculum as a new teacher then you may find yourself overloaded with curriculum building software, how-to articles, and numerous books. It’s an overwhelming process whether you’re planning for preschool or graduate school. However, there are general principles that you can use as a guideline for preparing your own curriculum. Here are seven principles to get you started:
- Focus on the Students
When writing curriculum, it helps to remember that it’s not about writing the best lesson plans or developing a perfect set of in-class projects and assignments. Instead, it’s about meeting the needs of the students in a way that ensures the material is understood, maintained, and applied in and out of the classroom.
Here are layout of the eight stepping stones to building a solid curriculum focused on student needs at all learning levels.
- Describe your vision, focus, objectives, and student needs.
- Identify resources.
- Develop experiences that meet your objectives.
- Collect and devise materials.
- Lock down the specifics of your task.
- Develop plans, methods, and processes.
- Create your students’ experience.
- Ask for Help
Seek out seasoned teachers and ask for their input regarding your curriculum. If you don’t have a mentor think about asking a fellow teacher if he or she would be willing to walk alongside you during the first year. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Ask your mentor what he or she did when it came to curriculum building during the first year.
- Choose a Supportive Program or Software
Most teachers will tell you that they don’t plan their lessons or build curriculum on their own. In fact, oftentimes supportive computer software, online programs, or basic planning maps are used as a guide.
Online programs are especially encouraged as they enable teachers to access curriculum anytime, and make modifications for future use. If you’re on a budget, look for free resources online (i.e. Finley’s Unit Plan) or ask fellow teachers for a curriculum sample to use as a guide.
- Avoid Pre-packaged Curriculum
Packaged curriculum can be a great learning tool especially if you’re looking for a hands-on sample to go by. However, it’s not suggested that you use the curriculum as your set course of action. Boxed curriculum tends to be scripted and fit one type of student or learning level. What works for one teacher’s students may not work for another teacher’s students. In the end, you may find yourself re-writing and restructuring the curriculum so it will fit the learning levels and needs of your students.
- Schedule Planning Time
Creating multiple lesson plans in order to build curriculum takes time. It’s important to schedule in planning sessions and blocks of time to work on curriculum. Learning how to manage that time is also important. Teachers shouldn’t get bogged down on curriculum development. Work on it in sections or by units. Set goals for yourself that fit in the allotted time and when time is up, step back and step away for a break. It’s not a race. It’s your students’ entire year of learning so make sure to handle it with care.
- Remember U-Turns are Allowed
As a first year teacher developing curriculum for the first time, it’s important to realize that it’s not going to be perfect the initial time around. It may not even be where you want it to be the fourth or fifth time around and that’s OK. Even when the finished product is ready for launch, there still may be a few bugs to work out. That’s why it’s critical to put the curriculum into motion. Start teaching from it and see if it works. You won’t really know if the assignments, class projects, or even guest speakers are a good fit for your class until they are presented. Be prepared because some things will work out perfectly while others will need an immediate facelift. This is all part of the process of curriculum development.
- Plan for Feedback and Assessments
Don’t forget to build in assessments and time for feedback when developing your curriculum. You will need to be able to measure how well students are doing. Set aside time to engage students in conversations about the day’s lesson and assignments. Find out what they liked or did not like and what they might want to do differently. Encourage students to speak up if they didn’t understand some of the material presented as well.
At the end of the day, it’s not about the curriculum or plan itself. It’s about the students and how well they understood the lessons presented. It’s about the presentation of the material and the student’s ability to understand, retain, and apply it.