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Teaching Children How to Think Internationally

A teacher works with a student at the British School of Chicago
A teacher works with a student at the British School of Chicago

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

The International Primary Curriculum is an idea that began in Britain eight years ago. Today this curriculum is taught in more than one thousand primary schools in fifty-eight countries, including the United States.

Educator Martin Skelton co-wrote the International Primary Curriculum, or IPC. He says for children to learn and succeed, they need a program that permits them to learn individually.

MARTIN SKELTON: "Our view is the teachers should be thinking about their kids in their class and why they are not learning and trying to work out what they are going to be doing tomorrow to help individual kids learn much better."

He says the idea with the curriculum is to help today's children become good citizens of the world and twenty-first century leaders.

MARTIN SKELTON: "Most world problems are going to be solved internationally now. I mean no single country is going to solve the environment or terrorism. It's a multi-cooperational activity."

Mr. Skelton says the curriculum has activities built around the development of "international mindedness" starting from the age of five.

MARTIN SKELTON: "We encourage the kids to make links with schools in other countries, and then of course things like Skype now make that fantastically easy to do."

The British American School of Los Angeles is one of a few American private schools that teach the International Primary Curriculum. Second grade teacher Alison Kerr says the main goal is to engage children in the learning process. This term, for example, her class is learning about people important in history.

ALLISON KERR: "I got the children to come in secret and dress up with several clues of a famous person. They had to research and bring us ten written clues and the rest of the class had to guess who these significant people were. So the children do not simply just do the same worksheet type of format every single time."

The British School in Boston held a fair for students and parents called Around the World in a Day. Emma Northey, head of primary learning at the school, says fifty-one nationalities were represented. She described one activity designed to teach about similarities between different cultures.

EMMA NORTHEY: "The children were each given a passport. They basically knew that they were going around the world in a day and we said to them 'You have to come back with two similarities that you had seen between the different cultures.' Even the three-year-olds came back to me saying 'Gosh, you know everybody writes. Some people write going down. Some people write from left to right, some from right to left.’"

Another educator, Kate Foy of the British School in Washington, says the teacher's role is to enable students to discover for themselves.

KATE FOY: "And you kind of have to sit back a little bit. You have to make sure you’re asking the right questions. You maneuver yourself around the classroom and enable the children to learn as opposed to telling them."

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report. Tell us if you have experience with the International Primary Curriculum and what you think of it. Share your comments at or on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. You can also find captioned videos of our reports at the VOA Learning English channel on YouTube. I'm Steve Ember.


Contributing: Faiza Elmasry