North Saanich school getting ready to offer International Baccalaureate program

Parkland Secondary School will become one of only three south Island schools to offer students the IB program.

Parkland Secondary Principal Lizanne Chicanot and Vice-Principal Aaron Buckham.

Young people on the Peninsula in the ninth grade have the opportunity to spend their final two years of high school in an internationally renowned educational program with the potential to supercharge their educational experience and earn a leg-up for post-secondary education.

Beginning in September 2018, Grade 11 and 12 students can apply for admission to a new international baccalaureate program at Parkland Secondary School in North Saanich. It will be the third such program offered on the south Island and the only one in an English language public school.

“There is an enormous level of excitement amongst both the student and faculty at Parkland,” said Principal Lizanne Chicanot. “We have a tremendous facility here that has just undergone some major renovations, making it almost like a new school. This program will give a new academic face to the school as well.”

The International Baccalaureate program (IB) is centred in Geneva, Switzerland. According to the IB mission statement, the program encourages students across the world to become “active, compassionate, and lifelong learners.”

The curriculum is more rigorous than the standard high school program and requires an extraordinary level of commitment by students as well as special training for teachers delivering the program.

“We have two years to prepare for the program’s implementation,” said Chicanot, “During that time the staff who will be involved … will be getting additional training, either through on-line courses or at in-person training opportunities around the country.”

In order to qualify, schools apply to the headquarters — in North America it’s in Washington, D.C. Once approved, a school must complete a two-year candidacy process, during which administrators select courses, train staff, produce two-year course outlines and develop school policies governing selection procedures to language, special needs, academic honesty and oversight.

When students enrol, they are required to take six subjects, three at an IB level. Those three courses, once completed, are accepted as credits at most post secondary institutions.

“Beyond giving the students the course credits, students with IB credentials give the student a much better probability of being accepted at the university of their choice,” said Chicanot.

The move to certify Parkland was originally an initiative of School Division 63 Assistant Superintendant, Mark Fraser, a former principal at Parkland. Chicanot was an IB student in her home in Waterford, Swaziland before returning to Canada with her family. Years later, she fell into a year-long role as an IB teacher in Uganda while on sabbatical.

“It’s an amazing, challenging program and it suits the needs of today’s students very well,” said Chicanot, adding high school students today are asking for more out of their education; interesting and diverse subjects and approaches.

In order to qualify for the IB program, students will have to apply and undergo an academic interview to gauge their understanding of the program and the demands of its rigorous approach to education.

“There may be a situation, for example, where a student just hasn’t felt challenged by the existing curriculum and hasn’t applied themselves. That doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t handle this program if they have the desire to do so.”

The program will be open to all students in the district and Chicanot anticipates there may be requests for admission from outside School District 63.

“It’s an exciting time for the school and for the entire system on the south island,” she said.