From paper to program – St Nicholas’ Journey towards MYP authorisation

As the Middle Years section at St Nicholas Alphaville is now in its third year of existence, it is worth looking back on the process that took the school from an application that only existed on paper towards full authorisation as the first and currently only school in the region to offer the Middle Years Programme as part of the International Baccalaureate network.

Why the MYP?

Since the school was already an established Primary Years Programme (PYP) school, it stood to reason that the school would offer the Middle Years Programme (MYP) as a natural continuation of the education offered in the primary years. However, this decision was not arrived at by default, as different options were considered, but in the end the MYP emerged as the program that best suited the educational vision and mission of our school. As few other programs were able to offer the same level of commitment to service to the community, or the same wide and varied academic approach, or the type of learning that fully places the student at the heart of their individual learning journey, it was a duty and a joy to commit to launching the application process for full MYP authorisation.

The initial stages

The initial phases of the application process took place before the middle school section opened its doors to the first group of students, which meant that a great deal of introspection and paperwork was required in order to lay the groundwork for the work ahead. A middle school is not just made up of timetables, subjects, and classrooms, but of everything that we wish our students to become, believe about themselves, and learn about as they move from one year group to the next, and our philosophy on this needed to be evident in our documentation submitted to the IBO. In order for our mission and vision, which is so evident in the work we carry out on a daily basis, to be clearly communicated on a piece of paper to be read on the other side of the world, we relied on a firm belief in our values, and our passion for the type of education we seek to provide, and luckily this helped us coast with relative ease to the next phase of our journey. 

The school community

The next phase of the process involved more members of our community, as we moved the application preparation out of the office and into the classrooms, where teachers were busy integrating the fundamentals of an MYP education in their work with students. No amount of documentation, promotional material, or dedication from leadership can ever bring success to a Middle Years Programme if its teachers are not fully invested and committed, and so their role was instrumental in making our path to authorisation so smooth and successful. 

It takes a village to raise a child as the saying goes, and so the whole community needed to be involved in the final phase of the process, which included a virtual visit by our school evaluators, who carried out a comprehensive audit of our practices, albeit from a distance. In addition to leaving no stone unturned in their interviews and lesson observations with teachers, our school evaluators also met with representatives from our parent community, leadership team, and of course our students. It would be an understatement to say that we entered this part of the process with some trepidation, but thanks to the professionalism of our evaluators and their genuine interest in our work, we truly felt we had put our best foot forward and managed to show our authentic selves as an internationally minded and inquisitive learning community. 

Outcome

Once we completed our part in the process, the evaluators took a few weeks to consider their findings and decide whether and when we would receive the coveted seal of approval and subsequent authorisation. Even if we had completed everything that was required on our behalf, and life had gone back to normal at St Nicholas, the wait for the final verdict was at times excruciating! Although it may not have felt like it at the time, the wait was very short however, and our authorisation was delivered in the company of outstanding feedback on our practices and on our school. Among the highlights of our feedback report was the learning environment, which provided ample opportunities for interesting and alternative learning experiences, our students, who shared their work and thoughts on the program with pride, our teaching practices, which showed creativity, engagement, and adherence to rigorous IBO standards, and full commitment from leadership to delivering a well supported and funded Middle Years Programme. As these are our points of pride at our school, it was a pleasure and an honour to see these highlighted in the feedback received, and it will serve as a further motivator as we look towards the steps ahead.

What comes next

St Nicholas Alphaville is not known for resting on its laurels, and so the path towards providing a complete educational experience to young people in Santana de Parnaíba and beyond continues. In addition to continuing to complete the middle school section by adding Grade 9 in 2022 and Grade 10 in 2023, the school has also begun to lay the foundation for Diploma Programme authorisation, which we hope to have achieved by the time we open the doors to our first graduating cohort in 2024. We are proud of what we have achieved so far, and remain committed to our vision of providing a unique educational experience through full participation in the global citizenship network that the International Baccalaureate represents.