Implementing the International Early Years Curriculum (IEYC) requires strategic planning and support, but what happens when a new school is opened on a small island in the Indian Ocean, where the first language is French and only local staff are available to implement a programme they haven’t used before? This is the story of Greencoast International School which opened in January 2019 on the island of Mauritius, by the school's forward thinking Headteacher, Sarah Pepper.
Mauritius is in a process of change and is now setting itself up as a commercial and financial hub in the Indian Ocean. As part of this change the Government is encouraging the development of Smart cities – places where people can live, work, play and learn in close proximity with no need to travel. Greencoast is the education hub for the Beau Plan Smart City in Pamplemousses Mauritius.
In our remote setting, recruitment and creating a teaching team of like- minded thinkers was vital. Communication is key when working with the IEYC and the reflective aspect of the programme requires staff to feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, challenges, ideas and ask for help if needed.
There were 8 days of staff training before the school opened and it was essential to create a strong team from the start. During one of our workshops our teachers came up with a simple code of conduct and discussed how we viewed our potential students. We created posters for our staff room and reference them at our weekly workshops, to reinforcing a consistent team approach. Weekly mentoring and workshops, have enabled the staff to develop their practice and discuss their ideas and challenges in a supportive environment.
After the initial introduction to the IEYC, it has been imperative to establish what each part of the learning process looks like and for staff to revisit each aspect of the IEYC. This has strengthened their understanding and has allowed time for our teachers to experiment in the classroom.
We have tracked our progress by using our weekly workshops to focus on different aspects of the IEYC, allowing time for us to reflect on what we have achieved and how we can improve. Grade level teams have allocated planning time every afternoon and once a week this meeting is attended by myself as principal, to monitor planning, provide guidance and support the development of the programme.
Towards the end of our first year we have offered our staff official Fieldwork Education IEYC training in the form of face to face workshops that have been adapted to meet our needs. We have also held workshops for parents to give them an introductory session to the IEYC programme and how they can help their child at home. As a school we post a weekly blog directed at deepening our parent’s understanding of the IEYC programme. They can see how each of the eight learning principles are embedded into the curriculum through photos and weekly curriculum summaries.
Greencoast International School is very much a work in progress and as we near the end of our first academic year, the team can feel very proud of what they have achieved! We are flying an IEYC flag for the first time on this island and are hoping to inspire other schools to join them.
Hear from some of our Greencoast teachers:
Angelique: The IEYC training sessions are very important as they have really helped me develop a new style of teaching. Being open minded and encouraging the children to be independent inquirers is very important for their learning and development.
Aurore: IEYC trainings are hands on. The IEYC guides us on how to be open minded, child centered and promote critical thinking. Our own motivation and perseverance to take off the ‘traditional teacher vest’ plays a big role in helping kids to develop an inquisitive mind.
Zahina: IEYC has helped me see the difference between play-based learning and inquiry-based learning. As a teacher it is amazing to see how children’s imagination, involvement in discussions and decisions can all be expressed during IEYC units. IEYC has shaped the way I teach.
Coralie: IEYC training has helped me to discover a new style of teaching. It's helped me understand that there are different ways to teach a child and that a child centered method that involves the learner's creativity and curiosity is needed. This enables us to help the children become independent in their learning whilst still guiding them.