At Colegio de San Francisco de Paula, ESO (Compulsory Secondary Education) is taught according to the criteria and methodologies of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Organisation’s Middle Years Program (MYP). This program was designed to enable students to adopt a broad-minded approach, to take into account the international world and to encourage their personal involvement in society’s progress. The implementation of this program has a direct influence on the makeup of the subjects, how they are taught, even the design of the timetable and when different subject content is taught. This is principally because all the learning, in the various different subject areas, revolves around five “areas of interaction”: “Approaches to Learning”; “Community and Service”; “Health and Social Education”; “Environment” and “Human Ingenuity”.
These are essentially five basic approaches or ways of focussing learning that should be present in each subject’s curriculum program. Thus, the teaching of all subjects should help students to develop the skills necessary for autonomous and reflective learning (Approaches to Leaning): i.e. organising their studies, reflection, self-criticism, independent thinking and self-motivation. The curriculum should also be organised in such a way that the students are obliged to take part in charitable activities for the greater good, both within and outside of the School, thereby giving some of their time to others (Community and Service). Learning also needs to be based around making students responsible for considering their own physical and emotional health, and for that of the group (Health and Social Education), in addition to looking after their surroundings and taking care of the environment (Environment). Finally, the entire curriculum is designed to encourage research, creativity, innovation and students’ entrepreneurial abilities (Human Ingenuity).
The incorporation of these basic objectives into the learning process requires changes in the way students work, in keeping with their increased maturity, in addition to changes in teaching band assessment methodologies. These changes require, among other things: dedicating more time to each subject; using information sources other than the teacher; developing study techniques like essays, research, debates or public presentations; encouraging teamwork; and the use of a different assessment system whereby errors are considered to be an opportunity for learning. It is precisely this type of study system that allows students to develop their creativity; to be introduced to research; to increase their resistance to frustration; to become aware of and involved in the community; and to explore their entrepreneurial interests.
Students display these abilities, which are relevant to some of the principal challenges facing advanced societies, not only by passing the various subjects, but also through a “personal project”. Students are free to select the topic of this project, which is carried out independently, under the supervision of a Tutor, and must be handed in at the end of the year. In the time since the MYP was first introduced to the School, our students have presented some extraordinarily creative projects: from a digital animated short, to designing a golf course for blind people; from a model car engine that runs on solar power to a historical novel about Julius Caesar; an NGO project providing personal care to the elderly over the internet; a comedy monologue on the life of a teenager; a study on a car with four electric motors, a videogame… This project is not obligatory for the final year of the cycle, however it is compulsory in order to obtain the MYP certificate awarded by the International Baccalaureate Organisation.
In accordance with the School’s Bilingual Syllabus and in keeping with the international aspect of the MYP, students study or come into contact with English for more than eleven hours a week in the ESO cycle. Natural Sciences, Arts and Crafts, Physical Education, Religion or its alternative and English are all taught through English. Students can also study a third language: French or German. The Teachers are, for the most part, native speakers of the languages they teach.
The support system for those students with difficulties is also reinforced at Secondary level. Support classes in Spanish, Mathematics, English and Physical Education are maintained. There are additional support classes in Natural Sciences, Physics and Chemistry, French and German. As at Primary level, these classes, always in much smaller groups, take place during the school day, at the same time as the regular class; the children are moved from their usual classroom to the support classroom. Physical Education support classes normally take place at the 13.20 to 14.50 timeslot.
Finally, and also as at Primary level, for children diagnosed as being highly intellectually gifted, the School provides classes in Mandarin Chinese (3hrs/week) during school hours. Similarly, very gifted children who take Music receive two extra hours of music practice.
The school day in Colegio de San Francisco de Paula Secondary School is still longer than that of other schools: 13% longer, to be exact.