EARJ’s road to the IB Primary Years Programme

August 31, 2020

It was during a university tour in Newcastle, UK, that my youngest daughter excitedly said to me, “Mom, this is the one! This is the program I want to study.”

After 6 university tours and what felt like an endless number of kilometers driving around the UK, she had made the decision that best suited her dreams and aspirations. She wanted to work in a creative field, utilizing the skills she’d developed during her IB Middle Years Programme and IB Diploma Programme years and she felt strongly it was in advertising.

The level of confidence she displayed in her decision surprised me. This was not my normal 17-year-old who rarely remembered to take out the garbage or moaned when asked to take the family dog on a walk. No, this excited teenager was piecing together what would become the next 4 years of her life. I realized then what the last 5 years as an International Baccalaureate (IB) student had nurtured; a student who knew herself as a learner and knew what she wanted from her university experience.

She completed her degree in advertising and then went on to complete a Master’s degree in digital marketing. I owe a debt of gratitude to the IB World School she attended and the teachers who supported her along the way.

As an IB educator and an IB parent, I’ve experienced firsthand what an IB education can offer a student and their family. This year, EARJ will officially begin its candidacy in the Primary Years Programme (PYP). In the coming years, a Middle Years Programme candidacy will follow to align with the existing Diploma Programmes offered on both campuses. The development of an EARJ roadmap to become an authorized 3-programme IB World School started some time ago and has not wavered in its strategic intent to have EARJ offer:

“an internationally recognized curriculum that is philosophically consistent, vertically aligned, academically rigorous, and which provides high quality learning pathways for students to pursue their passions and access the best possible university opportunities”.

This strategic intent will strengthen the school’s focus on students and how best to create learning experiences that encourage them to think critically and challenge assumptions in a globally changing world. As an American international school, it will encourage students to think about and through local and global contexts. Language will be enhanced as IB programmes develop multilingual students.

Teaching and learning in an IB World School prepare students for their future. When my daughter toured university campuses and listened to various program descriptions, she knew herself well enough to know that she preferred a program that was case-study based, heavy on conversation and debate, and focused on projects. She wanted to be an active learner, questioning the status quo, and working with innovative thinkers.

Much of what she was looking for, she experienced with her fellow IB classmates. That is why I think she had such a strong reaction when we toured her final university. It fit her best as a learner and how she wanted to spend her time learning. To have that understanding of self at a young age is because IB programmes instill a belief that students are the holder of their own learning. It starts with our very young learners in the PYP and progresses through the other IB programmes.  According to all IB programmes, teaching is:

  • Based on inquiry. A strong emphasis is placed on students finding their own information and constructing their own understandings.

  • Focused on conceptual understanding. Concepts are explored in order to both deepen disciplinary understanding and to help students make connections and transfer learning to new contexts.

  • Developed in local and global contexts. Teaching uses real-life contexts and examples, and students are encouraged to process new information by connecting it to their own experiences and to the world around them.

  • Focused on effective teamwork and collaboration. This includes promoting teamwork and collaboration between students but also refers to the collaborative relationship between teachers and students.

  • Designed to remove barriers to learning. Teaching is inclusive and values diversity. It affirms students’ identities and aims to create learning opportunities that enable every student to develop and pursue appropriate personal goals.

  • Informed by assessment. Assessment plays a crucial role in supporting, as well as measuring, learning. This approach also recognizes the crucial role of providing students with effective feedback.

I am proud to be part of EARJ’s PYP candidacy. There will be work to do, but as I experience the EARJ spirit and observe a strong commitment to student learning, I believe the PYP will deepen what is already a strong foundation in learning, in addition to strengthening our internationally-minded community. Let’s go on this IB journey together!

For more information on the International Baccalaureate programmes, visit:

Doreen J. Garrigan
Gávea Lower School Principal

Embracing International Mindedness

December 3, 2019

Being part of an international school environment can mean we may take for granted the day-to-day reality of interacting within a community of diverse cultures, languages and backgrounds.

At EARJ, we are fortunate to embrace a global student body representing over 30 different nationalities.  The opportunities to grow as students, parents, and educators in this rich environment are a huge resource for all of us. As EARJ moves forward with the adoption of the IB Primary Years Programme, this critical piece of being an IB World School, a concept known as “international mindedness,” will be highlighted and defined even further in our school culture.

What exactly is international mindedness? What does it mean for students, parents and educators at EARJ?

International mindedness is somewhat difficult to put into words and certainly takes on its own meaning in every IB school.  True international mindedness can’t necessarily be defined by what’s written in articles or published as policy. It’s a set of values and beliefs that supports global connection through deeply valuing diversity, including views we may find difficult or contradictory to our own ideas.

At its best, international mindedness means opening the door for understanding, respecting and embracing different cultures and perspectives. It means putting yourself in another’s shoes, considering multiple viewpoints and even learning to agree to disagree at times. International mindedness promotes empathy, compassion and a shared sense of responsibility to our local and global community. Internationally-minded people appreciate and value the diversity of cultures in the world.

At EARJ, we continuously strive to develop and recognize this international mindset in our day-to-day interactions at school.  Preschoolers who speak completely different languages greet each other with a huge smile and find a way to communicate as they play together each morning. Students from around the world engage in deep discussions as they practice talking through their ideas, listening to one another’s feelings and working hard to understand differing views to collaborate and problem-solve. Returning students make an effort to translate for friends who find themselves in a new country or learning a new language.

Students of all ages empathize with the mixed feelings of moving away or saying goodbye to a friend – that mixture of joy and sadness that marks an international life. Our PTA and Student Council members organize campaigns to affect lasting local change in the form of service learning and outreach partnerships. Foreign hired teachers are embraced by local colleagues as they learn about the amazing Brazilian culture and traditions. Parents are invited to sit down and have open discussions with our Headmaster, school leadership team and teachers to ask questions and share their perspectives.

At the root of each of these interactions is a shared sense of respect and responsibility to look at what matters to each one of us, with the intention of making our school the best it can be for all of us. These are perhaps seemingly small, but significant, examples of lasting experiences that are shaping the way our students understand and develop their understanding of international mindedness.

As EARJ moves forward with the adoption of the full IB Continuum, one of the most powerful philosophies we will continue to embrace is valuing our way of understanding and respecting one another.  This means not only teaching students to see the opportunities in considering different perspectives, but modeling these values on a daily basis. We continue to teach students the importance of really listening to one another. We will support and guide students as they learn to give themselves, and others, space to grow and change in relation to their understanding of others and the world around them. 

 The PYP learning community encompasses all members of the school in a partnership of learning.  There is a shared responsibility which requires that we all see ourselves as internationally-minded.  EARJ is a rich environment full of opportunity to foster international mindedness for all community members. In this way, our school lives the IB’s mission of supporting students to become “active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.”

Interested in learning more? 

Five Skills to Develop International Mindedness
International Mindedness Inside and Outside the Classroom

Kirstin White
Barra Lower School Principal