Beyond final exams – how can we help students develop skills that will prepare them for life beyond school?
As many students around the world approach their final exams, Alex Aristizabal Ph.D., Associate Director of Teaching and Learning at International School Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC) American Academy in Vietnam, considers the role of assessing students in today’s world.
Two of the most popular, high-calibre academic programmes around the world are the IBDP and the AP. Along with the GCSE, A Level and national curricula of other countries, these qualifications are regarded by colleges and universities as top indicators of high academic quality and attainment. But in their current form, they also require students to channel huge academic effort into the final exam. This can result in students and teachers alike – not to mention parents – feeling the pressure.
Since one of our objectives as an academic institution is to prepare students for college and beyond, we must always provide them with opportunities to find their own path in order to be ready for a life away from the comfort of a high school setting. Taking into account all of these considerations, at the ISHCMC American Academy in Vietnam we decided to incorporate a new model of dual enrollment. This is an organised system with special guidelines that allows our students to take college-level courses alongside their high school studies.
Why do we do this? One way to overcome the stress of the one-exam checkpoint is to offer a programme that also values the process, placing only partial weight on final exams. Instead students can be offered a broad spectrum of learning including 21st Century-oriented courses like entrepreneurship, economic ideas and issues, gender and literary texts, forensic science, etc. These characteristics (and others) are met and provided by the Syracuse University Project Advanced Program (SUPA) – the choice we’ve put in place at ISHCMC American Academy and a programme that corresponds with many of the dual enrollment programmes currently in place in the USA.
SUPA is increasing its popularity among students, particularly for the versatility of its class offerings. What SUPA provides is a class environment that values teachers’ professional judgment, internal ongoing evaluations and the journey more than the final destination or exam. There is no perfect programme in education, but continuous improvement and the development of meaningful student learning can and should be our common goals – whether through programmes like SUPA or simply pushing the boundaries and expectations of national curricula.