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The IB Diploma Programme in the Unidad Educativa Experimental Manuela Cañizares

By Rosa Elena de la Cadena de Yépez, IB Diploma Programme coordinator, The Manuela Cañizares School, Quito, Ecuador

The Manuela Cañizares School in Quito is a century-old, secular, state institution that was founded in 1901 by constitutional president General Eloy Alfaro Delgado. Over its lifetime, the school has established itself as one of Ecuador’s most representative educational institutions.

In the early months of 2006, in Ecuador’s political circles and its Ministry of Education, the prospect was being discussed of raising the quality of education in the country’s state schools through an agreement with the International Baccalaureate and its Diploma Programme, a programme that was already being offered in 15 accredited private schools in Ecuador dating back to 1981.

The media, public opinion, and the Manuela Cañizares School were all excited to learn that 22 provincial state schools had been selected for the International Baccalaureate.

In July 2006, official word was received to begin the process. The educational community accepted and approved this new challenge. Assemblies were attended by the schools and actions were initiated to fulfill the necessary requirements for IB authorization.

Many long months went into preparing and developing numerous activities: elaborating projects, meeting with school administrators, searching for material online, reading IB documents, creating awareness in the educational community, training teachers, organizing collaborative groups, and selecting students. All of these activities were met with a great deal of determination, effort, and resolve in order to bestow yet another honor on the Manuela Cañizares School.

The school’s dedication was met with the Ministry of Education’s offer of complete support together with the readiness to help on the part of the IB coordinator and head of the Albert Einstein School in Quito, all of which proved very helpful on the road towards providing an IB education to our students.

Waiting for the authorization visit, a necessary requirement to be able to review the degree of dedication, the improvements made, and the preparation of the administrators, coordinator, teachers, and students, seemed to last forever. Finally, on 18 and 19 February 2008, the school wholeheartedly opened its doors to the IB site visitors, Dr. Alicia D’Urbano and Dr. Jaime Concha, to verify the fulfillment of the IB requirements for authorization.

On 28 March 2008, a letter from the IB Director General informed the entire Manuela Cañizares educational community that the school had been authorized to implement the IB Diploma Programme beginning in the 2008-2009 school year. This news gave our institution great satisfaction.

After all of the effort that had been put in, expectation turned to joy and a sense of commitment. The challenge to improve the quality of education in Ecuador, and to establish a study regimen that was both rigorous and effective were the motivation needed to change policies and procedures, modify actions, and renew methodologies and assessment methods.

The administrators, coordinator, and teachers committed to the IB philosophy, together with a small group of students and their parents, began their first year of the Diploma Programme in September 2008. Today, curiosity blended with excitement is keeping the institution’s 3,500 students and teachers with bated breath.

The difficulties we have encountered have been offset by our commitment: new authorities joining the school, the uncertainty of not knowing whether the path to the top is the right one, discouragement when efforts seem to go unnoticed, interviews with the media, interdisciplinary tasks, ongoing research, and community-service activities. However, the conviction and expectation of the teachers, students, and parents in achieving a quality education for the children of Ecuador remains strong.

We are certain that in July 2010 the dream to once again transform the Manuela Cañizares School into the leading institution of education in Ecuador will become a reality.