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Education Expert View

Empowering students through CAS programme

The International Baccalaureate CAS (Creativity, Action, Service) programme is a core aspect of the IB Diploma Programme. It provides students with the opportunity to work in a group and on independent projects, to engage in personal development, to step out of a comfort zone. Chairpersons of Association for Heads of IB World Schools share their views with Brainfeed…

Empowering students through CAS programme

Frank Braccia

Head of School, Goldcrest International School, Navi Mumbai

Chair, Association for Heads of IB World Schools- Western Region, India

In my 25 years as an IB educator, I witnessed many cases of students CAS work figure prominently and help them get university admission and also improve their performance in subjects. While CAS benefits a student in academics, it also addresses a student’s social and emotional learning needs. At Goldcrest, among many CAS activities, a student lead project that we refer to as the Maharastra Rural Outreach Program where urban students connect with rural India in activities and engagement that lead to greater understanding and respect towards rural India.

IB CAS students spend time in rural Maharashtra working with a village school. They engage in various activities from painting and refurbishing to running IT or sports classes, building sanitation blocks, holding classes on adolescent health, donating books and materials as well as setting up solar-powered lamps. This is funded by year-long fundraising done by the students. However, the best voices to reflect on and discuss CAS are the students and below are some excerpts from them:

  • I realized the importance of contentment and good education.
  • I experienced the joy of giving and interacting with students.
  • The activities were a reminder that through constant refurbishing and handwork something fruitful can be achieved.
  • There were collective growth and a deeper bond with my classmates.
  • In conversations with the students in the village, they expressed their ambitions and asked us questions about life in the city. They were quite content with themselves but wanted to see more of the city. There was an unspoken understanding between us and them that surpassed our different dialects and lifestyles.
  • On the second day, we organized an individual activity with direct interaction with the students. Girls conducted a workshop with the female students of the tenth grade discussing basic hygiene issues and were surprised by what we learned about their lifestyle.
  • Although they did not possess advanced communicative skills or technical know-how, they were quite instinctive in their approach.
  • The entire trip was a leap out of my comfort zone, one that forced me to look at another side of life.

CAS is at the core of the IBDP, but more than that it is at the core of student development and reflection which promotes the life-long lessons and 21st-century attitudes vital for success.

Empowering students through CAS programmeVanita Uppal

OBE Director, The British School

Chair, Association for Heads of IB World Schools, Northern Region, India

A successful CAS programme is a key strength and has the potential to engage all learners in ways that are beyond the reach of the purely academic curriculum. The school’s on-site service project, named ‘Annapoorna’ offers students the experience of working with children of their own age who live in the settlement close to the school. They may be geographically close, but our students experience contexts and lives that are far removed from their own.

The ‘Annapoorna’ programme has been so meaningful that in March 2018, we were invited to present our paper as a case study at the IB Regional Conference held in Singapore. We were delighted with the response and feedback from our IB colleagues, as clearly, our CAS programme and its aims resonated with schools around the Asia- Pacific region. To fully engage all learners, we work through a mixture of student-led initiatives, school-based projects, national and international opportunities. Inspiration also comes from the curriculum, as, being a developing country; we strongly work with themes from the sustainable development goals.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “I do not want to protect the environment; I want to create a world where the environment doesn’t need protecting”.

The tree plantation drive, for example, conducted by the students of IB Year 12 during the Delhi Monsoon, is a relatively simple CAS activity, but its effectiveness lies not only in enabling the students to personally invest in protecting the environment, but also in being a moment to reflect on why we need to do this, and what it might take to create a world where ‘the environment doesn’t need protecting’. CAS can link students to concerns and issues that are of global significance, but in ways that a textbook alone cannot possibly achieve.

Overall, the first stage of any successful CAS project is enabling the students to initially experience a situation or issue and then supporting them as they gradually explore it further. CAS becomes more of an ongoing dialogue than a series of assessed activities: students are able to experience, explore and engage at a level and in ways that are most appropriate for them.

However, an issue with any CAS programme is the possibility of a negative CAS experience: what happens if the cycle of experiencing and learning is disrupted? Obviously, situations, where the students’ health and safety could be compromised, are situations that should be anticipated and avoided, but well-planned and potentially promising CAS activities can unexpectedly still turn ‘sour’. We have experienced this, too, but our experience has ultimately been that negative learning experiences can become very positive learning experiences, with the right guidance and reflection from the CAS supervisors, and the willingness to accept and explore that, as the IB mission statement says, those other people, with their differences, can also be right.

Ultimately the CAS Programme encourages students to ask questions, think critically, be an inquirer, reach out, take risks— to go beyond the trodden path and see the world with an endless sense of curiosity and wonder. Challenges, and sometimes disappointments, do come along the path, as it will in their life after school. But CAS is perhaps unique in being able to create a safe and supportive environment for all learners to engage with ideas and experiences beyond their comfort zone and in doing so make a difference not only in their own lives but in the lives of others.

Empowering students through CAS programmeSeetha Murty

Director of Education, Silver Oaks International Schools, Hyderabad-Bangalore-Visakhapatnam

Chair, Association for Heads of IB World Schools- Eastern & Southern Regions, India

CAS makes students evolve from theoretical knowledge to progressive action. In the IBPYP, the essential elements of all teaching and learning are ‘Knowledge, Concepts, Skills, Attitudes and Action’.

If students build knowledge through a conceptual lens and develop skills and attitudes, it is expected to be seen in their action. Action can be ‘feeling, having, knowing, doing, being and thinking’. As IB World Schools, Silver Oaks International Schools Hyderabad & Bangalore and as IB Candidate School, Silver Oaks Visakhapatnam, have a formal Civic and Social Responsibility program called ‘Me and My Country, We Grow Together’. The three initiatives under this CSR of the school are, ‘Coins for the Country, Beautiful Tree and Sarvodaya’.

‘Coins for the Country’ is the annual fundraising event to support the education of less privileged children in rural areas. From June to January, children save or earn coins in an earthen pot made like a kiddy bank. In January, the pots come to school and the counting of coins happens like a mega event for three days. The collected amount is donated to the schools run by Rural Development Foundation and Needy Illiterate Children’s Education. Both are NGOs, which are running schools.

Each year, the savings or earnings increase, as students are motivated when they meet the students who receive their help. In the session 2017-18, students and teachers together contributed 18 lakhs. In past 11 years, an amount of more than 1 crore has been donated under this initiative. Children save and earn as they begin to believe this to be their responsibility and not charity.

Sarvodaya means Universal welfare. Service to the community and progressive actions are encouraged in all students. Seniors students created resolution cards to promote civic and social responsibilities in adults and led signature campaigns during big events of the school. Students performed Street plays on ‘water my right, water my duty’ for the conservation of water, and ‘Mantras of Mahatma’ for a harmonious society, in many communities and corporate houses. On the occasions of the teacher’s day, teachers organize ‘Street Store’ for those who need what we don’t. Students support the teachers by collecting clothes, household items, children’s items, accessories, utility items etc. Almost two to three truckloads of items are given away in the street store every year.

Many students celebrate their birthdays in orphanages or Old age homes. Students lead workshops for children of RDF & Prajwala schools in leadership, communication skills, science and math.

Beautiful tree is a term Mahatma Gandhi used for the schools, which existed in villages in the pre-colonial era. According to him, these schools educated the children of the villages to sustain the socio-economic fabric of their villages. Silver Oaks uses the same ideology and term while training the teachers of schools run by RDF and Prajwala. Annual and ongoing training, curriculum development and school visits are part of the ‘Beautiful tree’ campaign of Silver Oaks. Nearly 600 teachers got trained in the last 10 years of this campaign.

Silver Oaks believes that education is sensitizing children to the needs of the society and inculcating responsibility in each one of them towards building a progressive society. And that is the premise of CAS in the IB Schools.

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