By Muzna Akbar
The International School in Karachi is the first IB World School in Pakistan yet the apprehensions regarding this “new” system become clear when introducing CAS. The way that the program is run at my school is that we integrate it through DP to PYP. Action in PYP and Service in MYP are integrated with experiential learning by not only going on trips but by engaging with the community.
Every two months, students participate in various experiences to fulfill each strand based on their personal interests. Students go on local city tours to learn about the history of Karachi, participate in Rowing, Cricket, Volleyball and Art Competitions around the country as part of the School team. In a country where the other education systems focus only on academics, IB CAS focuses only how students being international minded citizens. The MYP class service gives students the opportunity to raise funds for The Citizen’s Foundation and Indus Hospital while each DP student addresses their Portfolio by focusing on an issue of global significance of their choice and aims to create a portfolio that pushes their personal limits and explores their agency.
The problem: is my CAS done? CAS can not be quantified nor be treated like an Internal Assessment. Each students is assigned a CAS Advisor and all CAS Supervisors are briefed prior to any experience; planned, unplanned, short term or ongoing. CAS Advisors are given sessions to give on-going guidance as per each individuals needs by myself and each student is met with on a bi-weekly basis. Students need to reminded the importance of CAS not just for the Diploma but it’s benefits as an IB Learner. Even so, certain parents are not used to the focus that needs to be given to the program and question why they are off-track in the bi-monthly report if the three strands have been addressed just once. Therefore, I introduce trips, as the school calendar allows as means to encourage students to enjoy CAS.
Through my two years working as the CAS Coordinator, different year groups have travelled to Hunza in the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to see Rakaposhi Mountain, Chitral with the beautiful Tirch Mir Mountain, seen the culture of Kailash Valley and played their local instruments, bonded with students from Phunder through Cricket, seen the Milky Way in Gorakh Hills in SIndh, camped in Ranikot Fort in Sindh and followed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) all the way to Gwadar, Balochistan. Each trip, around all the 5 states of Pakistan is packed with multiple experiences pertaining to the Learning Outcomes of CAS in a way that links to the classroom learning.
As the students of MYP 5 and DP experienced autumn in Chitral while preparing for their ePortfolio, they photographed the changing colors of the trees, the vibrant rivers, the women of Kailash, singing and dancing in their local attire all while being mindful of the cultural difference within Pakistan. No matter how long the jeep ride to the valley was, following their photography and videography tutorials, each student made time-lapses all while picking up on the local language to later write a poem, sitting by Qaqlasht Meadows, per the Creativity strand.
Going to the northern areas of Pakistan, there are many security concerns which were difficult to prepare for but were easily forgotten when the students engaged with the community. The students learned about the Billion Tree Project, initiated by the government along with the successful completion of a dam and its benefits to Chitral, which they later referred to in their ePortfolios. As they trekked through following the Activity strand, bearing in mind all the pointers given in their demo session for doing so, they experienced the sunset behind the Tirch Mir Mountain, the highest Mountain in the Hindu Kush Mountain Range. As many of the students were traveling within the country for the first time, they compared this experience to their trips outside of Pakistan as well as all that they were learning in their Geography class.
Given the option to either stay in Chitral or travel for 8 hours to Phunder in a jeep, the students choose the latter with the kind of energy that exemplified their IB learning Profiles. On the way, we stopped at the Shandur Polo ground where one of the biggest festival of the country is held, each year, to experience the sunset behind the snowy peaks.
Months of planning goes in to each trip with Traverse Pakistan, a tour operator now well versed with the program requirements to make sure that as many strands as addressed as possible. The planning is then followed with a month’s notice to sign up for any experience and then by a question-answer session with parents to prepare the students. I have learned that as important as is it to meet people to introduce them to the students so that they may become international minded, it is equally important to have a team that can motivate students to experience such trips in most meaningful way as possible. Lastly, the team must include understanding parents, part of Parent Association at the school push students and others to better guide them and a supportive Head of School.
Muzna Akbar is the CAS coordinator at The International School in Karachi, Pakistan. Thank you Muzna for contributing this article!