History of Academics

Of all three educational programmes offered at WK, the Waterford curriculum in the junior school, the IGCSE programme in the middle school and the International Baccalaureate Diploma programme in the senior school, it is the latter that is most often seen as the programme most aligned with WK’s vision and mission. It is perhaps also the educational programme for which WK is best known. WK remains one of the few IB world schools in Southern Africa and many students come to WK with the specific aim of graduating from the college with an IB Diploma. Discontinuing A-levels in favour of the IB Diploma programme was first considered in 1974, when Michael Stern asked Dick Eyeington to contact the IB in Geneva to discuss this possibility. It would take another seven years and an agreement with the United World College movement before the programme was finally adopted. The first WK IBDP students graduated in 1982, but not before the IB had given us a special dispensation, allowing WK to become the first IB world school with examinations in November. It is hard to imagine now what a radical decision that must have been, to adopt a relatively new programme unknown to this continent and to most universities around the world. Yet today, more than three decades later, it is clear that it was a decisions that defined the future of WK in a very positive way. A comparison of the mission statements of WK and the IB will explain why this is the case. Like WK, the IB firmly believes that a genuine educational programme must offer more than a series of academic subjects. Activities, sports, global concerns and a real engagement with the local community are as much key to a successful completion of the Diploma programme as intellectual ability and academic achievement. Like WK, the IB believes that the purpose of any education must be to help young people embrace diversity and difference. Only then, says the IB mission statement, will education lead to a more peaceful world. This conviction is shared by the UWC and WK mission and vision. In addition, the IB Diploma allows schools a significant amount of freedom to adapt the demands of the programme as best suits the needs of each school. At WK, because of we are a UWC, students spend much more time engaging in community service than is strictly required by the IB. This is a deliberate decision which is enabled by the IB and our students understand and embrace the thinking that we do not engage in Community Service because the IB requires it, but because we believe that it is a crucially important way to contribute to the community while exercising initiative and developing leadership skills. Similarly, the IB Diploma programme offers schools a wide range of subjects to choose from, and again WK has made some very deliberate decisions. Guided by our desire to unite nations and cultures, WK has a wide range of humanities subjects, including Social and Cultural Anthropology (with a strong focus on Swazi culture) in addition to offering SiSwati Language A: Literature. The IBDP Self Taught Languages provision offers students the opportunity to study Language A: Literature in their own Languages and this really allows WK to live the deliberate diversity of our UWC mission and our WK Language philosophy. The structure of the IBDP curriculum in all subjects allows teachers to focus on texts, focus areas, social and environmental issues within our unique context in Swaziland. Students learn skills through their interactive experience with their immediate context which they are then able to extrapolate into the global context. As such, the IB ensures that we are not just teaching limited content in the present but rather developing the skills, critical thinking, real understanding and respect of the global citizens of the future.