For Elizabeth Wagner de Huergo, General Director of the American Institute of Monterrey (AIM), the most important element of a 21st-century curriculum is that it is student centred. “This means responding to each student’s strengths, needs, interests and aspirations,” she says, “and guiding them to be self-directed learners.”
This belief, bolstered by several years’ research into educational best-practice around the world, led AIM to create the I-PAL (Innovative Personalised Attention and Learning) System – an educational platform that creates a personal development plan for each student. The system, which was launched in 2006, is now deployed at more than 50 public schools across Mexico.
Founded in 1968, AIM is a private, bilingual (English and Spanish) and co-educational school in the Mexican city of Monterrey. It was the first school in Latin America to receive accreditation by both the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, and the European Council of International Schools. The school currently accepts more than 1,700 students at its three campuses in San Pedro, Santa Catarina and Valle Oriente.
“Using the I-PAL System, we transformed our practice from being teacher-directed and independent to student-centred, interdisciplinary and collaborative,” says Wagner de Huergo. “This new approach means students are developing the skills needed for success in a global community: effective communication in at least two languages, collaboration among peers, critical thinking and the ability to innovate.”
AIM also has an outstanding ICT provision. “This is the result of embedding technology in everything we do,” she adds. Older students are provided with a personal iPad for storing educational materials and apps, and assignments and feedback are shared electronically. Each classroom has the aid of a “techxpert”, a student selected because of his or her technological savvy, who assists with any problems that might arise.
And Monterrey is the right place for the school to be. As the commercial and industrial centre of Mexico’s north, the city is currently experiencing an influx of international families. AIM is well poised to take advantage of this growth, due to the recent inauguration of its Valle Oriente campus in 2014.
Most striking, though, is the pride that students, staff and parents feel as part of the AIM family. “Our formula for developing self-assured, happy children is creating a sense of belonging, celebrating their accomplishments and allowing them to learn from mistakes in a safe environment,” says Wagner de Huergo. “Our students are our priority; they are at the centre of everything we do.”