Change is always afoot at the International School of Curitiba (ISC) in Brazil. The school vision – “Teaching for the future” – is taken seriously. In the past year alone, traditional homework has been removed through to Grade 6, time spent on standardised tests has been reduced by 95 per cent and report cards have been changed to student-orientated feedback.

These are just some of the many innovations applied in a continual cycle of improvement that comes from being a research-informed, learning-focused school. This approach is infused in all aspects of the ISC life, with education continuing beyond the classroom.

“Students learn everywhere at ISC,” says Head of School Michael Boots, who goes on to describe the school’s emphasis on experiential education with outdoor classrooms and a community garden. It’s an unorthodox approach that makes excellent use of the school’s beautiful campus, set in the heart of the Curitiba countryside and surrounded by forests and farmland.

Regular class trips lead up to the “Classroom Without Walls” experience, which offers students the chance to spend a week in cultural sites throughout Brazil. During years 9 and 10, students take part in the “360 Wildcat” course, which includes activities such as hiking, surfing and a personalised learning task that culminates in an exhibition based on an area of personal interest to each participant.


Flexible learning

The school’s educational offering becomes increasingly personalised as students progress into the high school, including, for instance, flexible learning time to use as they please. “ISC believes in an SEL – social and emotional learning – approach,” says Boots, “and it is common to see some students having a ‘nap’ in a hammock during this time.”

ISC offers three diplomas, including the International Baccalaureate (IB), an accredited US diploma and the Brazilian diploma, with many of its graduates achieving all three. IB results are consistently above the global average and, having graduated, all students go on to tertiary-education institutions around the world.

Environmentalism is incorporated into everyday life at ISC. The school operates several green initiatives, such as a plastic-free campus, a recycling programme coordinated by students and a composting programme. It has also developed several innovative playgrounds and outdoor recreational areas, including zip-lines and climbing walls. “Play is an important component all the way through to the high-school years,” says Boots.


A global approach

As an international school, ISC places particular emphasis on creating a community-orientated atmosphere. It partners with a number of other leading international schools around South America to host conferences and develop its curriculum in line with the latest developments in education.

“One unique opportunity we have as an international school is that we are able to bring the best of educational practice from around the world and contextualise it here in Curitiba,” says Boots. Examples include an early-childhood system inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach from Italy; a Readers’ and Writers’ Workshop developed at Teachers College, Columbia University in the USA; and a new social studies curriculum that embraces the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Recently, the ISC Model United Nations team was selected to attend the Hague International Model United Nations Conference. “This points to the diversity of the ISC model,” says Boots. “It’s a unique international education that we offer our students.”