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“No,” says Deputy Head and Vice President, Education and Programming Heather Gross. “We are not getting rid of the IB Diploma.

“We are, together with schools across the UWC network, reviewing our educational and our overall programs and do intend to pilot a new UWC Diploma beginning with the Fall 2020 incoming cohort of students to Pearson.”

But, she explains, it is not an “either/or” scenario. The intention is to build around pillars such as service, project-based learning and changemaker skills and offer flexible pathways within our academic programs to support students’ passions and foster the curiosity and creativity so essential to social innovation.

Simply put, students who wish to focus on the path to an International Baccalaureate Diploma will continue to be able to do so at UWC schools, including Pearson. Other students may choose paths that are no less challenging and meaningful which focus on, for example, intensive modules that emphasize learning through independent projects, outdoor leadership or learning through service.

In such a scenario, students at a UWC school like Pearson can still choose to pursue an IB Diploma. All students who graduate from the school will obtain the UWC Diploma, a designation that ensures they have successfully met the criteria and overarching aspects of our unique program.

The mandate of the school remains unique and unequivocal. While there may be many places where a young person can find academic and personal challenge, Pearson and all UWC schools have maintained a primary focus on equipping changemakers, peace-builders and global citizens. The movement-wide initiative to launch a UWC Diploma reflects a shared belief that social innovation and changemaker skills must be at the heart of what we deliver for our students.

Faculty across the school dove into the challenge of creating, adapting and proposing a number of modules that they continue to work through this term for possible implementation this fall.

Good. Now that that’s taken care of, what exactly is going on with the review of Pearson College UWC’s educational program offerings and our overall examination of who we are and what we want to be as an educational, a community and a global institution?

Gross gets why there might be some initial misunderstandings, at least partially because the interwoven and aligned reviews going on simultaneously at Pearson asked participants and observers to take a lot in all at once and, frankly, because we were asking big questions within big conversations.

“I understand why people may have been confused,” says Gross.

Basically, a review of the curriculum and the curricular process was focused on the core education program offered by the College and was driven by faculty members. The Innoweave-guided process, complete with external coach, participation from people across the Pearson community and a disciplined approach, was a broader, overarching review of ‘everything’ in which the College is involved – a part of which was educational programming.

“All this took place over a compressed time period, but we made very good use of all the tools we had at hand and everyone involved was very dedicated to this important work.”

Taking a cue from the UWC — and Pearson’s — mission statement, a key outcome of the Innoweave-guided process was to agree upon what is known as an Intended Impact Statement. This is intended to define clear, specific goals for an organization (usually a non-profit or charitable organization) and show how its efforts will create social change. This allows a nonprofit to make strategic decisions about how to use its time, talent and dollars to generate maximum social returns.

“So that includes looking at things like, the potential for new programming for youth, how we work with and interact with our alumni community, why our campus hosts conferences and other annual events like MISSA and the Pacific Paddling Symposium. We were trying to provide a forum that asks, ‘why are we engaged in all of that and how these link, or not, to our core mission?’”

Guided by our identity as an educational leader as well as our mission and values as a United World College, Pearson College will provide young people, educators, and other professionals with knowledge, competencies, networks and pathways through which they can embrace global challenges and create positive change.
Intended Impact Statement (Pearson College UWC, December 2019)

Flowing from the impact statement is a series of outcomes that we will hold ourselves accountable to achieving specifically by 2024 and accompanying that, a series of programming possibilities captured under four broad categories: Youth (our core education program and the most obvious link to curriculum review and development), Alumni, Educators and Professionals.

“It’s a long road to get there but the intention with this is by 2024, that we’ll have a tool (that enables us to) look at our program more flexibly, more student-centred and with a clarity of offerings so that each student is having a more specialized (individualized) experience while still meeting UWC goals,” says Gross.

“I think by 2024 this vision will allow us to encompass everything we’re doing as a way of creating change in the world. It gives us an opportunity to bring under one umbrella if you will, all the work of the college and I think that’s quite exciting.

“This decision-making framework, to put it one way, gives us a chance to be clear about what we’re saying yes to. For example, do we want to create that new program for our alumni – we would ask is it within our educational vision? Do we want to partner with that organization to provide professional development for educators – is it within our educational vision?”

Gross is optimistic but realistic, noting that several factors will be influential.

“I’m not saying that everything will happen, but there’s nothing in this vision that is so far outside our current realm that we couldn’t achieve it within four years. Still, we need to be realistic about what we can do and what we can do well,” adds Gross.

That said, the College is currently in a search for a new president and it is a given that when they take on the leadership of Pearson, they will have an important voice guiding what happens next. And, of course, as with every decision, financial and human resource considerations need to be taken into account.

“The board has given its endorsement to the educational vision and to the idea of being involved in creating the UWC diploma and offering that at Pearson,” says Gross, referring to a last November’s Board meeting. “The next step is resourcing this staged process – that will be taken into account when the Board discusses the 2020-21 fiscal year at their spring meeting.”