Decisions, Decisions: AIS Offers Curriculum Guidance Empowering Students

By: Jesus Lopez Gomez

Australia International School’s demanding International Baccalaureate curriculum, while providing an excellent foundation for university study, also has a lasting impact on the students’ postgraduate career trajectory.

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Put simply, it’s a big deal.

Thankfully, the school’s staff includes a group of Student Welfare Coordinators—administrators and staff —charged with shepherding the students through this trying period.

AIS also recently added an important asset to its student support tools, the Interquest test career guidance assessment.

At the later stages of the students’ careers, they “have to make some pretty high-stakes decisions”, Deputy Executive Principal Mark Vella said.

Vella spoke as students were receiving their InterQuest results, the first Australia International School cohort to take the assessment. For the Year 11 students this comes at a critical juncture. In the next academic year, as they begin the IB Diploma Programme, they’ll take the six courses that they will select this year. These courses start in Year 12 and last until graduation the following year. There is little room for change

“By the end of Year 11, you’re committed”, Vella said.

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The importance of the decision isn’t lost on the students. Andrew Tran, a Year 11 student, talked about how this has been an intense point in his high school career.

“I think [this time] is actually nerve racking”, he said. “I’m already narrowing my field of opportunities. I have to look towards a single goal [though] my goal has changed throughout the years”

As early as Year 9, Tran said he was being asked to think about what shape his last two years of secondary school would take and what careers this would prepare him for. Before taking the InterQuest test, he followed a fairly simple decision-making process for picking his courses: what coursework would be the least straining and the most interesting.

“I was thinking ‘Is this an easy subject for me?’ and ‘Am I going to enjoy it?’”, he said.

The test involves a 90-minute general skills assessment called the Cambridge Profile—a comprehensive assessment that quantifies a range of academic abilities, including writing ability and spatial reasoning—and a 250-question engagement test that measures the student’s interest in a variety of academic and professional pursuits.

After taking the test, Year 11 student Andrew Tran said he not only got a greater sense of his competence in subjects and areas where he knew that he was strong, but he also discovered previously unknown aptitudes.

“It showed me all these other things I didn’t know I could do”, Tran said. His dream job is in the field of sports science, but Tran said the InterQuest test showed him that he may have the makings of a lawyer or a political official because of his leadership qualities.

Johnathan Hackenberg, a fellow year 11 student, harbours aspirations of becoming a stage actor. The InterQuest test showed him that he could also find fulfillment in radically different fields: sales or management.

Before taking the test, Hackenburg said, “I was only thinking of what I wanted to do rather than all these other things that I didn’t know I could do.”

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The InterQuest Test “showed me not only what careers I can take but kind of broadened it out even further”, he said. “It showed me all these things that I was interested in, but also this extra grey range that I hadn’t heard of or hadn’t known of.”

The test’s strengths are both that it can provide a detailed profile of student strengths and also help pupils make better informed decisions about what classes to select.

“It kind of helped me narrow things down,” Hackenburg said. For example will be pursuing coursework in Year 12 - 13 at Australia International School that matches his interests and aptitude for the psychology discipline.

After taking the test, Hackenburg now feels “quite at ease.”

“It helped me realized where I am as a person”, he said. “It made me feel somewhat … like I knew where I was going.”

Tran comes from what he describes as “traditional Asian parents”, a label he uses to qualify their advocacy for his pursuing hard sciences. Before the career mentoring work the Australia International School staff had done with him alongside the InterQuest test, Tran said it was hard for him to suggest anything outside of something like upper level maths to his parents. He said the test gave him firmer grounds from which to advocate for his individual career interests.

“That’s what’s actually really cool about this test”, he said. “Instead of me just going to them and saying ‘Maybe I’m not fit for this’, instead of them thinking ‘Oh, maybe he’s just not ready’ … they can look at the results and see for themselves ‘Well, he might be better doing something else’”, he said.

It’s a conversation that might look different if Tran were taking his IB curriculum at another school. The Australia International School’s guidance complimented by the InterQuest Test has allowed the students to have a meaningful conversation about what their last few years of Senior School are going to look like.

For Tran, the work may be enough to shift his entire career trajectory.

“... I could have potentially different interests and [my parents’] view of what I could be in the future shifted”, he said.

Image source: AIS

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