The International Baccalaureate Programme at R.E. Mountain Secondary School is comprised of over 130 Diploma and Course (Certificate) students, 13 teachers who also teach courses in Mountain’s Regular Stream and a Coordinator. While based at R.E. Mountain and drawing mostly from its catchment, the Programme draws from around the school district, attracts some students from neighbouring school districts and also includes some off-shore students. It is fed primarily from an Honours Programme of roughly 180 grade 8-10 students at R.E. Mountain.
The area around R.E. Mountain has grown substantially over the past number of years and the school’s population has grown commensurately. More importantly, the proportion of students for whom English is not their first language has increased significantly along with the growth in the area. That in addition to the popularity of the school amongst off-shore students has changed the face of the school from one that was predominantly Caucasian and English speaking to one with a wonderfully multi-cultural student body.
Of the students currently in the IB Programme, 38.4% indicated that English was their first language, while 30% spoke Korean and 18.6% spoke Mandarin first. Other languages represented between 1-2.3% included Arabic, Cantonese, Dutch, Hindi, Persian, Polish, Punjabi, Russian, Serbian, Urdu and Vietnamese. Only 32% speak mainly English at home, while 24.7% and 22.4% speak mainly Korean and Mandarin respectively. Outside of home and class 81% indicated that they speak mostly English while 10% speak mostly Korean and 5.6% speak mostly Mandarin. Of note is the fact that 31.5% of students believe they can read better in their first language than in English and 26.7% believe they can write better in their first language. In all 66.3% said that their preferred language was English with 14.6% and 11.2% preferring Korean and Mandarin respectively. This is in contrast to the teaching staff in the school, all of whom are native English speakers except for one.
Language forms the basis for much of our learning. It is integral to intellectual development. As such, all teachers are responsible for language development in their students. Beyond academic understanding, language is core to individual cultures. Cultural understanding is key to international mindedness and thus, the importance of language as part of one’s cultural identity plays a significant role.
The Language Policy at R.E. Mountain seeks to incorporate the philosophy and goals of the International Baccalaureate within the context of the students, families and staff that make up the R.E. Mountain Secondary Honours and International Baccalaureate Programme. It will impact the programming and practice throughout the school, though a policy is not required of the rest of the school.
English is the primary language of instruction at R.E. Mountain Secondary School. For students in grades 8-10, the Provincial Curriculum prescribed by the Ministry of Education is the predominant focus of the program. This would include the English curriculum and its prescribed learning outcomes. As a required part of the BC curriculum and because the learning of a second language fosters intellectual development and cultural understanding, French and Mandarin are offered as second language electives. In grades 11 and 12, International Baccalaureate students continue to have their program taught in English with Language B opportunities in French and Mandarin and at standard and higher levels.
Mother tongue languages are critical to the students’ learning and language development. Of interest in the IB program at R.E. Mountain Secondary is the disproportionate number of students whose mother tongue is not English in comparison to the rest of the school. Teachers recognize the need to balance the students’ need to explore and analyze content in their own language in order to aid their learning while understanding that the curriculum is the main vessel with which students will improve their grasp of English. That balance also relates to a student’s ability to maintain a connection with their heritage while learning about and engaging in the Canadian culture. Students with a high level of proficiency in more than one language are provided the opportunity to graduate with a bilingual diploma by permitting them to take self-taught Language A in their mother tongue in addition to English.
English Language Learners (ELL), or those who are not yet proficient in English, may join the IB program, but will have to pass an English competency test to ensure they can be successful prior to entering the program. Support is provided through ELL classes, an ELL teacher and ELL Education Assistant. Adaptations may also be incorporated for ELL students in order to compensate for their language ability when completing assignments or tests.