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IBE-UNESCO Officially Hands Over the MEKTEBIM Schools Competence-Based STEM Curriculum

Today in Istanbul, the IBE-UNESCO Director, Dr. Mmantsetsa Marope, officially handed over the new competence-based Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum to the leadership of MEKTEBIM Schools in the Republic of Turkey (Turkey). With the support of the Institute of Technology, Economics and Diplomacy (INTED, Washington, D.C.), the IBE-MEKTEBIM collaboration was launched in 2018, with an aim to develop a Best Practice K-12 Competence-Based STEM curriculum for a chain of 25 MEKTEBIM Schools—a set of premier private schools in the Republic of Turkey.
The new STEM curriculum captures contemporary thinking and best practice in STEM education. It was conceptualized and designed by Mmantsetsa Marope (PhD), the Director of IBE, and developed by a team of high-level international experts in areas that comprise STEM education, including competence-based curriculum; futures curriculum; teaching; learning and assessment; research; 21st century STEM curricula; science, geophysics, technology, AI, ARs, robotics, mathematics, engineering, and design. Initial versions of the curriculum were piloted by MEKTEBIM schools in 2019 and refined in light of feedback from teachers, principals and MEKTEBIM curriculum specialists.  
The new STEM curriculum is aligned with the Turkish national individual STEM subjects curricula to ensure that MEKTEBIM schools meet national curriculum requirements, which indeed they must. Compared to traditional curricula that normally focus on individual subject-based learning with limited application of knowledge, this curriculum is distinguished by five key elements: competence orientation; big ideas; practices; integration; and currency and relevance.
Competence Orientation
This curriculum is built around discipline-specific or domain-specific competences rather than knowledge outcomes. Rather than specify what students should know (such as ‘describe the first ten elements of the periodic table’ or ‘explain why we have day and night’), a competence describes not only what a student should know, but what they can do with that knowledge (such as ‘uses the periodic table to predict patterns of properties of materials’, ‘uses a model of the earth-sun system to explain time differences and shadow movement at different places on earth’, or ‘uses knowledge of human nutrition to design a healthy diet for a diabetic’). Thus, a competence-based curriculum emphasises what students should be able to do with the knowledge they acquire, and to realize individual, collective and global good. Competence-based curriculum also implies the resources, values, attitude, disposition, and ethics with which knowledge application should be done, that is why the ultimate impact should be individual, collective and global good. This demands a more active role for students in learning environments, and emphasizes learner agency, problem solving, creative design, and inquiry. It also implies a different approach to learning, teaching and assessment.
Big Ideas
The curriculum units are structured around Big Ideas, expressed as questions. This is because the fundamental achievement of science has been developing evidence-based answers to questions we have about the material world. These answers represent the major conceptual achievements of the STEM disciplines. ‘What is energy’ is thus a big idea, and within this big idea, there is an articulation of the progression of ideas appropriate for each grade band. These big ideas, as questions, are also reflected in the unit names. The set of big ideas and their progression are described in the document accessible at STEM Framework.

STEM Practices
There is increasing attention paid to practices in STEM curricula. These practices, specific to the STEM disciplines, are the activities undertaken to construct and apply knowledge in the disciplines themselves. They are the practices that students need to engage in if they are to develop competence within the discipline and understand how the discipline works. These practices include inquiry practices such as posing questions, analysing data, modelling, using transdisciplinary thinking, developing explanations, and designing solutions to problems. Practices progress in sophistication across the years as students are able to design solutions to more complex problems and engage in more rigorous inquiry. The practices and their expected development over the years of structured learning are described in the document accessible at STEM Practices. With the competences, big ideas, and practices, the curriculum also contains teacher support materials that include activities that exemplify knowledge generation and use through practices. Although each competence only incorporates one or two practices, instruction leading to the competences engages students in a variety of grade-appropriate practices.

IBE-UNESCO espouses an integrated approach to curriculum which includes the curriculum itself, learning, teaching and assessment. The latter three processes are recognized as indispensable to effective curriculum implementation. They are what transforms the official or formal curriculum into a curriculum-in-action and they define the curriculum continuum—the official, the taught, the learned, and the assessed curriculum. By adopting a competence-based orientation, this curriculum demands active learning on the part of learners and recognizes them as self-benefiting agents with primary responsibility for their learning. It also implies a different approach to teaching and to assessment as articulated in this document, accessible through Teaching & Assessment. The curriculum also recognizes that changing the approach to teaching and assessment calls for extended and sustained teacher professional development. The support that teachers will need to transform a curriculum document into impactful action that facilitates effective learning is summarized in the PowerPoint that can be accessed at Teacher Education PPTX. The curriculum goes further, to provide examples of modules of work that teachers can use with students, and this can be accessed via Modules.
Currency and Relevance
This curriculum is deliberately presented in this dynamic app, to enable its real time update and constant renewal by learners, teachers and curriculum experts, taking cues from contextual drivers of change that impact the curriculum and the growing demand to prepare learners for fulfilling work and life in fast changing 21st century contexts. The presentation is meant to recognizes, respects and promote learner and teacher agency. It creates space for both as co-developers of curriculum with ‘traditionally recognized curriculum experts’ and not just implementers of curriculum. Effective learner and teacher agency opens this curriculum to constant enrichment-in-action, which can reverse the traditional diminution direction of the curriculum continuum into an enrichment direction. The app that hosts this curriculum makes it easy to keep it current with emerging knowledge and practices in education, with learners’ needs, and with local and global innovations in the field. It translates into practice, the concept of curriculum as a lifelong learning system in its own right (see Marope, 2020). The curriculum is not fixed in time waiting for occasional updates or reforms as is used to be the case with traditional cycles of curriculum reforms.
The handover ceremony will be followed by a three-day training of teachers and school principals which aims to enable their effective implementation of the curriculum. This is the second session of what is envisaged to be a medium term (3 to 5 years) teacher professional development and capacitation process for effective curriculum implementations. The first session was ran in August 2019. It entailed 60 hours of professional development for MEKTEBIM STEM teachers and 12 hours of school principals training to enhance their understanding of the new curriculum and its implementation requirements. This second session will include among others: demands for implementing competence-based STEM curriculum, learning sequences, lesson plans, and assessments activities.
IBE-UNESCO congratulates its partners: INTED and MEKTEBIM for mutually reinforcing efforts that made today’s official hand over of the curriculum possible.

Click here and sign up to view the MEKTEBIM Schools Competence-based STEM Curriculum (Public version):