A learning culture
As a contribution to the information parents naturally seek when choosing a school for their children, we convey our concept of education. We believe that true learning happens when it produces behaviour modification, when it inspires the person to act constructively. This implies that education needs to include instruction in academic matters but also in the formative aspect (development of non-intellectual faculties): strengthening of universal values, augmenting the disposition to pay attention to the collective well-being, assuming the responsibility to address physical, social, and environmental improvement.
As part of our philosophy, we believe in the human being as an individual who makes decisions and is consistent with his choices. At a very young age our students learn, through the Montessori methodology, to work independently and to participate actively in their learning by choosing their activities. The cycle culminates in secondary, when students choose courses congruent with their possibilities and closer to their future professional needs.
The academic branch of education comprises two perspectives: knowledge and the credential (a document that allows progress in the educational career). Supposedly one can’t happen without the other, but there are credentials with insufficient knowledge (where the grades have been achieved without real effort) and occasions where people have much knowledge and no interest in the credential (for example those that are self-taught). At Blue Valley we strive to make sure both go hand in hand. Our evaluations reflect the percentage of knowledge: we do not inflate grades. College courses and IB courses are graded on a different scale so that they reflect the corresponding level of knowledge.
Our goal is that students learn more and better. We design our programs with methodologies adjusted to the students’ level of understanding reinforced with various contributions of technology to make learning enjoyable and productive. We endeavour so that students who have a harder time learning learn the equivalent of those for whom learning is easier.
An important factor of the success of our mission is our semi-annual promotion: students are promoted to the next level by semester, not annually. Normally, the student who is lagging behind in a subject in the first months of the year will incrementally lag up to failure at the end of the year. He will then have to take a makeup test on the content for an entire year and repeat the whole year if failing the make up tests. At Blue Valley, when failing a subject is foreseeable in the first months, strong action is taken in the second quarter in view of the imminence of promotion decisions (a couple of months). If a make up test is still required, it will be evaluating only half the content matter for the year. If repeating the level is still necessary (failing the make up tests) it will be only a semester. Nevertheless, what is likely to happen is that the student will enter at the third bimester prepared to succeed, having filled in the gaps of the first semester.
The six-month promotion also allows us to start the academic program twice a year. This double schedule has the advantage that children born after the cut-off date for admission to preparatory (elementary school’s first year of formal education) will not have to wait unnecessarily sometimes even more than one year to start their schooling when they already want to take part in those activities for which they are now mature. They can start six months earlier. Children are entitled to receive instruction when they are ready and eager to accept it. In addition, the reduced range of age and maturity within a class facilitates instruction.
Research and collaborative projects are incrementally administered because they allow students to direct their own learning (increasing levels of creativity) and train in teamwork that later on will be highly regarded in the work place. Our broad technological development facilitates the development of these competences.
Since we attach so much importance to civic education, our students take national high school exams (although the government recognizes the IB exams -except social and civic studies- as an alternative for their tests). This has academic objectives: for example, the national math program is more challenging than one of the International Baccalaureate alternatives. But we are more interested in the character building aspect. We consider it critical that our students feel they are one individual more among the Costa Rican generation of their age. Despite their socio-economic and cultural status, they are just one more vote in our democracy. Sharing and competing with thousands of peers takes them closer to that reality.
In the same vein, we attach great importance to the commitment of service to the most needy. We offer many and very different options to achieve this and the students themselves propose other alternatives.