10th Anniversary Campaign

School-Supported Self-Taught Language Courses at UWC ISAK Japan

Written by Ms. Yaling Chien
Ms. Chien teaches Mandarin, Chinese Literature, and SSST. She is also the IBDP Coordinator for UWC ISAK Japan.

The IB has a policy of mother-tongue entitlement that promotes respect for the literary heritage of a student’s home language and provides an opportunity for students to continue to develop oral and writing skills in their mother tongue while studying in a different language of instruction.

Where a student’s mother tongue cannot be supported through a taught language A class, the school supported self-taught option is available at language A: literature SL.

At UWC ISAK Japan, the SSST course is offered as a two-year course. SSST students work with a Literature teacher at school and an online mother-tongue supervisor. The supervisor, either working with the school online or within the community, provides the support that the school cannot provide, which includes:

  • providing the student with mother-tongue guidance (discussion of content, language, conventions, structure, and so on) for the various parts of the course of study
  • setting mock or practice examinations, including oral assessments, and providing feedback on the student’s performance.

The school-supported self-taught (SSST) course offers opportunities for students to explore literature written in their mother tongue as part of their Diploma Programme studies, to share this literary tradition with others, and to maintain and even enhance mother tongue fluency both in written and spoken form.

A snapshot of SSST Course at UWC ISAK Japan

This is a story of one of our graduated students, Jim (Class of 2017), who helps support a current student, Fardous (Class of 2019), study their mother tongue, Somali. The interviews hope to paint a simple but genuine picture, which shares Jim and Fardous’ UWC ISAK experience, Jim’s life after graduating from UWC ISAK and what is means for Fardous to study Somali Literature here at UWC ISAK Japan.

Q: How would you sum up your ISAK experience so far? The first year? The second year so far?
Fardous: Overwhelming, G10 was a lot easier than G11. This year, I started IB and it has been time-consuming: the numbers of activities and assignments add up easily, and I struggle with time management.

Q: At one point, it did not seem possible for you to study Somali A Literature. How did that make you feel? What would be the impact for you and for your IB?
Fardous: I felt really anxious and stressed about it. I didn’t know what to do. It had taken me weeks to think of what I wanted to take instead, and Somali A Literature was one subject I was confident in taking as part of my IB courses. When I heard of the possibility of not taking Somali A Literature it was very difficult to accept it, because it was either I took another changeling IB subject or had to be a Courses candidate.

Q: What is the value of studying mother tongue literature, especially in this international environment?
Fardous: A sense of identity comes from our mother tongue. In Somali, I can express myself, my values, and identify myself without feeling misinterpreted. In an international environment where I’m the only Somali here, I fear that I would lose a part of me in this environment if I couldn’t use my own mother tongue to communicate and connect socially and intellectually.

Q: How do you feel about Jim tutoring you for the school supported self-taught Somali A Literature?
Fardous: Jim and I had known each other before coming to UWC ISAK Japan. He is like an older brother to me, and he knows me personally. He understands a lot of the things I struggle with at ISAK. Having him as my tutor puts my mind at ease because I can rely on him for many things.

Q: What is your expectation to grow in this course?
Fardous: To be able to regain my skills in speaking in Somali, and not forget my own identity.

Q: What university and subject are you studying at the moment?
Jim: I am studying at APU in Beppu. I am currently taking intensive Japanese classes and workshops to prepare me when I start choosing classes from the second semester.

Q: How has the post-ISAK life been so far?
Jim: I think being at boarding school helped me a lot. Many of my classmates are going through homesickness now and I am already used to being away from home so it does help. However, I kind of miss ISAK life and the kind people I have met there.

Q: When you studied the IB at ISAK, the school has not started offering school supported self-taught Language A Literature. Would you have liked to have the option? Why?
Jim: I would love to have that option because it has been years since I have written or read books in Somali. It would be great to know a bit about my culture.

Q: What differences would it have made if you could study Somali Literature at ISAK?
Jim: I would not have to take a lot of intense courses at ISAK. I think it would make my life a bit easier because I am a Somali speaker so it would be manageable compared with other courses.

Q: You are the first graduate who now works as a tutor for ISAK. How does that make you feel?
Jim: I never thought this would actually happen!! It is a bit worrisome because I do not know how it will turn out but I am very hopeful!!

Q: What is your expectation for your role as a Somali Literature tutor for Fardous?
Jim: I am expecting we both learn from each other as much as I help her with her studies in Somali.

Q: Anything else to share with ISAK community? ☺
Jim: Enjoy the free stuff at ISAK because you literally have to pay for everything at the Uni. Also, appreciate the Japanese staff in the office, as they deal with a lot of paperwork for ISAK students and it is not easy or fun doing it yourself 🙁 !!!

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Imagine… if there was an ISAK lower school!

Dear Friends of UWC ISAK,

UWC ISAK is celebrating its 10th anniversary! We are proud of where we’ve come from, and we are excited about the next decade.

At this important milestone, we are wondering – in pursuit of broadening our impact, could an ISAK Lower School be considered as one of the options and would it be feasible? A school that embraces ISAK values and vision for a better future?

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