IB Diploma: The Only Way Forward for Global Education

Throughout the world thousands of students are waiting for the results of their IB (International Baccalaureate) examinations sat in May and June. They are the culmination of two years of blood, sweat, tears, sleepless nights and some hard partying once the final papers were completed.

Many who elect to take the IB curriculum are international students living outside their home countries, being educated in international schools, which may not have the same teaching curriculum or educational philosophy of their own countries.

There are also IB students living in their home countries who chose to study for the IB Diploma believing it offers a broader educational program and better university preparation than equivalent exams in their own country. This is particularly valid if these students hope to attend an overseas university.

What the IB Diploma offers is a course of study and examination recognised by universities and educational institutions worldwide. In theory.

Let me say, I’m an out and out advocate of the IB philosophy and have had experience of the UK ‘A’ level system and the USA High School Diploma and AP (Advanced Placement) exams.

In simple terms the ‘A’ Level system usually includes study of 3 or 4 elected subjects over a two year period, the results of which will get you into a UK (and often overseas) university.

The US High School Diploma consists of four years graded study in a variety of subjects, which must include 4 years of specified subjects (including Math andEnglish) as well as elected subjects. Grades for all four years are collated to give a final Grade Point Average forming part of the university application process along with SAT or ACT scores. In the final year students may also sit Advanced Placement exams in certain subjects – successful grades will allow the student to gain a university credit in the subject.

The IB Diploma students follow a different track studying six subjects, five chosen from – literature (in the student’s native language), a foreign language, a science, mathematics, a humanity or social science, along with an art or another choice from the initial five groups. Three of these subjects will be studied at Higher Level, the remainder at Standard Level. (Higher level subjects may be accepted as a college credit at some universities).

All students must complete three further requirements in addition to course subjects to challenge and broaden the educational experience:

– a four thousand word extended essay on a subject of their choice

– Theory of Knowledge course critically examining different ways of knowing (perception, emotion, language and reason) and different kinds of knowledge (scientific, perception, emotion, language and reason)

– Creativity, action, service (CAS) – students must engage in 1) arts activities and demonstrate creativity, 2) take action by participating in sports, local and international projects and expeditions and 3) participate in community and social service activities. Students are expected to be involved in CAS activities for the equivalent of at least three hours each week during the two years of the program – 150 hours.

Three diverse systems of testing whether our students are academically ready for a university education. And this is where the problems start.

If a US student wishes to attend a university in the UK or vice versa, there seems to be no cohesive system of what any university will require in terms of grades. Some institutions  seem to recognise only their own national qualifications, having an automatic knee-jerk reaction to any exam not fitting their ‘norm’. No matter that a ‘foreign’ examination may produce a more rounded and better prepared university student.

The IB Diploma offers the best option for a global, diverse education giving the best preparation for university of any educational system I’ve experienced, so why is it not being recognized as such by some academics? Particularly when some universities and colleges do see the value of an IB education and encourage IB students to apply to their intuitions?

Generally they discover IB students are better able to adjust to university than their US and UK educated counterparts, better prepared to study and be self-motivated.

It’s time for educators everywhere to have an international standard by which to judge students from all over the globe – the IB is in place and proven, why is it taking so long for some of the world’s universities to accept and embrace it?

The 2012 IB results are published today – we have a vested interest, our son is one of those students who will be logging on for his results…

About wordgeyser

Our anglo/american family used to live in four countries (USA, Canada, UK and the Netherlands) on two continents, separated by distance, time zones, circumstance and cultures. It has been a scary, enriching, challenging place to be. The only things guaranteed to get us through were a sense of humour and the amazing people met along the way. . . This year everything changed with a move for us from the Netherlands, – and a move along with us for our son and his wife from the UK – to Houston, Texas, the same city as our daughter. With our youngest in Vancouver, Canada, we are now all living on the same continent. How this happened, and more importantly why, will be the subject of this ongoing blog...
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7 Responses to IB Diploma: The Only Way Forward for Global Education

  1. Banumathy Gopalakrishnan says:

    In India, the situation gets more complicated. In the south, particularly parents are eager for their children to go for Engineering or Medicine. For Medicine, all three sciences are necessary and this gets tough for IB students. The non-regular diploma is not easy either.
    Then the hardest part is the entrance exams. The IB students are not without a data booklet and calculator to address problems.
    I wish someone will educate the Indian universities about the richness and the quality of the IB programme so that the students are not penalized.
    In many engineering and medical colleges they have special quota for students with foreign passports and these students can be admitted without entrance examination. Why not consider IB students under that category?
    This has been my question for a long time . Of course now, IB gives Indian marksheet to get admitted in Indian colleges. But this is not enough.

    • wordgeyser says:

      Thanks for your input Banu, it’s interesting how the IB programme is regarded by different countries around the world. It is a wonderful all-round, academic system of educating our young people and teaching them how to think. Unfortunately many universities seem to have little understanding of the high standard of academics the IB expects from its students, or how to compare it to their own testing systems.
      I talked with a friend only yesterday whose child will be entering either the IB or British ‘A’ level system next year. The young man desperately wants to do an IB, as it offers a challenging programme, high academic standards and is a wonderful preparation for university/college. As he ultimately hopes to attend a British university, he (and his family) feel he would be better taking ‘A’ levels.

  2. I agree that the IB is more holistic for university-level study: the Theory of Knowledge class alone is worth its weight in gold, and the insistence on foreign language study as one of the six two-year classes reinforces the importance of communicating in a global world. We were pleased to find that one of the universities Daughter visited last week requires four years of any one language; if you don’t cover it in high school, expect to finish it your freshman/sophomore years. That said, I’ll take the flexibility of the US system to either put off declaring a major while taking certain course requirements or transfer from one major to another (within reason). Some people really do not know for sure what they’ll be happy studying until they get deeper in and realize it is or isn’t for them, and what might be a better fit. Know you’re celebrating Harry’s success 😉

  3. I love the holistic approach of the IB system you describe. I think sometimes ‘education’ misses the point – aren’t we trying to produce productive (and happy) individuals who can make a positive contribution to society whatever the path they choose instead of filling university courses with people who can’t find jobs ‘to match’ at the end?

  4. Maryann Ciaston says:

    I’m sure your son will do just fine-best of luck to him!!!

  5. susan says:

    hoping he gets the results he aimed for!

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