All about the International Baccalaureate

International Baccalaureate (IB) educational programmes are taught around the world, including in both international schools overseas and in state and private schools in the UK. In our special feature on the IB, we talk to Judith Fabian, Chief Academic Officer of the International Baccalaureate Organization , to find out more about IB programmes, how and why they developed, their benefits for students and staff, the training commitment required to teach them, and more. Read part one here , and part two in your International Newsletter in a fortnight’s time.

Could you explain what the International Baccalaureate is, and what programmes it offers?

The International Baccalaureate (IB) offers four high-quality and challenging educational programmes for a worldwide community of schools. Over the last 40 years the programmes have gained a reputation for their high academic standards, for preparing students for life in a globalized 21st century, and for helping to develop the future citizens who will create a better, more peaceful world.

Could you tell us how the programmes came to be developed?

The IB Diploma Programme was created in English and French by teachers at the International School of Geneva. The first trial examinations took place in five schools in 1968.

The Diploma Programme sought to provide students with a truly international education – an education that encouraged an understanding and appreciation of other cultures, languages and points of view. Schools that first offered the Diploma Programme were predominantly private international schools, but they included a very small number of private national institutions and schools belonging to state education departments. This has changed over the years and today around 50% of all IB World Schools are state schools (with no tuition fees).

To give younger students access to an IB education, in 1994 the IB added the Middle Years Programme (MYP), a curriculum for students aged 11 to 16, and in 1997 it adopted the Primary Years Programme (PYP) for students aged 3 to 11. These programmes were not then fully formed, but the IB has developed them so that they are now well rounded and complete. As with the Diploma Programme, the MYP and PYP seek to provide students with an international perspective and critical-thinking skills and focus on developing students as independent learners.

In 2011, the IB Career-related Certificate (IBCC) was launched and is the newest IB educational offering. The IBCC incorporates the educational principles, vision and learner profile of the IB into a unique offering that specifically addresses the needs of students who wish to engage in career-related education. The IBCC encourages these students to benefit from elements of an IB education, through a selection of two or more Diploma Programme courses in addition to a unique IBCC core, comprised of an approaches to learning (ATL) course, a reflective project, language development and community and service.

This new qualification is designed to provide a “value added” educational offering to schools that already offer the IB Diploma Programme and are also delivering career-related courses to their students.

Which languages are used to teach IB programmes?

  • The Primary Years Programme (PYP) may be taught in any language. The IB publishes PYP curriculum documents in English, French and Spanish but this does not prevent schools teaching the programme in other languages.
  • The Middle Years Programme (MYP) may be taught in any language. The IB publishes MYP curriculum documents in English, French, Spanish and Chinese but this does not prevent schools teaching the programme in other languages. However, if schools require the grades of their students to be validated by the IB then sufficient student work must be produced in English, French, Spanish or Chinese.
  • The Diploma Programme may be taught in English, French or Spanish. The IB publishes Diploma Programme curriculum documents and produces examination papers in English, French and Spanish. Schools must therefore choose at least one of these languages as the language of instruction in the school. This is the same rule for those DP courses undertaken by IBCC students.

Most recently we have added German as a language in which students can be assessed. Students can now be assessed in German in Biology, History and Theory of Knowledge so that they have the opportunity to study a truly bilingual Diploma.

What are the benefits of the IB programmes for students, staff and schools?

The IB’s programmes form a coherent sequence of education by promoting the education of the whole person through an emphasis on intellectual, personal, emotional and social growth.

In all programmes, the education of the whole person is manifested through all domains of knowledge, involving the major traditions of learning in languages, humanities, sciences, mathematics and the arts.

Furthermore, all programmes:

  • require study across a broad range of subjects drawing on content from educational cultures across the world
  • give special emphasis to language acquisition and development
  • encourage learning across disciplines
  • focus on developing the skills of learning
  • include, to a varying extent, the study of individual subjects and of transdisciplinary areas
  • provide students with opportunities for individual and collaborative planning and research
  • include a community service component requiring action and reflection.

All allow for the creative professionalism of teachers and have the potential to transform teaching and learning in a school, refocusing them on the students.

And are IB programmes also followed in UK independent and state schools – and if so what are the advantages?

At present there are 135 state schools and 81 private schools offering IB programmes in the UK.

The advantage of studying IB programmes is that they focus on developing the student as a learner (as explained above). They are holistic in their approach to teaching and learning. It is also an advantage that the IB is independent of any government.

You can find out more about IB programmes soon in your Eteach International Newsletter, including the training commitment required to teach them.


2 thoughts on “All about the International Baccalaureate

  1. In West Sussex, this is what happened:In the late 1990s, the Tory-run onuccil decided to stop providing hot school dinners. They laid off the staff and closed the kitchens, bringing in private catering from sandwich-box delivery companies to fill the gap and keep up the bare minimum to comply with free school meals provision.This was done to save money.In the early 2000s, WSCC was able (thanks to the Labour Government) to rebuild and refurbish many of it’s schools. I saw them all going up in Crawley. The new builds did not have kitchens. The old places had already had the spaces re-used for other purposes.Now that they _have_ to provide hot meals, they have brought in a system where meals are delivered to be steam-heated by machines on school premises. The programme was already nearly a year behind last I saw, so I don’t know if they’ve managed to roll it out across the County.But it’s one reason to add to many that makes me heartily distrust the Tories in West Sussex, and in particular the guy who wants to be Crawley’s next MP, Council Leader Henry Smith.

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