During my 22 years in as an IB teacher, diploma coordinator, IB examiner, consultant, workshop leader, site visitor and evaluator, I have had the opportunity to witness the many benefits gained by all students, teachers and schools, offering IB programmes.
The IB is “the HOW” (application) and “the WHY” (reasons for learning) of “the WHAT” (course content). The diploma is accessible to all students. The teachers are trained and dedicated to adapting teaching to learning. Classes are student-centred and teaching is diversified, thus affording access to all abilities.
But, what does it take to succeed? Certainly the answer to that question does not lie totally in the methods used in the classroom, nor in the structure of the IB diploma subjects taught. The student must also play a central role in his/her own learning, the keys to which reside in the IB Learner Profile attributes such as “inquiry”, “open-mindedness”, “risk-taking” and “reflection”. Each student needs to be invested in the learning. Students are usually quick to apply collaboration with their peers as a way of supporting their progress since they are not in competition. IB students may be found in the Library huddled over a chemistry or math problem or listening while a classmate reads an argument for their extended essay. Students are encouraged to help each other. No student is alone with the work.
IB diploma requirements are challenging, but the skills, such as serious research, formal essay writing, viewing issues from several perspectives, analysing data and drawing conclusions lead the student to take on post-secondary studies with ease. They will write external examinations for each IB subject, set by the IB and graded by examiners from the IB global community. They will also produce an internal assignment, graded by their teachers and monitored by the IB to ensure accurate application of IB assessment requirements. They will complete a 4000-word research essay and a Theory of Knowledge presentation and essay. They will participate in the Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) program, which though not graded, constitutes an important aspect of their growth as a citizen of the world. Earning the diploma is the result of the student’s commitment and hard work. This all adds up to excellent preparation for future study and life experiences. I have witnessed IB diploma students become Rhodes Scholars, neurosurgeons, musicians, lawyers, authors, entrepreneurs, contributors to advanced technology, politicians and teachers.
What does the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme do for a school? I can only report what I have seen in the schools where I have worked or visited. After a school has been authorized as an IB Diploma School the influence of the IB philosophy, the integration of the Learner Profile, and the impact of the Theory of Knowledge course (compulsory for all DP students) begins to spread throughout the school. Often IB students become president of the student council, art council, band, existing clubs and clubs that they themselves establish. They are seldom aware of the influence their studies have on their attitudes, but slowly the school atmosphere absorbs the attitudes and good changes naturally take place.
I am often asked why a parent would seek to enrol their son or daughter in an IB Programme. As an IB coordinator and dedicated IB educator, I have a long list of reasons. If I were a parent with a 21 st century teenager or pre-teen, I would definitely want them to benefit from the IB Programme(s) and especially the Diploma Programme, which will prepare them to be successful in the world they will be entering; a world already very different from that which their parents entered after high school. This success will not come from the content (“the WHAT”), but from their ability to apply their knowledge in many and varied situations (this is “the HOW” and “the WHY” in action). Since their success will depend on their ability to adapt, the IB will provide them with the tools necessary to meet all challenges. They will be able to collaborate and communicate (in more than one language). They will be able to understand that others may have a different point of view, but that does not mean that the other view is wrong. IB diploma students become formidable contributing force as citizens of our future global society.