Question & Answers: International Baccalaureate programs


My children are reaching high school. Friends keep telling me about the International Baccalaureate programs. Can you give me some information?

International Baccalaureate programs


The IB (International Baccalaureate) program was founded in 1968 by the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO), a non-profit educational organization based in Geneva, Switzerland. The IBO is truly international, not associated with any particular country and free of national political educational agendas (very important attribute!)

It is recognized as an international education system made up of three major levels of study broadly classified into: Primary Years program (PYP KG – 5th grade), Middle Years Program (MYP 6th to 10th grades), and the Diploma Program (DP 11th and 12th).

Schools that offer IB programs would have gone through a rigorous authorization requirement to see that the teachers are fully qualified to administer the process. This program is focused on helping students focus on learning within the classroom and outside.

The PYP program generally focused on Language, Social Studies, Mathematics, Science and Technology, Arts and Personal, Social and Physical education. The MYP program focuses on a first language study, a second language study, Humanities (History and geography), sciences (Biology, Physics and Chemistry), Math, Arts, Physical education and IT. In the Middle years the IB program works on students to become decisive thinkers.

The last stage which is the DP year’s students would be expected to choose one area from among the six subject groups which are
Group 1: First Language (English)
Group 2: Second Language (French, Chinese, etc).
Group 3: Individuals and Societies (History, Economics, Business and Management, etc).
Group 4: Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Environmental Systems).
Group 5: Mathematics and Computer Science.
Group 6: Electives (either Visual Arts or a second subject from Groups 3, 4 or 5).

What makes IB rather unique is it is designed to be more practical and application-based. It has a broader spectrum of subjects that lead to all-round development. The curriculum makes the student become more international as IB examinations are designed to test students’ knowledge, not their memory and speed. There are no examinations till the Middle Years Program (Class 10). The focus of the IB pedagogy is on ‘how to learn’ rather than ‘what to learn’.

Other unique features include the requirements on DP level students where they are required to do a Theory of Knowledge essay on a given title formulated to help students probe dissimilar ways of perception, emotion, language and reason within scientific, artistic, mathematical and historical areas. This is followed by a ten-minute presentation of the essay by the DP student in class. Then there is the Extended Essay, which is an original independent research by the student themselves leading a DP student to produce a comprehensible written piece on a subject and title which they are studying. And of course there is the Creative, Action and Service program (CAS) where each DP student must complete at least 150 hours spread out over one-and-a-half years, engaging in some form of Creativity, participating in sport or other physical Action, and doing social Service. These features have made the curriculum very much sought after as highly ranked institutions and more open university programs are very much in support of this curriculum.

Assignments and tasks done at school are initially marked by school teachers and then sent to external examiners. The Diploma is given only if the student gets a minimum of 24 points and the highest that can be achieved is 45 points.

All Universities look upon the IB favorably and many give credits for subjects wherein the student has obtained a minimum of 5 points. Personally I rank this system very high as it forces you to think and is rather sad that it wasn’t around when we were kids.

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