The International Baccalaureate (IB) is an international education programme that sets out to create a better world through education. At BridgeU, we’re building a platform for university and careers guidance that has international education at its heart, and IB World Schools have been fundamental to our growing community since we first started.
We wanted to delve in a little deeper to the IB’s philosophy. The IB programme is widely used in international schools, with a presence in over 150 countries. But what does the programme entail, and how does its philosophy work in practice in schools? Does the IB offer an optimal education in an increasingly interdependent world? To find out, we talked to Mark Allen, Head of IB Diploma, HE Advice and Careers at King’s College School, a London independent school for boys with co-ed sixth-form.
What is an IB education?
The IB mission statement is inspiring and far-reaching: “The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.” But how is the IB structured to provide an education that “crosses disciplinary, cultural, national and geographical boundaries”?
Maintaining breadth and depth
The IB Diploma Programme (IBDP) for 16- to 18-year-olds is made up of three core elements – Theory of Knowledge; Creativity, Activities, and Services (CAS); and the extended essay – and six subject groups. Students are required to choose three subjects for higher level study and three for standard, to include a native language, non-native language, humanities, science, and maths subject.
While student learning remains broad, Allen dispels the myth that the IBDP lacks depth and isn’t suited to students aiming for specialist occupations or applying to top universities.
“The higher level subjects provide a similar ‘depth’ to A levels. The ’breadth’ is provided via standard level subjects and the core (which also includes the mandatory Extended Essay – another provision of specialist academic ‘depth’),” he says. What’s more, anecdotal evidence suggests the IB is well-regarded by top universities.“The acceptance rate for our applicants at Oxford and Cambridge comfortably favours our DP pupils.”
A bridge to university study
The IBDP Extended Essay is an opportunity for students to write a 4000-word essay on a topic of their choice, honing skills in independent research, extended essay writing and presentation. Allen sees the benefits of this self-directed research. “The DP is a highly structured sixth form programme which provides a welcome bridge from middle school learning to the autonomy of university learning.”
While both academic pathways can bring success, and King’s A-Level students can complete the King’s Essay, similar to the mandatory IB Extended Essay, Allen points out that King’s enrichment initiatives are ‘add-ons’ to A level programmes, rather than a national curriculum requirement. Unlike many other countries, the UK doesn’t preserve the study of its native language or maths beyond the age of 16. As long as significant change to the UK national curriculum is unlikely, Allen sees benefits in including elements of the IBDP.
Preparing students for employment
He believes the IB prepares students for employment, proving them to be “‘can do’ types who are broad-minded, sensible risk takers, with strongly developed collaborative skills and a respect for interdisciplinary relevance.”
There is no doubt in Allen’s mind that a highly literate engineer who has studied the IBDP (with a foreign language and a humanities subject) is likely to be a more rounded, capable individual than their A level equivalent who has only studied Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry.
Developing personal and social responsibility
As well as providing a highly-regarded and challenging academic qualification, the IB’s whole-person approach places equal importance on developing personal qualities and societal responsibility through CAS core components.
The IBDP develops different aspects of a student’s learner profile – academic, analytical and emotional, says Allen, encouraging students to “think critically, reflectively and in a broad-minded way, respecting others’ opinions and cultures.”
Students also take part in local and international community activities. This reflects the IB mission that students not only become active and caring members of local and national communities but also develop ‘international mindedness’.
Developing international mindedness
Allen explains that ‘international mindedness’ is interpreted within the school to mean not just a global awareness but also an understanding of how, even within the local community, peoples’ lives are shaped by socio-economic factors very different to those of the vast majority of King’s pupils.
Co-curricular Fridays are a key part of school life, giving students the chance to try new activities and challenges, including helping out in local primary, secondary and special schools. In keeping with IB philosophy, the emphasis is on variety, inclusion and encouragement.
The International Baccalaureate programme encourages students across the world to become conscientious, compassionate, lifelong learners who value and respect cultural difference. It’s an ambitious mission, but equipping young people with the knowledge, independence, understanding, cooperation and connectedness to give their best in an interdependent world really is educating the whole person.
BridgeU is a Gold Sponsor at the IB Global Conference, Singapore 2018. Visit our team on Stands #3 and #1 at the event, and come to our sessions:
- Understanding the black box of university admissions for IB students, Lucy Stonehill, 25 March, 14.00, Room 324
- BridgeU Expo 1, LaRoy Hoard, 25 March, 17.15, Room 328
- BridgeU Expo 2, Shellie Gazdik, 27 March, 14.15, Room 328