Being part of an international community that regularly moves around the world, your educational priorities are clearly unique. Not only do you seek some form of consistency between relocations, it is likely that you also have an international outlook that you would like your children to embrace. With these priorities in mind, the International Baccalaureate (IB) really is a winning choice.
To give you some background, the IB was designed 45 years ago to cater for children exactly like yours: internationally mobile students who want an education that is not tied to any national government agenda. It has since grown to become one of the most highly regarded educational programmes in the world. Quite simply, wherever your child chooses to go to university, to work or to live, they will have a transferable and highly respected education to take with them.
Firstly, let me reassure you that should you need to move, the IB diploma remains the same from school to school and across the globe. Yes, there may be slight differences in the subject choices available at different schools (for example at Oakham we offer eight different Language options, including Greek, Latin and Mandarin, while other schools may offer different choices). However, with the high number of schools now offering the diploma, parents will find a greater variety of choice when moving to different locations that will match up with the IB requirements.
Secondly, at its very core, the IB seeks to encourage all pupils to think globally. Indeed its very mission is ʻto develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.̓ In this increasingly globalised society, and the international community in which you live, the IB really would provide the opportunity for your child to develop the key intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills to thrive anywhere on the global stage. The IB Mission Statement says the programme encourages ‘students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right’.
So how does it work and how is it different from A-levels? Unlike A-levels, where students choose, on average, three or four subjects to study, the IB is a much broader programme. Students study six subjects over two years (the same time span as A-levels), three at Higher Level and three at Standard Level. Higher Level subjects prepare students for their university choices and tend to be rigorous and rich in content. Standard Level subjects can be compared to AS levels and will allow the students to make progress, however the assessment tends to be less stringent than the Higher Levels. They choose from six subject groups: Language for native speakers, for those with pre-knowledge in a foreign language and beginners at new languages; Individuals and Societies (e.g. Business, Economics, Geography, History, Politics etc); Experimental Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Design Technology, Sports, Health and Exercise Science etc); Mathematics and Computer Science; and the Arts (Theatre, Visual Arts etc). By taking six subjects, students are maintaining a far wider breadth in their knowledge, without compromising on depth in their Higher Level subjects.
In addition to their chosen subjects, all students take the three core elements of the diploma: Theory of Knowledge; the Extended Essay; and Creativity, Action and Service. In many ways, it is these three areas that really set the IB apart from other educational programmes and help shape IB students into valuable global citizens. Theory of Knowledge is a challenging critical thinking course, and the Extended Essay requires pupils to write a dissertation-style research project. Both prepare students for the rigour of University, teaching them to independently research, to analyse evidence and to prepare their thoughts into a well-written (or verbalised) point of view. Universities certainly recognise this, as they often find IB students settle in quicker and feel more comfortable with the self-sufficiency demanded by Higher Education. Also, there is certainly never any debate as to whether IB students have the right skills to thrive in the workforce; indeed their well-rounded skill set and their ability to think critically is much in demand. The Creativity, Action and Service component of the IB places compassion for others and teamwork as an equal to academic study, rather than an adjunct. Students must put in the required amount of hours into their service activities; which in turn fosters their understanding and respect for others in the world around them.
The IB ticks so many boxes academically, but ultimately it is the skills the students learn that makes the programme so very desirable among the international community. If you would like your child to head out into the world knowledgeable and curious, as a great thinker and communicator, who is open-minded yet also principled, who knows him- or herself, and chooses to take risks where appropriate, and above all is caring to others, then the IB is certainly the right choice for your family!