Why teach the International Baccalaureate above another programme? What sets it apart?

First, a little history

The very idea of the IB was conceived within the International School of Geneva back in 1962. Schools participating in the development of the programme included the following schools:

  • Atlantic College (Wales)
  • International School of Geneva
  • United Nations International School, New York (UNIS)
  • International College, Beirut
  • International High School and Soborg Gymnasium, Copenhagen
  • Iranzamin International School, Tehran
  • North Manchester High School for Girls

First examinations were written in 1970 with UNIS the first school to adopt the IB as the basis for all Grade 11/12 teaching.

Key to the initial philosophy was the notion of ‘Learning HOW to learn’ rather than the accumulation of encyclopedic knowledge acquired through memorization.

In History of the IB (2017, p. 3), the IB describes some traditional and progressive education trends (by the 1960s).

Traditional Progressive
Memorisation Critical analysis
Same content for all Student choice
Hermetic subjects Transdisciplinarity
IQ tests Range of skills testing
Didactic Constuctivism
Teacher-centred Child-centred
Academic intelligence Education of the whole child
Norm-referenced Criterion-referenced
Machine-scored tests AV and AL (languages)
Translation (languages) Open plan rooms
Closed classrooms Multiple perspectives
National perspective

The focus on what was considered at the time a progressive approach to teaching is as relevant now as it was then with then with the IB spread across 4,000+ schools with over 1,250,000 students.

An IB education

So what represents an IB education? The IB (as should you) focuses on teaching and learning by promoting inquiry, action, and reflection.

Inquiry: Forms the centrepiece of the written, taught and assessed curriculum in IB programmes

Action (principled): As a strategy and outcome represents the commitment to teaching and learning through authentic experience

Reflection (Critical): By which curiosity and experience can lead to a deeper understanding

In IB programmes (including biology), international-mindedness is central to the IB mission and at the core of an IB education for all students.

International mindedness

From The Diploma Programme: From Principles into Practice (2009, p. 6)

International-mindedness is an attitude of openness to, and curiosity about, the world and different cultures.  It is concerned with developing a deep understanding of the complexity, diversity, and motives of human actions and interactions. … Intercultural understanding and cooperation have never been more important and lie at the heart of the IB mission statement and learner profile.

While International Mindedness must include an awareness of other nations and issues of global significance, it must be grounded in a deeper understanding of mindednesses through cultural interactions and global engagement.

IM is often overlooked in science teaching as syllabus content takes priority and time and logistical constraints see the non-examinable components of the programme get short shrift. As you begin your new school year, take a moment to review the syllabus guide, locate an International-Mindedness prompt and teach to it, connecting with one or more of Inquiry, Action, and Reflection through a ‘progressive’ lens. You will then be delivering an IB education.