If you’re a parent looking for the right fit in an independent school, then you might want to give an extra look at any school with an IB program. I say this not only to parents with ambitious straight A students, but to parents in general looking for a quality learning community.
The diploma program is an excellent option for students who have, by the end of their sophomore year, developed a certain level of independence and intrinsic motivation. Students who are inquisitive, who are seeking a challenge, and who hope to optimize the attractiveness of their college applications will be good fits for the full IB Diploma Programme. But many other students stand to benefit as well. Students who have passion and aptitude in a particular subject area may wish to take an IB course or two in their areas of interest without necessarily enrolling in the full diploma program. In this way, a much larger proportion of students will directly benefit from IB, possibly even earning college credits for their IB course work (depending upon the college’s policy). The sound educational philosophy of IB also has ways of permeating and invigorating the culture of an entire school through teacher training and the conscientious in-house development of targeted school-wide policies on honesty, assessment, language, and inclusiveness. There is also what is known as the “challenge creep,” the way that the higher expectations associated with IB affect all classes, even non-IB classes, the proverbial rising tide lifting all boats.
What is the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme?
The IB Diploma Programme is a challenging and comprehensive two-year program for high school juniors and seniors. It entails taking six two-year courses in the traditional subject areas, as well as the unique Theory of Knowledge class, part of the program “core,” in which students are challenged to think critically about areas of knowledge and ways of knowing. As another facet of the core of the program, diploma candidates must develop an extended essay, a sort of mini-dissertation, on a topic from one of the subject areas studied. Candidates must further challenge themselves to grow personally, physically, and intellectually by applying their knowledge and developing their characters in real-life, hands-on situations through participation in the CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service) program. Hopefully, this brief description is beginning to make it clear why the IB Diploma Programme is considered comprehensive, challenging, and holistic in its approach. It may also be helpful to consider briefly what the IB Diploma Programme is not; it is not a collection of courses designed around passing standardized multiple-choice tests. It emphasizes depth of knowledge and understanding, mastery of material, and the careful cultivation of the skills required for complex communication and not rote memorization of a vast array of encyclopedic knowledge. In this light there are certainly those who would say that IB’s programs compare very favorably with other rigorous offerings such as Advanced Placement. Importantly, LD students, with their particular, and highly individual, intellectual, and academic strengths, can flourish within the context of IB’s inquiry-driven, project-based, formatively assessed approaches to teaching and learning.