IB schools and students achieve despite the pandemic

The 170,000 students completing their International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) and Career-related Programme (CP) in the May 2021 session have overcome the challenges of Covid-19 to outperform last year’s results.

Image of Regents International School students celebrating graduation
In a year where children and young people’s education has again been severely impacted by Covid-19, the International Baccalaureate Class of 2021 beat the odds and demonstrated resilience to boost the average diploma score to 33.02 points from 31.34 in May 2020.Average diploma grade and pass rates are also up on 2020's attainment, rising to 5.19 and 88.96% respectively. The number of students taking the IB Diploma Programme (IBDP) increased again too this year, testament to its relevance and growing reputation among schools, students, employers and higher education establishments around the world.Among those paying tribute to the hard work of students, teachers, schools and the IB community over the last 18 months was Director General of the International Baccalaureate, Olli-Pekka Heinonen."[This has] been incredibly challenging for students, teachers, and schools throughout the world as Covid-19 has undermined much of what we had come to take for granted. I salute their spirit and dedication to our shared mission: education for a better world.”
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Twin-track assessment route for IB this year

The International Baccalaureate, the non-profit foundation that administers the globally recognised suite of international qualifications, offered IB schools a choice of two paths for assessment this examination session. Its goal was to ensure students around the world had equal opportunity to progress despite the uneven impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.“A key responsibility of the IB this year has been to ensure that our students are not disadvantaged by the pandemic, including in their applications to university and higher education,” continued Olli-Pekka Heinonen. “The many changes we have made to this session are part of this commitment to ensure students are not affected by the hugely challenging circumstances in which they have been learning.”Working with educators and regulators to consider local context, restrictions and their impact on students, the IB this year surveyed schools and offered a choice of written examinations where they could be administered safely, or the non-exam route using a combination of internal assessment coursework and teacher-predicted grades.

Educators and universities back the IB

On the decision to adopt a system for 2021 with dual routes, the IB Heads Council said: "We believe that the IB's approach to the May 2021 examination session – in which schools that could sit the exams did so – was the fairest possible solution."IB has also worked closely with universities and education ministries to maintain and encourage recognition of its qualifications. Throughout the pandemic, the body continued conversations and provided regular updates, including webinars. Leading universities affirmed this approach with messages of support.In the UK, the University of Warwick said it is “mindful of the disruption and anxiety that many students have experienced over the past year; we confirm that we will happily accept IB results awarded in 2021 in the same way that we would in any other year.”Similarly, in the US, Cornell University said looked forward to “welcoming many more IB students this year. We've followed IBO's careful, ongoing plans for student safety and progress during Covid disruptions. We remain confident about IB rigour and adapted assessments, and we will continue to accept IB scores as accurate indications of students' preparation.”

Students and schools celebrate achievements

The IB is renowned for offering internationally transferable qualifications that develop independent study, global mindedness and critical thought – key attributes for the next generation of leaders in a fast-changing world.Impington International College, based in Cambridge, UK, was among the first UK state schools to offer the IB curricula. Since 1991, 572 students received Russell Group university offers and almost 50 Oxbridge places.This year continues the sixth-form college’s success. It achieved a 100% pass rate in its International Baccalaureate (IB), IB Diploma Programme (DP) and Career-related Programme (CP) and an average point score of 36.Over a quarter of students attained 40 points or more, with four achieving 44 and 45 – the maximum possible. These accomplishments have secured student places at Oxbridge, Russell Group and leading international universities and drama schools.Jo Sale, Vice Principal at Impington International College, said: “After another challenging year, we are thrilled that the hard work, dedication and resilience of this year’s student cohort has resulted in such tremendous achievements and offer our heartfelt congratulations to all of our students.“As one of the first state schools to offer the IB in the UK, exceptional outcomes like these demonstrate the strength of the programme and its impact on students’ progression since its introduction.“The IB expertly prepares students for the world of higher education, and they are able to use the skills learnt to eloquently engage in seminars, write longer essay pieces and understand things in the context of the world around them.”Highlighting how the school’s own international curriculum (RIC©) complements the IB’s reflective approach to learning that prepares young people for participation in a fast-changing world, the Swiss boarding school Institut auf dem Rosenberg achieved an average point score of 38.Anita Gademann, Rosenberg’s Director, commented, “We are very proud of our students and their impressive achievements. We are the polar opposite of an ‘exam factory’ and our unique non-cookie cutter approach to education using RIC® demonstrates that contemporary, holistic education and outstanding academic attainment can coexist in harmony. Our primary focus is to provide an inspirational learning environment and our students’ results suggest that our ‘education first, exams second’– approach delivers on this mission.”  TASIS England's adoption of the IB programme similarly accents intellectual curiosity in its mission, leading its Class of 2021 to also achieve very impressive IB results. This year, the school’s achieved a 100% IDBP pass rate and maintained an above-average point score of 36. One in five students received a bilingual IB diploma.Stephanie Feo Hughes, Head of Upper School, congratulated students on their excellent examination results. “They have not only shown their knowledge and understanding of their course material, but also embodied the attributes of our mission by remaining principled and open-minded learners as they faced the challenges of the past two years. Special thanks to our entire IB community at TASIS for coming together and supporting our candidates through each change to the DP assessment model.”Regents International School Pattaya is celebrating standout IBDP scores again this year with an average point score of 36, along with a number of impressive personal achievements. Sarah Osborne-James, School Principal, commented, “Regents’ students are motivated to become advanced learners; creative, intellectually curious and innovative young people who are confident, collaborative and socially responsible, who win places at world class universities. We can’t wait to see what our graduates achieve next!”Three students at the International School of Luxembourg are celebrating a perfect IDBP score of 45, with the school’s Class of 2021 achieving a well above average score of 35. Director Nicki Crush commented “This pass rate would already have been considered superb in normal times. Yet it is even more impressive if you think about how challenging the two last years have been and it undeniably attests to the high-level of resilience of our students.“I would like to congratulate our students for their amazing achievements and also thank our passionate teachers and staff members who work hard every day to inspire our students.”Despite the pressures of the pandemic and its inevitable disruptions, students at Marymount International School Rome also achieved highly. Its pass rate was 100%, and the grade point average was 37, the highest in the school’s history. Thirty per cent of students scored 40 points and above, including one achieving a maximum 45 and three 44. Students are now finalising plans for their next steps at universities around the world including New York University, University of California Berkeley, Boston University, and St. John’s University in the United States; University of Toronto, and McGill University in Canada; University College London, University of Edinburgh, Royal Holloway University, and King's College London in the United Kingdom; the Bocconi, and the LUISS in Italy.

Results overview

  • The number of candidates for the May 2021 session is 170,660 and for May 2020 it was 174,360
  • Out of 170,660 students, 104,275 were in the non-exam route and 65,576 in the exam route, with 809 split between both routes
  • The number of the Diploma Programme candidates for the May 2021 session is 87,307 and for the May 2020 session 86,657
  • The average diploma score for the May 2021 session is 33.02 points, up from 31.34 in May 2020
  • The number of students achieving 40-45 points is 15,513, up from 9,701 in May 2020
  • The average diploma grade is 5.19, up from 4.95 in May 2020
  • Diploma pass rate 88.96%, up from 85.18% in May 2020.
(Source: International Baccalaureate)
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