The International Baccalaureate

What is the The International Baccalaureate? Relocate takes a look at the international learning programme for international students from the Primary Years Programme right through to the IB Diploma Programme.

international baccalaureate
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The International Baccalaureate (IB) is probably best known for its two-year IB Diploma Programme (IBDP), which is studied internationally by students between the ages of 16–19. But, since its inception in 1968, the awarding body the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO), has grown its international programme of study to span the primary years – the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP); through the middle years – the IB Middle Years programme (MYP); to the recently developed IB Career-related Programme (CP).Take a look:
When choosing a programme of study for their children in their new location, relocating families will need to consider which curriculum and final exam system will best suit their child. An IB education caters for pupils from the ages of three to 19 and is taught in thousands of international schools across the globe in popular relocation destinations.

What is The International Baccalaureate?

International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme, International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme, International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, International Baccalaureate CPThe IB focuses on each student as a whole person, which means that IB programmes address not only children’s intellectual development but also their social, emotional and physical progress.The IB mission statement demonstrates the IBO’s commitment to the development of an all-round internationally educated ‘global citizen’; “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.”Alongside the IB Diploma Programme, the lower years programmes, the IB Primary Years programme (PYP) and the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) have also grown in popularity. There are now over 4,000 schools across the world, in both the state and independent sector, teaching IB programmes.

International Baccalaureate Pros and Cons?

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) offers a broad subject range and is well-known for encouraging students to develop independent study and critical thought, but can be considered quite challenging for students who are not ‘all-rounders’ and some consider it too broad for those students who wish to specialise.However, the IBDP is consistently highly regarded by university admissions officers and is one of the few international curriculum choices that is truly globally transferable.

What is an IB student?

The International Baccalaureate Organisation has created what is known as the IB ‘Learner Profile’ which underpins what the organisation expects of its teachers and students across all four IB programmes. “The aim of all IB programmes,” says the IBO, “is to develop internationally minded people who, recognising their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world.” The IBO expects all IB programme learners to be: inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced and reflective.
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The IB Primary Years Programme (PYP)

So, what is the International Baccalaureate PYP? The PYP is a programme for students aged 3–12 which helps to prepare them for the next stage of the IB programme – the IB Middle Years Programme – but it is not a requirement. It encourages the basic principles of the International Baccalaureate, i.e. the development of the whole child as an independent enquiring thinker who understands their place in the world.The IB Primary Years Programme curriculum focuses on encouraging children to be interested and motivated in their own learning by helping them to investigate subjects that they are curious about. It encourages children to make connections between different pieces of information, and, in doing so, increase their understanding of how the world works. This inquiry-based approach to learning enables children to build on their individual knowledge through an emphasis on learning how to learn, and how to find out.The international curriculum is designed to ensure that children also receive a sound grounding in the traditional basics of literacy and numeracy, whilst placing emphasis on broad communication skills, problem-solving skills, teamwork, and the ability to apply learning to new situations. Most schools offering the programme will be able to offer details of the programme for parents wishing to enrol their child and should be able to provide a PYP curriculum guide on request. 

The IB Middle Years Programme (MYP)

The IB Middle Years Programme is a programme for students aged 11–16. The full IB MYP programme lasts for approximately five years with the middle years programme curriculum classes divided into eight subject groups:
  • Language acquisition
  • Language and literature
  • Individuals and societies
  • Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Arts
  • Physical and health education
  • Design
In the final year of the programme, students also engage in a personal project, which allows them to demonstrate the understanding and skills they have developed throughout the programme. The student is expected to lead the process with supervision from their teacher.Students can opt to engage in MYP ‘eAssessment’ which provides students with IB-validated grades based on their exams and coursework and ultimately receive an IB MYP Certificate.

IB Diploma Programme (IBDP)

In 1968, the International Baccalaureate Organisation sought to create a International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme that would be recognised by universities around the world. Today, it provides learning over a very broad base of disciplines, inspiring creative thought and an ability to relate learning to experiences outside the classroom, preparing students for further learning and a future career.The IB has proved itself to be the success story in secondary education over the past 30 years, and it is now recognised as an entrance qualification to universities in more than 140 countries.Simone Lorenz-Weir, head of upper school at Oakham School, in Rutland, England, recognises that the IB has grown to become one of the most highly regarded educational programmes in the world.“The IB ticks many boxes academically because of its rigour and the breadth of subjects students take,” she says, “but ultimately it is the skills that students learn that make the programme so very desirable."

International Baccalaureate Diploma: Theory of Knowledge

In addition to their chosen subjects, all students take Theory of Knowledge (a challenging critical-thinking course) and undertake an Extended Essay (a dissertation-style research project). Both of these prepare them for the rigour of university, teaching them to research independently, to analyse evidence, and to prepare their thoughts into a well-written (or verbalised) point of view. 
“Universities certainly recognise this,” says Ms Lorenz-Weir, “as they often find IB students settle in quicker and feel more comfortable with the self-sufficiency demanded by higher education.” 
In fact, research reveals that the IB is consistently highly regarded by university admissions officers. Every year, in their University Admissions Officers survey, ACS International Schools in collaboration with the International Baccalaureate Organisation, ask admissions officers to rate three exam systems, A levels, the IBDP and BTEC and rank them against factors such as ‘encouraging independent enquiry,’ and ‘developing ability to cope with pressure.’Out of the the 81 UK universities surveyed, the IBDP was rated top in developing 13 out of 14 factors considered useful in preparing students to thrive at university.Karin Purcell, development director at Marymount International School London, supports the view that the IB gives students the edge when it comes to applying for a university place. “Our experience shows that our students who graduate with an IB Diploma are increasingly at an advantage when applying for university, especially here in the UK, she says. “We have a lot of hard evidence that the trend is in favour of students with an IB.”
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International Baccalaureate Diploma scores

The final IB diploma is awarded to IB students who receive a minimum score of 24 points, and who successfully complete the core IB components, including the extended essay and theory of knowledge. International Baccalaureate Diploma scores are calculated on the awarded grades of 1 to 7 for each of the six subject areas to combine for a total of 42 points plus an extra 3 points for the core IB components. The maximum available score a Diploma Programme student can achieve is 45 points. Unlike the UK’s school examination system, the GCSE and A Level – which has seen grade inflation and received criticism of lowering standards – since its inception, the IB has maintained consistently strong standards across the globe for more than 40 years. According to the IBO, IB Diploma pass rates have remained consistent at around 80 per cent, with the average score on the IB diploma consistently sitting at around 30 points. Students receive their IB Diploma results in July and January.

IB Career Related Programme (CP)

The newest addition to the International Baccalaureate programme of learning is the Career-related Programme (CP) for students aged 16–19. The IBCP combines academic preparation with career-related studies and is designed for students who want to specialise in career-related education. The CP gives them the option to pursue employment, apprenticeships, or further education.“At 16, many students already have a clear idea of the career they would like to pursue and are looking for hands-on learning and experience in that field,” says Adrian Kearney, the IB’s regional director for Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. “In this case, choosing an educational offer that caters to this makes sense.”“Currently, there is only one post-16 qualification that provides a framework allowing students to develop both vocationally and academically. This is the latest IB offering, the Career-related Programme (CP).”Taught in more than 100 schools in 14 different countries across the world, IBCP engages students with an international programme of learning that genuinely interests them and can help them along the path to their chosen career, while arming them with transferable and lifelong skills, such as the ability to work as part of a team, time management skills, and intercultural understanding.IBCP students develop rigour through a combination of academic and career-related courses, resulting in a more rounded understanding of the working world through components that develop skills such as communication, problem-solving and responsibility.

International Baccalaureate schools

The IB is taught in thousands of schools across the globe, in both the state and the independent sector, and many offer IB subject classes across the full range of school ages from PYP, MYP to the IBDP.In order to teach one or more of the IB programmes schools must successfully complete an authorisation process administered by the IBO only then is the school allowed to call itself an IB World School.  This rigorous and challenging authorisation process can take anything from two to three years and can be a helpful indicator of quality for families looking for a school for their child in their new location.

International Baccalaureate curriculum: a good choice for relocating families?

The fact that the IB is accessible to students from any country, and from different educational backgrounds, makes it a popular choice for the relocating family concerned about the transferability of their child’s education.Linda Kavanagh, dean of admissions at ACS Egham International School, in Surrey, believes that the IB is a truly internationally transferable qualification for families with globally mobile lifestyles.“Families in transition face many challenges,” she says, “from dealing with the logistics of relocating and finding accommodation to coping with being physically apart from loved ones. Finding the right school is often a family’s first priority, as it gives children stability and friendships. This impacts positively on the family as a whole.”She adds, “The IB is taught and respected worldwide, and allows us the flexibility to offer places to students from school systems throughout the world. Wherever students have studied the IB before, its fundamental approaches to learning and assessments are the same worldwide, allowing them to pick up their studies where they left off.”This article was originally published in August 2016.

Relocate Global’s new annual Guide to International Education & Schools provides a wealth of advice to anyone searching for a new school in the UK and in an international setting, and offers insights into what it takes to make the right school choice.