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For parents moving across countries with school age kids, finding the right school with a curriculum that fits their child’s present and future educational needs is a high priority. A group of forward thinking teachers at the International School of Geneva, along with a few other international schools, created the International Baccalaureate diploma program in 1968 with these kids in mind.

In the increasingly interconnected world of today, the curriculum has become popular even with those local to a particular country. A unique and in my opinion, praise-worthy aspiration of the IB foundation is the creation of “international-mindedness” with a view to “educating the whole person for a life of active, responsible citizenship”.

Programs. A continuum of 3 programs is offered for students aged 3 years to 19 years. Recently, a fourth program, the Career Related Certificate (IBCC) for students aged 16 to 19 years has been introduced.

  • Primary Years Program (PYP) for children aged 3-12 years is organized into a framework of 6 trans-disciplinary themes of global significance: Who We Are, Where We Are in Place and Time, How We Express Ourselves, How the World Works, How We Organize Ourselves, and Sharing the Planet.

  • The Middle Years program (MYP) for children aged 11-16 years is organized as follows: Approaches to Learning, Community and Service, Health and Social Education, Environments and Human Ingenuity.

  • The Diploma Program for students from 16-19 years culminates in a school leaving diploma and prepares students for college. In addition to traditional subjects, the curriculum includes an Extended Essay of about 4000 words, Theory of Knowledge, and Creativity Action Service (a program that includes the Arts, Physical education, and Community Service).

All 3 programs have a significant independent, student project when students graduate from the program.

Some distinguishing features that parents of IB students shared with us:

A curriculum with International focus. The curriculum is relevant to kids in an international classroom. For e.g. a concentrated dose of Chinese history would not be relevant to a child of Dutch origin studying in Hong Kong for a few years. In an IB school, he could opt to write a paper on Dutch history and make a comparison with historical events in another country as his social studies assignment, while another child in the same classroom could pick any other world regions of interest for the same assignment. There is a lot of diverse exposure in the humanities and the focus is on major issues and events rather than on any one country.

No rote memorization. From the earliest ages, students are discouraged from rote learning of facts. The emphasis is on understanding concepts. Kids have access to information through books and the internet and are taught how to process and best use the information for their purposes. Even kids at the primary level need to have a bibliography section at the end of their assignments, citing their sources of information. For those who may be used to spoon feeding, it may be a little difficult to adjust to the methodology. However, kids adapt fast!

Flexible language requirements. All IB students have the option to learn more than 1 language from age 7 onwards. The second language they choose could be limited by the availability teachers in the school they attend but there is no restriction from the IB itself. Most IB schools will offer a choice of 2 or 3 different languages apart from the primary language of instruction. For e.g. languages commonly offered in Indian IB schools are French, Spanish and Hindi while the medium of instruction is English. In some cases one can choose a new language at a basic level as late as in Grade 11 so one is not stuck with a subject choice in the senior years.

Preparing Kids for College. The IB Diploma is recognized in more than 2,500 universities representing 75 countries worldwide. This includes most of the major universities in the United States, UK, Canada, India, Australia and Singapore. The IB Recognition team works in partnership with universities worldwide to ensure recognition of IB programs, improve quality and consistency of student transcripts provided to universities, and ensure that students gain competitive offers from universities of their choice based on their IB qualifications.

The curriculum itself fosters a university-style academic learning and writing and therefore students do not find the transition to university to be too difficult. It caters to students interested in higher studies in countries all over the world.

Some caveats. The IB prepares students for college in a multi-national environment. However, parents in countries with highly competitive local educational systems should note that kids may need to adjust to a different style of learning in order to prepare for intensely competitive national college entrance exams.

Another consideration is that International schools usually cost a lot more than local schools in many countries.

Do you have a child currently (or in the past) enrolled in an IB school? Do share your experiences in our comments section below.

For more information on the IB, you can visit the IBO website.

To find IB schools in our locations, you can use our School Search page. For pointers to other curriculums available internationally and in the areas we focus on, check our Glossary section.

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