Today, parents have a plethora of educational boards from which to choose, to enroll their children. Unlike in our times, choices are not just limited to the Indian boards like ICSE, CBSE or the State boards. “International Schools” which offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) program have experienced an unprecedented increase in the past decade or so.
One of the reasons for the growth of International schools is the perception that they encourage creativity and free thinking, both important characteristics for success in the globalized world that we live in. Not surprisingly, the profile of the “international” student has also changed. Earlier, only children from expatriate families, business class and multinational professionals were going to international schools but now even middle class families are sending their children to these schools.
What is the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program?
International Baccalaureate or IB diploma program, is a Switzerland based, Internationally recognized school system which is made up of three levels based on the grade level of the students.
1. PYP or the The Primary Years Program is offered to students from Kindergarten to Class 5
2. MYP or the The Middle Years Program if offered to students of Class 6 to Class 10
3. DP or The Diploma Program is offered to the students of Class 11 to Class 12.
Since very few schools in India offer the PYP and MYP programs, we shall in this article, focus entirely on the Diploma Program(DP). In fact I have regularly noticed the term DP being used interchangeably with IB and that when people talk about “IB” they are actually referring to the grade 11-12 offering of the IB.
What to expect from an IB program
The IB is an application based, academically challenging and balanced program of education. It offers a broader spectrum of subjects that aims for all-round development. IB examinations test students’ knowledge, not their memory and speed. The focus of the IB is on ‘how to learn’ rather than ‘what to learn’.
The students choose 1 subject from each of the following groups
- Group 1: First Language (English)
- Group 2: Second Language (French, Hindi, etc).
- Group 3: Individuals and Societies (History, Economics, Business and Management, etc).
- Group 4: Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Environmental Systems).
- Group 5: Mathematics and Computer Science.
- Group 6: Electives (either Visual Arts or a second subject from Groups 3, 4 or 5).
In addition students have to fulfill three other core requirements:
- Extended Essay – to be written on a topic of the student’s choice following tightly defined guidelines and to be submitted in the final year.
- Theory of Knowledge – which asks students to reflect on how they know what they know.
- Creativity, Action and Service – which requires that a certain number of hours are committed to the arts, sporting activities and community service.
Advantages of the IB program
- The IB Program is internationally recognized, which ensures the smooth educational transitions of globally mobile students
- IB Schools are subject to a strict accreditation process monitored by the International Baccalaureate Organization so you can be sure the school is offering a quality education.
- IB teachers are required to engage in many professional development opportunities to continually update their educational practices and foster fresh thinking.
- IB teaching methods and curricula are research based and they are able to draw on the best practices from educational systems around the world.
- IB students graduating with the IB Diploma are found in universities all around the world. Not just that, because of the rigorous program, students may even get credited for some classes at the graduate level.
Disadvantages of the IB program
- The IB Organization enforces the educational framework across schools but is flexible regarding the curriculum. Consequently, what is taught still varies from school to school. Thus despite the global approach, students transferring from one IB school to another may still not experience a seamless transition.
- The standards of the IB Diploma is very high and the competitive universities usually require that students achieve high scores across all six subjects, which leaves very little leeway for students. If a student is weak or struggles in any one subject it will pull down their ultimate score.
IB – A misfit in the Indian sytem of education?
The rigor and high standards of IB ensure that colleges and universities around the worldwide recognize the IB Diploma as a superior academic program and a strong university entry credential. Unfortunately however, the scenario is a bit different when it comes to the Indian scheme of things
Though Association of Indian Universities (AIU) has accorded equivalence to IB diploma, colleges still repeatedly turn down IB students. One big reason for this is the IB calender. IB results are announced in July but by then Indian college admissions are over, which means entry is possible only next year. Some colleges do give provisional admissions based on predicted scores. But again, a big discrepancy between predicted and real scores could play spoilsport, as predicted scores are usually higher. If actual scores are found falling short of the admission benchmark, a cancellation of provisional entry might be the result.
Additionally, the entrance exams of professional courses takes place in May and IB exams clash with these dates. Most IITs want the final results in June, whereas IB results are declared much later. Unfortunately, so far no mechanism has been put in place to iron out these hiccups.
IB undoubtedly is an advanced curriculum offering a program arguably superior to some of our National boards. However the jury is still out as far as its suitability in the Indian context is concerned.