One of the choices facing parents and their children when selecting a new school is whether they want their child enrolled in an International Baccalaureate program.
The IB, which has more than a million students enrolled in more than 4000 schools around the world, was originally developed by Swiss educators in 1968 as a global education and qualification.
The main claim to the IB is that while it includes academic rigour in its programs, it aims to personally develop the student with units such as community activity, long research projects and contemplations on the nature of knowledge.
In Australia, secondary schools use the IB in conjunction with their state matriculation exams and qualifications, not instead of them.
There are more than 140 schools in Australia offering one of the three main IB programs: the Primary Years Program (PYP) for ages 3-12, the Middle Years Program (MYP) covering ages 11-16, and the Diploma Program (DP) for senior secondary students aged 16-19.
The Diploma Program aims to develop students who have excellent breadth and depth of knowledge and, according to IB's marketing, students who flourish "physically, intellectually, emotionally and ethically."But while the IB is supposed to foster independent thinking and global acceptance, it's not always clear how this aids individual students.
'Holistic education' approachBeth Blackwood, chief executive of the Australian Heads of Independent Schools Association – who has experience as an educator with the Diploma Program – says the IB is holistic education.
She says its success lies in the fact that teachers are introduced to a global network that adds to their expertise. Students must choose their study from six different subject groups, ensuring they are well-rounded in their knowledge.
"The emphasis is on breadth and on broader, well-rounded individuals," says Blackwood, "not just an ATAR of your top four subjects."
She says the IB has gained a good reputation among parents because the study habits and the learning methodology of the IB often enhance student performance.
"Parents choose it because it's international, it makes for a well-rounded student and it supports the other studies."
She says the IB has international perspectives but students are expected to explore and understand their home culture and language. This means that the IB in Australia is not caught in the hot-house mentality of schooling in North Asia.
"The IB works well in Australia because our schooling already leans to allowing children to experience the joy of learning," says Blackwood.
St Andrews Cathedral School in Sydney offers the MYP and DP in the International Baccalaureate, so that those doing the Middle Years Program are being prepared for the Diploma Program.
The junior school students do elements of the Primary Years Program but the school is not accredited to do the full official program.
Head of school Dr John Collier says the co-ed school emphasises a broad education, which includes co-curricular activities, compulsory sport and excellence in studies. The IB is a good fit with the school's mission, he says.
"The IB is run for the middle years and in Years 11 and 12 they can do the Diploma Program."
Collier says the Middle Years program encourages students to engage with the real world and covers eight subject areas.
The Diploma Program, for senior secondary students, acts as a framework, inside of which runs the Higher School Certificate syllabus.
Collier says the IB programs are not "hot housing" or accelerated learning – something the school is not in need of given its academic high achievement. He says the IB focus on meta-cognition – or learning how to think not what to think – supports what the school is aiming develop in its students.
"We have high numbers of our students going out to NSW universities [86 per cent in 2015] and this school is known for academic achievement," says Collier. "The IB Diploma is offered as a choice, with separate classes. We teach the curriculum and do the HSC. The IB adds another dimension."
St Andrew's introduced the IB Diploma Program in 2009 to expand the academic choices for Year 11 and 12 students.
IB Diploma students complete six subjects from the groups: Literature and Language (English); Language (French, German, Japanese, Spanish); Business and management, History and Psychology; Biology, Chemistry, Design technology and Physics; Maths; and the Arts (Music, Theatre, Visual Arts).
As well as choosing six subjects, the students do an extended essay, study theory of knowledge and creativity, and do programs of activity and service.
The schools that offer the IB – known as World Schools – complete a rigorous authorisation process. IB teachers are expected to participate in professional development and share their expertise with global IB colleagues.
Read more: http://www.afr.com/news/special-reports/international-baccalaureate-the-added-element-at-many-schools-20160812-gqr7fz#ixzz4HMyP8zqN
Follow us: @FinancialReview on Twitter | financialreview on Facebook