Free Press Journal

The International Bacalaureate: concept-driven learning for all-round development

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At the centre of international education in the International Baccalaureate® (IB) are students aged 3 to 19 with their own learning styles, strengths and challenges. Students of all ages come to school with combinations of unique and shared patterns of values, knowledge and experience of the world and their place in it.

An IB education is holistic in nature—it is concerned with the whole person. Along with cognitive development, IB programmes address students’ social, emotional and physical well-being. An IB education is therefore suited to and will benefit all types of students.

There are today 738 IB World Schools in 29 countries in the Asia Pacific region, (4,530 schools worldwide), running 1,060 IB programmes. We have seen significant interest and uptake in India in recent years especially for the IB Diploma programme. The first IB World School to offer an IB education in the country started way back in 1976.  Today, there are 120 Indian schools offering one or more of the four IB programmes and we anticipate a steady growth in the next 3-5 years. The IB school-leaving diploma has been recognised for admission to undergraduate courses in 56 Indian universities. The IB is generally acknowledged for its non-rigid cross-disciplinary structure, focus on all-round development, and going beyond rote learning to impart strong social and interpersonal skills with academic excellence.


The recent annual results declared by the IB for its Diploma Programme highlights the consistency of the global IB DP pass rate, which continues to remain stable as the community of IB students continues to grow.  In the Asia-Pacific region, including India, over 370 schools and 15,800 students took part in the May 2016 session. They achieved an average diploma score of 33.16 points (of 45 possible maximum), with 54 students achieving a perfect score.  The top five largest cohorts in Asia for this session could be found in India (3,332 students), China (3,042 students), Hong Kong (2,076 students), Singapore (1,217 students) and Indonesia (1,191 students). The pass rate in Asia Pacific was 90% as compared to a global pass rate of 79%.

Increasingly, schools are looking to the Diploma Programme as a way to prepare students of diverse backgrounds for success in university and life in the 21st century.

The IB Diploma Programme, for students aged 16 to 19, offers an academically challenging and balanced education with courses in six different subject groups in addition to three core elements—theory of knowledge, extended essay and creativity, action, service. The Diploma Programme is founded on a philosophy of building tolerance and understanding among internationally minded students of different cultures and backgrounds.

An IB education provides opportunities to develop both disciplinary and interdisciplinary understanding that meet rigorous standards set by institutions of higher learning around the world. The IB Diploma programmes offers courses that are broad and balanced, conceptual and connected. It provides students with the skills and attributes they will need to succeed in the 21st century. Critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and innovation, collaboration and communication skills, cultural awareness and international mindedness. These are the demands of the modern economy and increasingly schools and governments are recognizing the IB Diploma can ensure that students are better prepared for university and to enter the workforce. The ability to work in a team, to make decisions and solve problems, to plan, organize and prioritize work are critical skills learned throughout the IB programmes and in particular over the two years of the Diploma course. And these skills are being hotly sought after by top tertiary institutions, organizations, CEOs and Government departments.

The IB offers significant benefits to schools. Choosing to become an IB World School is a big step but schools gain access to high quality programmes of education, which support development of knowledgeable and inquiring students. Professional development that supports effective educators and collaborative professional learning communities. A worldwide network of highly respected IB World Schools, working together to share best practice.

Research shows that students in the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) and Middle Years Programme (MYP) performed better than non-IB students in the global International Schools’ Assessment study from 2009-2011. Further research indicates that Diploma Programme (DP) graduates complete college faster than their peers, feel more prepared for college-level coursework involving research, and are better able to cope with demanding workloads and time-management challenges. (Visit our research page for more).

IB World Schools work within a global community, creating frequent opportunities for shared learning and collaboration with others. The IB also helps schools with programme planning and optimization. This may include mentoring, coaching, consultation or self-guided learning online.

The IB is perceived as a Programme for international schools only. This is simply not true. 55% of IB World Schools are State Schools, and in Asia Pacific we are seeing more and more state schools coming onboard in countries like Japan, Malaysia and Singapore. As this misplaced perception about the IB is corrected so we will see a growth in government interest for the IB programmes for the reasons mentioned above. The IB is an international programme suitable for any school wanting to offer international education.

The partnerships between the IB and universities are strong and have helped IB programmes to become world-respected and renowned. The IB has over 2,044 published recognition policies from Universities around the world, including 483 policies in Asia Pacific. In the past 10 years, student university destinations within the Asia Pacific region includes, (in order of preference): Australia, India, Hong Kong and Singapore. These include foreign students going to these countries as well as students remaining in their home country. Several studies in a variety of contexts, including the US, UK, Australia, Mexico, and China, provide strong evidence that DP students do in fact go on to higher education at higher rates and enter into more selective institutions than their peers. (Lee, et al. 2013./Caspary, 2011.)

The Diploma Programme assessments are summative, largely taking place over the two years of the programme, focusing on what students have learned and their abilities, rather than what they haven’t learned or can’t do. Testing is rigorous, backed by high-level evidence and is based on performance against set standards. As well as helping give a true picture of student performance, it also assists universities in the admissions process with no grade inflation for more than 30 years, the Diploma Programme is a reliable and internationally consistent measure of academic excellence.

Universities have found that the IB diploma score is a reliable predictor of university success and is not subject to grade inflation. Many universities have researched the first-year student performance of IB students to determine the appropriate scores and entry requirements for IB students. While other international curriculums are undergoing constant changes, the IB is proving to be a stable option for schools. Schools and Universities like the stability of the IB, and they dislike the constant churn found in other programmes.

In addition to enrolling in top tier institutions, DP students are more likely to graduate from those institutions, and some evidence suggests they have stronger academic performance while enrolled. In addition to a greater likelihood of earning a degree, there is substantial evidence that participation in the DP is positively associated with postsecondary grade performance. DP students have been shown, in some cases, to earn higher marks than their peers while at university and performance in the DP has emerged as a strong predictor of tertiary performance and a tendency to enroll in more advanced courses.