Guest Author - Stephanie K. Ferguson
The International Baccalaureate (IB) was initially developed to meet the educational needs of geographically mobile students who required academic credentials accepted worldwide, such as children of diplomats, students living abroad, native students returning from abroad, and children likely to travel extensively abroad (Poelzer & Feldhusen, 1997). To meet these perceived needs, the IB program fosters international understanding while supporting the maintenance and development of its students’ cultural identities. The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) is a chartered, private, non-governmental foundation headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. To ensure that children of parents in highly mobile professions received a common pre-university education that is recognized across geographic boundaries, the IBO developed a rigorous standardized curriculum. The goal was to create a shared academic experience emphasizing critical thinking and exposure to a variety of viewpoints fostering tolerance and inter-cultural understanding among the youth of the world. Today, the IBO has evolved from its original purpose as a service to international students to providing a rigorous curriculum to students interested in a global perspective on education (Clayton, 1998). The curricula provide students from varying cultural, economic, and societal backgrounds with knowledge, critical thinking skills, and an international awareness within the context of advanced, personalized studies (Tookey, 2000). Since its inception in 1965, the original IB Diploma programme has expanded to include both a Middle Years programme and a Primary Years programme (Clayton, 1998).
Designed as a comprehensive two-year curriculum for students age 16 to 19, the Dipolma programme is eclectic in its use of elements from the educational systems of other countries. Incorporating components of several countries, the curriculum maximizes students’ choice as favored by American schools, offers depth and breadth of advanced content as seen in British schools, and emphasizes major categories of study such as arts, sciences, and technologies common in French systems (Bruce, 1987; Poelzer & Feldhusen, 1997). The core curriculum consists of three elements: theory of knowledge; creativity, action, and service activities; and extended essay. From that core, six domains emerge:
~ Language A1 – the study of the student’s primary spoken language;
~ Second Language - a second language or in the case of bilingual students, a second language at the A level; languages offered include both modern and classical language options;
~ Individuals and Society - encompassing subjects such as history; geography; economics; philosophy; psychology; social anthropology; business and organization; and information technology in a global society;
~ Experimental Science - includes biology, chemistry, physics, environmental systems, and design technology;
~ Mathematics and Computer Science - covers algebra II through calculus and discrete mathematics along with computer science courses; and
~ The Arts - including visual arts, music and theater arts.
A growing number of university admission committees worldwide recognize the IB credentials. In the United States, over 700 colleges and universities recognize the IB diploma while several hundred do so internationally across more than 30 countries.
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Poelzer, G., & Feldhusen, J. (1997). The International Baccalaureate program: A program for gifted secondary education. Roeper Review, 19, 168-171.
Clayton, M. (1998, January 21). World-class rigor spreads in US high schools. Christian Science Monitor, 90(38) p. 12.
Tookey, M. (2000). The International Baccalaureate. The Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, 11, 52-63.
Bruce, M. (1987, September). High school graduatation, international style. Phi Delta Kappan, 69(1), 79-81.