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When hearing the word “IB”, students only tend to focus on the negative aspects. Stress, fear, shivers down the spine, and worry; typical symptoms of pupils taking the IB. But is it all that? Is the IB as scary and exhausting as people tend to picture? And if it is that scary, are there any benefits? Is taking the IB worth it? What makes the IB different from any other conventional method of education, and is IB’s educational program better than theirs?

To understand how the IB is different from other conventional methods of education, it is necessary to understand what is this program and its system. That way, it will then be possible to comprehend in what ways the IB is different from other educational teachings. Founded in 1968 by John Goormaghtigh in Geneva, Switzerland, the IB (International Baccalaureate) aims to “develop inquiring, knowledgeable, and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect”. With their motto “Vérite et Connaissance” (Truth and Knowledge), the IB is now the global leader in international education, being offered in 5,175 schools and 157 countries, developing inquiring minds and creating knowledgeable, confident and caring pupils. But how does developing such students make the IB distinctive?

How the IB functions

From the ages of 3 to 12, the IB focus on six main elements: who we are, where we are in place and time, how we express ourselves, how the world works, and how we organize ourselves and share the planet. Pupils will examine these topics through different subjects: social studies, maths, art, science, and personal, social, and physical education. After, from the ages of 11 to 16, students then focus on different “areas of interactions”: approaches to learning, community service, human ingenuity, environments, and health and social education; they do this while learning their usual middle school subjects and a foreign language, and in the end, pupils go through the Personal Project based on their interests. In the two-year diploma program, students must pass IB classes in six areas: language and literature, foreign language, individuals and societies, science, math, and the arts.

The learning journey

The “learning journey” throughout the school years is what shapes the pupil, and makes them who they are, with different skills and specific characteristics. The IB values look beyond grades, it looks at the progress a student is making, it encourages the student to embrace challenges, and new skills, and most importantly it empowers pupils to direct their own learning pathways and develop the skills and confidence needed to make a difference. Throughout the learning journey, IB values create people who are: knowledgeable, caring, open-minded, risk-takers, reflective, inquirers, communicators, and balanced.

Going beyond curricula

Beyond the strong and rather extensive curriculum, the IB is also known for emphasizing creative and critical thinking. They are designed to be innovative, offering various levels of support to a student in need. They also support students to ask challenging questions, think critically, learning across disciplines and developing research skills proven to help them in higher education. The IB emphasizes research along with encouraging students to learn from their peers. It also calls for students to express themselves through writing, and requires community service.

Creating independent students

One of the key factors that differentiate the IB from other conventional methods of education is that the IB encourages students to become independent. IB students are responsible for their learning, seeing that they are encouraged to choose their topics and formulate their own projects. Tasks such as Community Project, Personal Project, and CAS, are a case in point of how the IB encourages students to autonomously conduct projects in which they advocate for a cause, helping others along with themselves. Such projects not only promote independence but also encourage pupils to look at the world with a different eye, and develop a more “empathetic eye” towards the ones in need; this applies to not only the external community but also people from school, friends, colleagues, staff, etc. In an IB class, a pupil is less likely to take notes during teacher-led lectures and more likely to work on individual or group projects.

Inquiry-based approach

The IB has an inquiry-based approach, a form of active learning that originates by posing questions, problems or scenarios. Another reason why the IB is different from other methods of teaching is due to this approach, seeing that traditional education generally relies on the teacher presenting facts and their knowledge about a subject. With an inquiry-based approach, things are different. Students dig deep into their subjects and what they're studying and manage to make connections with scenarios in the real world. By fostering global citizens, students open their eyes to what goes on in the real world.

Difference from other methods of education

Encouraging students to always be at their full potential, and be mindful of others around them, is not something that only the IB does. Many other educational methods also praise the development of students at their full potential and help them create a better world for themselves. However, the IB goes beyond. Their program provides a solid, consistent framework which encourages students to take ownership of their learning. Additionally, it aids pupils to develop future-ready skills in order to make a difference and thrive in a world that changes fast. This factor is a key indicator in differentiating the IB different from other educational methods, especially in Brazil. Numerous schools have a strong mania with “content” and “stuffing” students' minds with as much information as possible, along with a preoccupation with grades. As much as it is incredibly important to have knowledgeable students and as a result good grades, many schools tend to only focus on that and end up forgetting what is most essential: the learning journey taken by the student during school years. With that, students become more worried about trying to memorize the extended amount of content that they are given rather than learning something. Not only that but, because the “fixation” with grades is so strong, students care most about getting top marks than understanding the subject. School’s infatuation with top grades and scores can lead students to cheat and to be caught for academic misconduct; hence, the process of knowledge and understanding of new things, becomes nonexistent.

Seeing all the benefits, should everyone take the IB?

To state whether the IB is the correct option to take depends on the student. As much as the IB can be beneficial to a pupil, it could also bring adverse “side effects”. It will truly depend on how a child learns. IB lessons can be challenging viewing that it requires students to take initiative, organize and complete various projects and tasks, and speak in front of their classmates. Pupils who tend to flourish in an environment like this and enjoy having options would most likely do well in an IB school, while other students might feel overwhelmed with the intensity of the curriculum. IB can also be very time-consuming, children who struggle in school or have many ECAs (Extra curricular activities) may not have the “requisite” or even the energy to take the IB. When IB students were asked about the Diploma Program, many of them stated that it takes too much time. The DP program is not only extensive but very “heavy” content-wise, thus, students don’t have enough time to complete their extracurricular activities. The extensive requirements can also conflict with other academic demands. Too much content and time-consuming aren’t the only problems for people taking the IB; studies have shown that IB students are more susceptible to being stressed under a higher-pressure academic environment. Hence, it also makes them more susceptible to mental health problems, lower levels of happiness, and disengagement from school. Considering that the IB is such a powerful and revolutionary program, that aims to develop balanced students, isn’t it hypocritical that IB pupils are currently the ones with the highest levels of pressure and with a higher tendency to develop mental problems?

On a final note, it is evident that the IB has a different approach and views to learning than traditional education methodologies. As previously mentioned, it is different from other conventional methods of education seeing that it encourages students to think “outside the box” (something that we have been taught since little), think critically and creatively, and challenge the world around us. Furthermore, the IB has a holistic approach to learning; it does not see a student just as another pupil ready to have their “blank slate” minds filled with words “spit out” by a teacher (like what the Pink Floyd Videoclip “Another Brick In The Wall” shows and criticizes). In an IB program, all students have voices and the opportunity to view the world around them differently. Yet, it is a serious issue that IB students are constantly struggling with time management, stress and handing in assignments. To decide whether or not the IB is the correct option for you, both sides should be weighed.



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