How is the International Baccalaureate (IB) different? Why is there so much buzz around it? Is it a fad or is there something substantial? These are questions that all ask. As the IB celebrates 50 years of its existence and increases its footprint in India, the writer gets you all the answers including an exclusive interview with Director General of the IB, Dr Siva Kumari
At a time when India is looking within to seek inspiration from its past to provide better learning opportunities to the next generation of learners, two damning survey reports (National Assessment Survey, November-NAS 2017 and Annual Status of Education Report-ASER 2017) have painted a dismal picture of the education system in the country.
One reason for this rot in the system is perhaps the over emphasis on the examinationcentric and rote-learning methodology, feel experts, who instead suggest various methods of learning that largely border on the age-old gurukulam way of educating the young ones. In a globalised and digitised 21st century, the closest that comes to the gurukulam way of learning is the International Baccalaureate (IB) method, which is celebrating its 50 years of service to the world.
As the Director General of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Dr Siva Kumari says, “Our founders saw a need for an international standard education that would bring young people together with the skills, values and knowledge necessary to build a more peaceful humanity. This mission – to create a better world through education, that can unite people, nations and cultures for a sustainable future—has remained the same. We develop young people who act on local and global issues throughout their education, and as lifelong learners beyond. We encourage the curiosity inherent in every child, critical thinking, international mindedness, and a hunger for knowledge and understanding. Our programmes are designed so that students build a deep appreciation of how their studies are meaningful, and how they fit into the wider context of our world.”
Established in Geneva, Switzerland in 1968, the IB is now offered in about 5,000 schools across 153 different countries educating more than 1.4 million students.
The IB, which is a non-profit organisation, had its origins in 1948, when Marie-Thérèse Maurette, a French educator, who worked at the International School of Geneva (ISG), wrote an essay titled ‘Educational Techniques for peace. Do they exist?’. In the essay, Marie-Thérèse Maurette laid the framework for today’s IB Diploma Programme (IBDP).
During mid-1960s, a group of teachers from the ISG went on to create the International Schools Examinations Syndicate (ISES), which was later renamed the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) and eventually came to be known as the International Baccalaureate (IB). In the late 1960s, a group of innovative educators saw a need for an international approach to education which would equip young people with the skills, values and knowledge necessary to build a more peaceful future. Their challenge – to create an education which was academically rigorous, with a school leaving qualification which was accepted by the best universities around the world. Combining their collective skills, experience and expertise in all areas of education, they created the International Baccalaureate (IB). From this strong foundation, educators have continued to develop and cocreate the education for almost 50 years – and today, it is just as true to its founding ethos and values of education for a better world.
International Baccalaureate offers an education for children from age 3 to 19. There are four IB programmes, which focus on teaching students to “think critically and independently, and how to inquire with care and logic.”
The students are prepared to achieve greater heights in a world “where facts and fiction merge in the news, and where asking the right questions is a crucial skill that will allow them to flourish long after they’ve left our programmes.” Students are ably supported by IB trained coordinators and teachers, who develop and promote the IB’s curriculums to schools globally every day.
In a interview with Brainfeed Magazine, Dr Siva Kumari, Director General, International Baccalaureate gave candid replies. Excerpts:
The IB is currently celebrating its 50th year of existence. When you look back, what do you see?
When you look forward, what do you see? Dr Siva Kumari: In 1968 a group of innovative educators reenvisioned what education should be. Their mission was rather revolutionary—and today we continue to foster that vision. It is still relevant in a world where we face an unprecedented pace of change. We believe in high academic standards in curriculum, schools environments that foster open and enlightened minds though great learning, and world standard assessment recognised by universities.
From 7 schools and 7 countries in 1968, IB has grown to almost 5,000 schools across 153 different countries with more than 1.4 million students. Comment.
SK: We are so very proud that schools, parents and students continue to want our philosophy. The increasing appeal of an IB education, both from schools and parents, is reflective of our unique value proposition. We are a viable alternative alongside national curricula and our relevance is increasing as the world changes. Universities and employers are actively looking for students and graduates with the kinds of skills that the IB develops.
What was the mission of IB when it started, and what is it today?
SK: Our founders saw a need for an international standard education that would bring young people together with the skills, values and knowledge necessary to build a more peaceful humanity. This mission – to create a better world through education, that can unite people, nations and cultures for a sustainable future—has remained the same. We develop young people who act on local and global issues throughout their education, and as lifelong learners beyond.
What are the IB’s milestones?
SK: Our first milestone was in 1970 when the first students sat for their Diploma Programme (DP) exams. Three years later the first IB World School opened in Africa. 1994, 1997 and 2012 are also important dates because we developed our offering and launched first the Middle Years Programme (MYP), then the Primary Years Programme (PYP) and in 2012 the Career-related Programme (CP). 2015 is a more recent milestone when we launched eAssessment for MYP february 18 19 Cover Story students – we hope to launch online assessment for all of our programmes in the future. From our beginnings in a handful of schools, we now teach over 1.4 million students in over 150 countries, at nearly 5,000 schools. However, every day is a new milestone – we have the honour of welcoming new schools and hundreds of new students into our community daily, and we engage with a world of schools while we work around the world, 24 hours a day.
Do you think IB has achieved what it set out to?
SK: Every day, I read stories from students and educators who contribute to the world and inspire others to do the same. Our mission of a better world through education, as set out by our founders, remains as important, if not more important and urgent, than in 1968. Our alumni are prepared with the skills and mindset to succeed in our fast-changing world. Whether they lead organisations or create new ones, they are well rounded and prepared for a global world. The best universities all around the world recognise the value of a Diploma Programme student.
What makes IB programmes unique and in what way is it different from other models of education?SK: We encourage the curiosity inherent in every child, critical thinking, international mindedness, and a hunger for knowledge and understanding. Our programmes are designed so that students build a deep appreciation of how their studies are meaningful, and how they fit into the wider context of our world. All four programmes are committed to multilingualism and to action through service both locally and globally. We believe in our creativity, action and service (CAS) project, in deep passionate study via the extended essay, in original research and understanding the theory of knowledge (TOK).
Ever since you have taken over as the Director General of IB, has there been any shift in policy, implementation of new programmes and learning models?SK: We have defined a new organisational strategy, which is based on three key pillars— innovation, community and service. We are becoming a digital first organisation, including launching eAssessment in the Middle Years Programme (MYP) and a mindset to think how we deliver service to our worldwide community digitally. We are creating new partnerships continually, including those with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Harvard’s Project Zero.
What makes an IB student or a teacher unique?
SK: What sets IB students apart is our learner profile. We want to develop open minded, balanced and knowledgeable people. They care about the world and the people around them, and are curious. Our students learn to ask good questions, rather than think they should be finding a single“right” answer – they are critical thinkers and lifelong learners. Our global community of international educators are key in building our community and are at the centre of what makes our programmes so purposeful and challenging. They inspire a passion for learning, inquiry and the drive to improve our programmes. We co-create and co-develop curriculums with IB educators and subject experts around the world. Our educators also train newer IB adapters and give them the tools to do more than teach a course – they ignite passion and curiosity to teach in a way that is best suited for their students.
Success stories of IB alumni.
SK: I believe all of our alumni are well equipped— critical thinkers, open-minded, risk takers and more— to be successful in their lives and careers, and in those of others. We are proud of our alumni and of the tools we have given them to thrive and succeed. Many of them join our active alumni network and contribute to our community after leaving school. We have IB students who have become IB educators, astronauts, prime ministers, award-winning actors, NGO executives and entrepreneurs. Each of them is successful in different ways, and I am so proud that so many of our students leave the IB with a commitment and the skills to address humanity’s greatest challenges.
An IB education is largely out of bounds for bright children from low income group families in developing and yet-to-develop countries. Do you have plans to extend the benefits of an IB education to such children?
SK: More than half of IB World Schools are state schools, several of which offer IB programmes and courses for free such as Chicago Public Schools. Others, such as United World Colleges offer scholarships especially for refugees. My wish is that more and more schools will offer IB programmes to children from all income group families. We always get hugely excited whenever we get a request from a school to offer our programmes for free. And, of course, we are always looking for opportunities to improve access in countries like India. Q Your outlook for the IB in 2020. SK: We will have a strong IB community implementing high educational standards benchmarked against world standards. We will continue to morph our organisation to fit our new connected, continually changing world.
Your plans to celebrate the IB’s 50 successful years.
SK: We have a special anniversary platform where we showcase stories from our community, 50years.ibo. org. Here, we celebrate the wonderful stories from IB students, educators and alumni. We have also just launched our first documentary style film together with ITN Productions – bringing to life the energy of IB classrooms around the world. Another collection of films highlights four extraordinary IB alumni and how their IB education has influenced them since graduating. Lastly, we will be organising a special opportunity for IB students across the world to work together on solving some of society’s greatest challenges in September.