The 6th of July marked the end of an anxious wait for IB Diploma students from international schools in Thailand and around the world. That day, the exam results were posted online and students found out whether or not they had passed their Diploma and with how many points. A two-year course ending with exams in May, the IB Diploma is amongst the top qualifications for acceptance into university. Students who pass the diploma are assured of a space at a good university anywhere in the world.
The International Baccaluareate (IB) Diploma has been around since the late 1960’s and is recognised by over 1800 universities around the world . In fact 16 of Thailand’s international schools opt to offer the IB Diploma to students in the last two years of high school.
However there is more to the International Baccalaureate than the Diploma alone. The IB offers three programmes to educate students from 3 years old up to 18 or 19 years of age. For students from 3-11 there is the IB Primary Years Programme, for students from 11 to 16 there is the IB Middle Years Programme, and then there is the IB Diploma for students from 16-18 or 19 in their last two years of high school.
In Thailand there are 4 schools that offer all three IB Programmes, they are KIS International School, Concordian International School and New International School of Thailand in Bangkok, and Prem Tinsulanonda International School in Chiang Mai.
Most other schools in Thailand will offer either a full national curriculum (such as the British Curriculum or an American Curriculum) for students of all ages or a national curriculum for students up to 16 years old, followed by (sometimes optional) the IB Diploma for the last two years of high school.
With a range of different schools and curricula to choose from, what sets an IB school apart from other schools?
First of all the IB is international in every way. Not only are the content and learning materials international (unlike for example the British curriculum where the content and materials are British), but it also promotes international-mindedness and a global perspective in its students, while additionally encouraging exploration of the home culture and language. This prepares your child for success in a world where internationalism is becoming the norm. Furthermore the IB is available around the world, offered to date in more than 3,400 schools in 143 countries. This allows expat children to easily transfer from one country to another while maintaining the same curriculum.
Next, unlike a national curriculum, which is generally prescribed and influenced by a local government, the IB is run by an independent organisation made up of academics with international experience. The curriculum is not affected by governmental changes and decisions. All schools which aim to offer any or all of the IB programmes must be authorised by the IB, and re-authorised every five years. All teachers must undergo specific IB teacher training, and continuous professional development is encouraged. This ensures that the quality of the IB remains consistently high in all IB schools around the world.
Consistency can also be found within the programme. Where the A-levels have suffered from so-called “grade inflation” where more students are getting more high marks on the A-levels, the IB has very consistent marking, with the pass rate for the Diploma over the past five years consistently hovering around the 78% mark. This, combined with the fact that the Diploma is broad (students take 6 subjects plus three additional core elements) as well as deep (3 subjects are taken at higher level and three at standard level), allows universities to better understand the strengths of each applicant. Many universities have provided feedback to the IB stating the IB Diploma students are better prepared for the rigours of university than their peers with other qualifications. The Director of Admissions from Harvard, for example, said: “IB is well known to us for excellent preparation. Success in an IB programme correlates well with success at Harvard. We are always pleased to see the credentials of the IB Diploma Programme on the transcript.”
As mentioned before, the IB provides a continuum of learning. This means that once a student starts in an IB programme he or she can continue with the IB until the end of high school. While each programme can be studied separately from the others, a full IB education will offer a student a cohesive philosophy. Students will develop a broader world view. They will develop skills such as critical thinking, time management, research, and organisational skills which will help them with their academic career and with success in life.
The way that the IB is taught also sets it apart from other curricula. The IB encourages students to make connections in their learning. Students explore the links between different subjects, the relationship between what they are learning and the world around them, plus the relevance of what they are learning to their own experience. The content is related to larger concepts, creating understanding at a higher level. Rather than remembering facts, students understand why things happen, and learn to relate this understanding to other events in the world. Part of the IB is also developing necessary skills and positive atttitudes, including a positive attitude to learning. All of these elements help the student to continue their learning throughout their lives, supporting their success in an ever-changing world. Most kids enjoy learning under the IB system. It is driven by the students’ inquiry and allows students to take responsibility for their own learning. The programmes are exciting, vibrant, caring and fun… and hard work too.
The mission of the IB is “to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect”. One of the ways that this is encouraged in your child is by the IB Learner Profile, a set of ten characteristics that the IB stimulates in its students. The IB promotes students to be thinkers, inquirers, communicators, risk-takers, knowledgeable, principled, caring, open-minded, well-balanced and reflective. These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right. IB World schools promote intercultural understanding and respect, not as an alternative to a sense of cultural and national identity, but as an essential part of life in the 21st century.
Each of the IB programmes challenge students academically and more hours of homework are required as students progress through the programme. But children who have completed an IB education in Thailand or anywhere else in the world, will have advantages that will set them apart from other students. And that’s certainly worth the anxious wait for results in July.
 Marilyn McGrath Lewis, Director of Admissions, Harvard University , taken from http://www.ibo.org/actionkits/documents/CO_QuotesaboutTheIB.pdf July 2012