IB Diploma Programme

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) is a two-year educational programme primarily aimed at 16 to 18 year olds. The programme provides an internationally accepted qualification for entry into higher education and is recognized by many universities worldwide. It was developed in the early to mid-1960s in Geneva, Switzerland, by a group of international educators. After a six-year pilot programme ended in 1975, a bilingual diploma was established.

Administered by the International Baccalaureate (IB), the IBDP is taught in schools in over 140 countries, in one of three languages: English, French, or Spanish. In order to participate, students must attend an IB school. IBDP students complete assessments in six subjects, one from each subject group, and three core requirements. Students are evaluated using both internal and external assessments, and courses finish with an externally assessed series of examinations, usually consisting of two or three timed written tests. Internal assessment varies by subject: there may be oral presentations, practical work, or written work. In most cases, these are initially graded by the classroom teacher, whose grades are then verified or modified, as necessary, by an appointed external moderator.

Generally, the IBDP has been well received. It has been commended for introducing interdisciplinary thinking to students. In the United Kingdom, The Guardian newspaper claims that the IBDP is "more academically challenging and broader than three or four A-levels".[1] However, a pledge to allow children in all areas to participate in the programme was shelved amid concerns that a "two-tier" education system was emerging, because the growth in IB was driven by private schools and sixth form colleges. British students who take the IB with its six subjects, Extended Essay (EE), Theory of Knowledge (TOK), and Creativity, Action and Service (CAS) receive differently structured university offers to those who sit three A-levels, with universities working carefully to construct appropriate equivalent offer conditions.[2]

History and background

In 1945 the "Conference of Internationally-minded Schools" asked the International School of Geneva (Ecolint) to create an international schools programme.[3][4] When he became director of Ecolint's English division, Desmond Cole-Baker began to develop the idea, and in 1962, his colleague Robert Leach organised a conference in Geneva, at which the term "International Baccalaureate" was first mentioned.[3][5] An American social studies teacher, Leach organized the conference—with a $2500 grant from UNESCO—which was attended by observers from European schools and UNESCO. Writing about the genesis of the International Baccalaureate in Schools Across Frontiers, Alec Peterson credits Leach as "the original promoter of the International Baccalaureate."[6] At the end of the conference, Unesco funded the International School Association with an additional $10,000, which was inadequate to do more than produce a few papers, or bring teachers together for meetings.[7]

Château at Ecolint where IB was developed.

By 1964, international educators such as Alec Peterson (director of the Department of Education at Oxford University), Harlan Hanson (director of the College Board Advanced Placement Program), Desmond Cole (director of United Nations International School in New York) and Desmond Cole-Baker (head of the International School of Geneva) founded the International Schools Examination Syndicate (ISES).[8][9] Cole and Hanson brought experience with college entrance examinations in the United States, and Hanson, in particular, brought his experience from a long relationship with the College Board.[9] According to Peterson, "the breakthrough in the history of the IB" came in 1965 with a grant from the Twentieth Century Fund, which commissioned Martin Mayer, author of The Schools, to produce a report on the feasibility of establishing a common curriculum and examination for international schools that would be acceptable for entry to universities worldwide.[7] This led to conferences involving Ecolint, United World College of the Atlantic (UWC Atlantic College), and others in the spring and fall of 1965, at which details about the curriculum for the Diploma Programme were discussed and agreed upon.[7]

The Ford Foundation grant, secured in 1966, funded Peterson's study at Oxford University, which focused on three issues: a comparative analysis of "secondary educational programmes in European countries...in cooperation with the Council of Europe"; university expectations for secondary students intending to enter university; and a "statistical comparison of IB pilot examination results with...national school leaving examinations such as British A Levels and US College Board (AP) Tests".[7][8] As a result of the study and the curriculum model developed at UWC Atlantic College, Peterson initiated the pattern of combining "general education with specialization", which melded with the curricula of the United States and Canada, and became the "curriculum framework" proposed at the UNESCO conference in Geneva in 1967.[8] Late in 1967, ISES was restructured and renamed the IB Council of Foundation, and John Goormaghtigh became the first president in January 1968.[7] In 1967, the group, which by then also included Ralph Tyler, identified eight schools to be used for the experimentation of the curriculum.[10]

In 1968, the IB headquarters were officially established in Geneva for the development and maintenance of the IBDP. Alec Peterson became IBO's first director general, and in 1968, twelve schools in twelve countries participated in the IBDP, including UWC Atlantic College and UNIS of New York.[7][8][11] The aim was to "provide an internationally acceptable university admissions qualification suitable for the growing mobile population of young people whose parents were part of the world of diplomacy, international and multi-national organizations."[12]

The first six years of the IB Diploma Programme, with a limited number of students, are referred to as the "experimental period".[13] Each school was to be inspected by ISES or IBO and had to be approved by their government.[14] The experimental period ended in 1975, and in that year, the International Baccalaureate North America (IBNA) was established as a separate entity, allowing the funding for implementation of the IBDP to remain in the country rather than being sent to Geneva.[15] The first official guide to the programme containing its syllabus and official assessment information was published in 1970 and included the theory of knowledge course. The extended essay was introduced in 1978, but creativity, action, service (CAS), although mentioned in guides beforehand, was not specifically identified in the guide until 1989.[7][16]

In 1980, responding to criticism that the "internationalism" was Eurocentric, the IB hosted a seminar in Singapore with the goal of incorporating Asian culture and education into the IB curriculum. In 1982, the Standing Conference of Heads of IB Schools took steps to modify the Eurocentrism in the curriculum. The same year, the Japanese government hosted a science conference for IBO "as a token of Japanese interest in the various dimensions of the IB".[8]

From the start, all subjects of the IB Diploma Programme were available in English and French, and it was mandatory for all students to study both a first and a second language.[17] In 1974, bilingual diplomas were introduced that allowed students to take one or more of their humanities or science subjects in a language other than their first. The IB Diploma Programme subjects became available in Spanish in 1983.[17]

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