A recent article by Market Watch discussed compelling reasons to enroll in an International Baccalaureate Programme (IB). According to a study by the University of Chicago, IB Diploma Programme students in some Chicago Public Schools were “40 percent more likely to attend a four-year college, 50 percent more likely to attend a more selective college and significantly more likely to persist in four-year colleges for at least two years, compared to similar students who did not enroll in the IB Diploma Programme” (PR Newswire). These findings are remarkable and more impressive when you consider the demographics of these students: “predominately first-generation college students [and] 77% were eligible for free or reduced lunch” (PR Newswire).
What I find most astonishing about the results of the study and reason enough to enroll in IB (when available) is the tangible impact it has on a student’s ability to persist in college. Studies generally look at the first year of college when students are most vulnerable and likely to consider dropping out, College Board says the SAT can determine how some students might do in the first year of college, but little beyond that. Thus, the fact that this particular group of Chicago students were more likely to persist as a direct result of their IB education means something very important.
The IB Programme dates back to the 1960s when teachers in Geneva created a consistent, pre-college curriculum for students around the world. At the time, it was a novel, perhaps even peculiar idea, but the IB Programme has developed into one of the most sought after tracks for some families. Beyond academics, IB aims to develop globally minded young people, something that makes a whole lot of sense in a world where economic viability is dependent on a successful global economy. Beyond that, IB tries instill a passion for learning and civic engagement.
People often ask about IB vs AP. What’s perhaps most interesting about an IB class over an AP class is that IB courses do not exist solely for the purpose of taking an exam. Yes, there are IB examinations, but generally speaking, IB courses claim to offer students more of an opportunity to use critical thinking and analytical skills for the sake of learning and intellectual growth. This is not to say the same can’t happen in an AP course, but the purpose of an AP course is to prepare students for the AP exam.
Both tracks offer opportunities for students to challenge themselves, and IB, like AP isn’t available at all schools – in fact programs are far and few between in the U.S. Thus, colleges certainly see the value in the IB Programme, but again, like APs, a student who does not have access to IB cannot be penalized. And that student who has access to IB, but takes AP instead, she probably won’t be penalized either so long as she takes the most rigorous AP curriculum. Then, there are questions about the IB Diploma vs simply taking an IB course (of course IB Programmes start at age three, so these questions start early). As with anything in life, it’s usually best to follow-through on a task, so starting with the goal of an IB Diploma and graduating with that is preferred, but also like most things in life the path isn’t always so clear cut.
The point then is this: those students who can and do enroll in IB Programmes probably see enormous benefits assuming they take advantage of the opportunity. Recently, a mother told me with such certainty, I almost believed her, that a local IB Programme wasn’t worth it because it was at a public school she didn’t care for. The fact is, she’s wrong. Sure, nobody can guarantee each IB Programme is exactly the same at every single school, but I’d venture to say so long as the foundation, funding and professional development exists, no matter the school, an IB Programme offers students a great deal.
There are always critics and the IB Programme is no exception. Opponents say it’s expensive to implement and not as widely available (as APs), but what’s most fascinating are those who call IB “un-American” and “anti-Christian”. They argue the global focus is in contrast to traditional American values and promotes global citizenship over American citizenship and identity. There is also an online movement, The Truth About IB that raises concerns ago the tax burden of IB Programmes. Check it out to learn more.
I will leave you with one take on the main pros and cons of IB, but I would be remiss not to share that I do strongly support programs that help develop critical and independent thinkers capable of analyzing and solving problems and I think, based on my research, IB does this. There are of course many paths to this outcome and IB is just one of those paths. Finally, though education may not be a for profit business in the traditional sense, the profit is how successful our students are in their careers and life beyond school. Thus, in order to produce, we do have to spend.
From Pros and Cons of International Baccalaureate Program
by DR. PATRICIA FIORIELLO
Four Pros of the IB Program
#1 – The IB program is aligned with the recommendations of the Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce.
#2 – Districts can use Title 1 funds to implement IB program.
#3 – IB program has an international and global focus.
#4 – IB program present in urban city schools.
Four Cons of the IB Program
#1 – The IB program is expensive to implement.
#2 – US schools have a larger AP program in place that is more flexible.
#3 – Many IB schools are not centrally located.
#4 – Critics state the IB program is Anti-American and Anti-Christian.