When Olivia was in year 6, her parents recognised that it was time to change the way she was learning. Now, 21, she reflects that she has always been a “big picture” learner and it was for this reason her parents transferred her to a school that offered the International Baccalaureate program.
“It was all about giving me a choice,” the Bachelor of Arts student says.
It’s a decision an increasing number of parents are making in Australia and around the world. Between 2012 and 2017, the number of IB programmes offered worldwide has grown by almost 40 per cent. The course that used to be exclusive to international schools or reserved for children of expats, is now giving tough competition to the state-based curriculum.
What is the IB?
The International Baccalaureate or IB combines four learning programs aimed at children between 3 and 19 years of age. The four programs are primary years, middle years, diploma and career related. For a school to be eligible to offer this, it has to be authorised by the IB organisation and currently, Australia has 180 such schools, offering one or more of these programs based on developing the skills needed to thrive in a globalised world.
How it differs from the state curriculum
For Olivia, the biggest difference of transferring into the IB from doing the state-based curriculum, was a firm focus on long-form projects and an emphasis on building an awareness around an individual’s learning patterns.
“There were a lot of different styles of thinking and different learning profiles that they encouraged you to explore,” she says.
For parents, the most pivotal factor to address is how the IB Diploma differs from other senior-certificates such as the HSC. Extending on its aim of preparing global citizens, the IB Diploma structure requires senior students to choose one subject from each of the following: language and literature, language acquisition, individual and societies, sciences and mathematics.
Where, the HSC for example, allows students to pick all their units (barring English which is compulsory), in the IB, students are encouraged to acquire a more varied education instead of specialisation in a field.
Preparing students for university
Australia-wide, 67 universities currently accept the IB Diploma, the marks from which can be converted to acquire an ATAR. While Olivia agrees that university education is subjective, for her, choosing the IB allowed her to feel better prepared for higher education. The reason she says, is her ability to relate concepts and learning to a wider socio-political context, a skill she learned in the IB. Having a more internationally recognised education under her belt has also given her the confidence of potentially pursuing jobs or an education overseas. And the point is hard to deny. With over 4000 schools globally offering the program, it certainly has international appeal, especially for parents looking to raise children in today’s increasingly globalised world.