About IB and its Growing Popularity

This week I received a couple of email questions asking for an explanation about what the International Baccalaureate (IB) program is exactly, and I am pleased to oblige.

Parents looking for a private school in Ontario to enrol their children in will undoubtedly come across many confusing school affiliations: OFIS, SSAF, CIS Ontario, CAIS, and of course, the IB. The International Baccalaureate was founded in 1968 in Geneva, Switzerland. It is a non-profit educational foundation offering four highly respected programs of international education (the IB Diploma Program is the highest tier and most widely offered one). The IB is divided into these 4 programs in order to target specific age ranges and provide the appropriate education depending on the age of the child. These programs develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills needed to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world. Schools must be authorized by the IB organization to be able to offer any of the programs. Teachers must also be “IB certified” in order to teach IB courses. Some private schools offer the three main programs so that students receive an IB education all throughout their school lives before university, while some schools merely offer a few IB courses instead of the actual programs.

More than 1 million students worldwide are enrolled at an IB school. The main significance of the IB program is that it provides an internationally standardized education. This is important because it means IB students often score higher on Canada’s standardized tests, like EQAO’s grade 3 and 6 exams, and an IB education often carries more weight and recognition when applying to universities.

Universities’ admission committees are also searching for the “well-rounded child”, or students who have more than just academic excellence on their application.  The IB’s programs are different from other curricula because they:

  • encourage students of all ages to think critically and challenge assumptions
  • develop independently of government and national systems, incorporating quality practice from research and our global community of schools
  • encourages students of all ages to consider both local and global contexts
  • develop multilingual students

Students in the IB Diploma Program (the public high school equivalent of grades 10-12) are better prepared for university life. Students must compose an extended essay of approximately 4,000 words that requires a good deal of research, using the critical-thinking and inquiry-based skills that the program stresses from the primary years. IB Diploma students often say that the program prepared them for the harsh academic realities of university: they have the skills to exceed in a rigorous academic environment and already know how to write a research-based essay, something new to many incoming first-year students. They also say they experienced less of a grade drop than their peers with a public school background (read this Maclean’s article about how public school students’ grades “will” drop by 10 points in their first year of university).

There are only 13 certified IB schools in Ontario, and I am pleased to say that St. Jude’s Academy is one of them.

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