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International Baccalaureate: Educating global citizens

Source: Western International School Shanghai

The history of the International Baccalaureate goes back seven decades, when the director of an international school in Geneva, Switzerland wrote a handbook for UNESCO titled, Educational Techniques for Peace. Do They Exist?

In Marie-Thérèse Maurette’s insightful and revolutionary seminar report, she presents a new way to teach history and geography, insisting on the acquisition of two working languages and encouraging students to keep up with current affairs.

She then turns on the importance of human solidarity, from the running of student bakeries to self-help projects, and participation in the student council – factors that can now be called the genesis of the IB Creativity, Action and Service (CAS) programme.

Maurette championed the idea that academics, co-curriculars and ethos must reinforce and be consistent with each other. Twenty years on, teachers from the International School of Geneva (Ecolint), where Maurette was director, created the International Schools Examinations Syndicate (ISES), which would later become the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) and then the International Baccalaureate (IB).

It started with the development of the IB Diploma Programme 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 organisations”, offering standardised courses and assessments for students aged 16 to 19.

Source: Western International School Shanghai

As the IB grew in recognition, the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP), IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) and finally, the IB Career-related Programme (CP) were introduced.

Launching the CP in 2012, Dr Siva Kumari, IB Director General, said: “In a global economy, such global perspectives, lifelong learning, and analytical skills are much needed. CP students will access a broad, flexible education which will give them knowledge, practical training, intellectual engagement, and international-mindedness, while developing higher-order cognitive skills and academic behaviours that will enhance their employability and dramatically alter their world view.”

The IB has come a long way since its debut. Today, the IB continuum of international education for 3-19-year olds stands out for its academic and personal rigour, challenging students, young and old, to excel both in their studies and personal growth. A recent joint report by Inside Higher Ed and Gallup found that most senior admission officials at US universities place a high standing on candidates with IB qualifications.

Despite this acknowledgment, not many international schools offer the IB continuum. In mainland China, where there are more than 500 English-medium international schools, only the Western International School of Shanghai (WISS) offers this sought-after programme.

“Working with students from the age of 3 to 18, we have over 50 different nationalities exploring challenging aspects of the world around us and experiencing the joys of inquiry-based learning. As an IB World School, WISS is uniquely placed to promote new perspectives and broaden the minds of the children in our care, and deepen their sense of understanding and wonder,” says Dr. Greg Brunton, Director at WISS.

Source: Western International School Shanghai

While there are 4,700 schools worldwide delivering IB programmes, the select few that offer the full continuum hold the upper hand. By providing the entire, unbroken IB curriculum model, WISS not only prepares students to gain the most sought-after qualification for university entry, but also equips them with a holistic education model that prepares them to be lifelong active learners and global citizens.

We see the full breadth and effect of the full IB programme in action at WISS, where this journey starts with the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP), supporting students aged 3-12 as they construct meaning from the wider world.

Together with a curriculum framework of essential elements – knowledge, concepts, skills, attitudes, and action – this provides a holistic approach to developing the whole child’s social, emotional and physical development.

The IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) then follows; the aim of which is to deliver a school experience so students are outfitted with the desire and skills needed to understand and impact the world. At this point, students pursue eight subject groups, begin their study of at least two languages (language of instruction and additional language of choice) and participate in service within the community.

While A Level students focus on three to four academic subjects, the IB Diploma Programme (DP) develops the whole person. Three course requirements form the core of the DP Model: Theory of Knowledge (ToK), Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) and the extended essay.

The first ensures students gain critical thinking skills and inquire into the process of learning, rather than merely learning a specific body of knowledge. Students then pursue independent, in-depth research in one of the six chosen subjects for the IB diploma – this promotes research, communication and intellectual excitement.

Source: Western International School Shanghai

For each of the three CAS strands, students examine global issues from local perspectives through experiential learning. For the Creativity strand, students can take music, arts or theatre projects. To fulfil the Activity strand, they can opt for sports and exercise, while the Service portion can be satisfied by taking part in volunteering at school or outside.

Research has shown that such beyond the classroom activities support academic attainment, in addition to improving social skills, well-being and self-confidence.

Accepted by 3,300 universities in 90 countries, the IB DP holds a reputation for being one of the most prestigious and challenging pre-university qualifications around. As WISS Secondary School Principal, Myles D’Airelle, describes, it’s a programme that prepares students for “success at university and life beyond”.

For those interested in developing their passions in a more practical way, WISS offers the IB Career-related Programme (CP). Here, students select two to four IB academic courses to be complemented with a CP core. This gives them personal and professional skills, develops their language, promotes service learning and produces a reflective project that helps them identify, analyse, critically discuss and evaluate ethical issues arising from their career-related studies.

The final component is the career-related study. WISS currently offers three pathways: Production Arts (Theater Technology), Sports, or Art and Design. The first two are BTEC Level 3 Subsidiary Diplomas produced by one of the biggest names in education, Pearson, while the last runs in collaboration with Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD).

Mr. D’Airelle says: “The focus of the CP is to allow students to learn from experience and to be given credit for what they are able to do with a career in mind.”

If holistic, child-focused, balanced and innovative is what you’d like your child’s education to achieve, WISS is the place to be.

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