For many teachers getting to teach the International Baccalaureate (IB) is a career goal, but gaining experience can feel like a “catch 22” situation. IB schools require experienced IB teachers, but that requires already being hired by an IB school. Of course, IB teachers, like any other teacher, all started somewhere. It’s possible! All it takes is some planning, prioritisation and flexibility.
International Baccalaureate Teaching Jobs Abroad.
There is a lot of potential within IB to find a job. Typically jobs are found through international schools as subject specific. There are options to find coordinator and leadership positions too, such as a Theory of Knowledge (TOK) teacher or a coordinator. On average IB teaching experience of two years is expected but there are ways to build that experience. Be flexible! If IB experience is the top on your list of priorities for a new job, you may have to be flexible with locations, packages and ability to save. If you prioritise IB experience above all the other factors you’ll be sure to get a break into IB teaching.
What is the IB system of teaching?
If you are here, there’s a pretty large likelihood that you are already familiar with what the system of IB is. For those of you less familiar, according to the official website the International Baccalaureate , IB aims to:
“develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. To this end the organization works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programmes of international education and rigorous assessment. These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.”
This is a classic scenario we hear:
“I’m teaching at an international school which doesn’t deliver IB. I would love for my career to go in the direction of IB, and want to start preparations. All IB schools state that they would prefer previous IB experience in their vacancies. To get experience I need the training, but also found out the training requires already being in an IB school. Where does this leave me?”
Sound familiar? Not all is lost. We have drawn on our experienced community to give you the low down on gaining IB teacher experience
5 ways to get IB experience.
If you want to get into teaching the IB Diploma Programme it is almost essential to have experience of teaching 16-18 years old, so A Level or the equivalent is the best. From there you can build on the following:
You should be able to demonstrate a good working knowledge and understanding of IB, despite not having taught it. Having experience teaching the curriculum will of course hold you in the best position, but if you can show a familiarity it will help. IB marking will help your case a little, as it gives you an idea about the curriculum. IB tutoring helps to a lesser extent. It doesn’t make a big difference but it all helps for you to demonstrate your familiarity with the program. If you are an accredited examiner for the IB, that’s a really useful skill to have.
2. Learn the IB learner profile.
Familiarise yourself with the true nature of IB and what is expected. There is no reason why you can’t adopt the values from the IB profile in the way you teach and within your students’ learning. Alexis Toye’s post on the IB learner profiles outlines some ideas on getting the profile principles into the classroom. Getting to develop using these in your classroom will allow you to reflect on and see how your students’ learning enhances and how your teaching develops. This reflection can then be used to demonstrate your understanding in your application for an IB program. Demonstrate how your experience and interests would translate perfectly into teaching the IB. For example, if you are into offering extra-curricular activities: that will sit perfectly within the Creativity, Action, Service (CAS) component of the IB.
3. Become a great international teacher.
Being able to demonstrate you are good forward thinking and progressive teacher will stand you in good stead when applying for an IB international teaching job. While it is true that schools might require experienced IB teachers it’s not set in stone. They often say this as they are required to send teachers for training so if someone already has the training, of course it’s easier for them. It doesn’t rule you out though. Do your research and find similarities in your own curriculum and explain how your teaching style will suit it well. Eg, how do you encourage students to become independent learners?
3. Get experience in your home country first.
If you are in the UK and know you want to teach IB internationally, you could find schools in the UK with IB curriculum and try and get some experience there before jetting-off overseas. Additionally, a growing number of private and state schools in the UK offer IB, so UK teachers might want to seek employment at one of these to gain IB experience before moving overseas.
4. Get some training.
There are a number of workshops that you can attend, either face-to-face or online. The IB Educator Certificate is also offered by various universities around the world; some offer a distance learning option. This alone won’t be enough so use it as a way to compliment your experience and demonstration of IB knowledge.
5. Chose a location wisely.
Pick a country and school that are willing to take less experienced IB teachers. Apparently China is easier than in other parts of the world. Middle level schools in South-East Asia are also a good bet. With all schools, they are looking for strong teachers who can adapt to the IB.
Try getting your foot in the door at a less desirable location for a few years before applying for your first choice. Try “lower tier” schools as an entryway into the system.
If you are a newly qualified teacher (NQT) you can still get experience in an international school, too. There are a growing number of COBIS schools around the world that deliver NQT induction. This will allow you to gain your initial IB experience in an international setting.
How do you transition from a UK curriculum to an IB one?
Have you been teaching A levels and want to transition over to IB? Having an understanding of how they differ from a learner perspective can help you decide if it is for you. It will also enable you to figure out what steps you will need to take make in transition.
- The IB and A-Levels are both 2 years of study. A levels are 3-4 subjects and IB takes on 6 subjects.
- In addition to the 6 subjects in IB there are additional components
- The grading system is different. A levels are A* – E vs. IB which uses numbers 1-7, 7 being the highest.
- IB is a fast growing qualification where as A Levels have been around longer and remain seen as a global standard. It’s both a matter of preference.
- If you are wanting to teach IB you must familiarise yourself with Theory of knowledge, Extended Essay and CAS Creativity, Action Service.
Expert first hand experience and advice in transitioning from a UK curriculum to an IB one
Our CEO, Alex has his own experience transitioning from the UK curriculum to an IB one and has the following guidance
- Read the programme guide for their subject – this is the Geography guide. This guide also includes the learner profile and an overview of the diploma as a whole.
- Build a working understanding of the Theory of Knowledge, Extended Essay and CAS as well as how the subject options work. You can find this information it the individual subject guides but also on the IB website. There are loads of videos and online training on there to really get stuck into your research.
- Understand how the IB curriculum is structured – what’s core and optional, what’s Higher Level and Standard Level.
- Assessment works differently to A-levels. Start to study the assessment which is combined of skills, coursework, exams etc.
- If you are currently in a school ask them to set you up with access to the IB portal. This will give you access to further resources.
- Once you have started at an IB school, ask you school to send you on an IB training course.
“The hardest thing to get my head around was the Internal Assessments and Extended Essays which was so different to anything I’d ever done in A-Level History. But I do feel that EEs are a true learning journey for you as a teacher as you encounter areas you may never have ever taught or studied yourself. You become as passionate about learning as the students because their enthusiasm for their studies and their area of interest is infectious. You genuinely feel at times that you can watch students self-direct their learning and you watch become critical thinkers across the board.
I feel that understanding the demands it places on students is key-you have to quickly understand that these kids are faced with not only academic pressures of 6 subjects but that their time is taken up by CAS activities, so having a strong sense of empathy and working with them on soft skills such as time management is vital. Weaving the Learner Profile into my subject was something that I have found massively rewarding, and gives me a sense of helping these students become more worldly people. I am just in awe of the rounded nature of IB students and the conversations that are provoked by e.g. CAS, their research etc stand out.’
We hope that this overview gives you hope in transitioning over to IB. A little reminder to check out the ‘key details’ section on Teacher Horizons’ school’s profile page to see if they are an IB accredited school.
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