The International Baccalaureate, first set up to provide education to diplomat families abroad, is a sought after curriculum for international schools. It’s become a widely used and worldwide renowned program for international schools around the globe— but will this remain?

There has been some current scrutiny after the decision from IB to scrap exams this year and grade students based solely on their coursework. The IB coursework is developed to build well-rounded members of society, with a wider scope such as social-emotional learning. Of course, assessing this in place of a final exam is no easy task. The pandemic-induced global pause pushes us to consider current education systems and create a new vision for the future.

Can the IB withstand the scrutiny? With information from IB experts around the globe, the consensus is that IB remains strong and is still worth schools getting accredited. 

Read on for further information about the IB, how schools gain accreditation and what the IB is planning for the future.

What is an International Baccalaureate school?

The IB programme moves beyond individual subjects such as maths, science and history and focuses on more integrative ways to build “active, compassionate and lifelong learners”. Based on their mission statement the IB developed a rigorous Learner Profile, a core part of the curriculum moving beyond just passing exams.

You can read more about the IB learner profile from Teacher Horizons co-founder, Alexis Toye.

What are the benefits of the IB program? 

IB has spread to over 150 countries and tops over 5000 schools worldwide, most are international schools. IB continues to work with governments to get their curriculum recognised even further.

According to the IB Mission statement: “The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.”   

The IB offers education for all ages 3-19 using four programmes that aim to build critically thinking students with a strong component on character development. It is also internationally focused. According to KIS school in Bangkok, the IB programmes “develop international-mindedness and encourage students to play a positive role in society. The global nature of the IB also eases the transition from school to school for students who move frequently.” 

IB or A-levels, which is better? 

While many international schools adopt the IB some use a British curriculum, in which the IB diploma equivalent is A-levels. So what sets them apart from each other? The IB focuses on a global positioning whereas A-levels are subject focused. According to research done in 2017 by the University Admissions Officers report “The International Baccalaureate diploma programme is better at encouraging a “global outlook” in students, while A levels give students more “in-depth” expertise.”

Why do International Schools choose the IB Program?

According to Ian Hill author of Bac to the Future, an academic paper measuring IB, “IB programs encourage international-mindedness, which is defined as an openness to, and curiosity about, the world and people of other cultures and a striving towards a profound level of understanding of the complexity and diversity of human interactions.” It’s not at all surprising then that this is the preferred choice for international schools- emphasizing education that promotes global citizens. 

How & why do schools get IB accredited? 

Accreditation of IB for international schools is mandatory if you want to teach the IB curriculum. The rigorous process enables schools to decide if they want to become IB, gives a thorough understanding of the nature and requirements, assess their capacity and readiness and looks into the ability of the school to sustain the programme in the long run.

The authorisation process has different phrases and time frames. Rick Lewis, Academic Dean and IB coordinator at Brookes Moscow shares his experience of how Brookes International School, Moscow got IB accredited at the start of this year.

Brookes Moscow, part of the larger Brookes Education Group, is an 800 pupil capacity school of local and international students age 2-18 offering the International Baccalaureate programme.

How do schools get accredited?

View this post on Instagram

Brookes Moscow School is proud to announce that it has been authorized as an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School for MYP effective January, 2020. The School’s Head of School, Mr. Charley King congratulates the school on being “part of a global community of schools committed to developing knowledgeable, caring young people who will be ready to negotiate their futures successfully and make contributions resulting in a more harmonious and peaceful world.” School’s educators, administrators, students, and families are commended for their active roles in choosing to offer the MYP. Brookes Moscow International School’s MYP Coordinator, Ms. Camille Le Prou led the authorization process and is excited to continue delivering an “engaging, relevant, challenging, and significant programme that prepares principled, compassionate, and confident young women and men who will become globally responsible citizens.” Brookes Moscow International Head of School, Mr. Charley King sincerely thanks Brookes students, teachers, and parents who have embraced the programme since the school’s candidacy was announced eighteen months ago and the City of Moscow for welcoming the school to the growing community. He looks ahead to positioning Brookes as a leading school that will “expand to serve even more families that value the merits of a quality education and demand the very best in progressive learning.” Brookes Moscow International School’s authorization as an IB World School coincides with the 52th anniversary of the International Baccalaureate Organization. Both are committed to fostering lifelong learners that are ready for today and tomorrow. #bebrookes #school #education #brookessmoscow #unlockyourpotential #IB #MYP

A post shared by Brookes Moscow IB School (@brookesmoscow) on

With a wealth of knowledge and experience in running IB programmes, Rick worked alongside the school in getting the school recognised as an IB school. While the process of becoming an IB school can take a considerable amount of time, Brookes Moscow Fast-tracked their candidacy. With Rick’s previous experience in authorisation, this was possible. The preparation to become IB accredited still took around 1.5 years. 

“I believe the IB curriculum is the best path to developing lifelong learners”, he says. According to Rick, the process of getting accredited comes down to the organisation and systems in place at the school. They want to be assured that the school has the capacity. Rick suggests asking the following questions: What is the shape of your organisation?”, “Is it financially stable?” Is your school organised enough to pull off the IB?” and “Are you being specific to your school’s needs?”

IB teachers

Rick Lewis at Brookes Moscow hired staff and invested in their IB training. This included internal training through the school and the official training set through IB. Investing in thorough training is crucial for teaching IB. As part of their accreditation process, they onboarded 4 new members of staff without IB experience and 7 teachers with extensive IB experience including their art teacher which has over 20years of IB experience.

While gaining IB experience can feel like a catch 22, Brookes Moscow proves it is possible without prior experience if willing to invest in building their teachers and investing in the long-term development of the school’s teachers.

The future of IB education

Results week for the IB diploma was a couple of weeks ago. The usual IB exams that are set to take place at this time, yearly was cancelled this year due to Covid-19. The IB scores were calculated from coursework throughout the year bringing some criticism and questioning to standardised testing overall.

Regarding IB specifically, there has been criticism to exam results each year, prompting IB to reflect on the future of examining. According to Judith Fabian, Chief Academic Officer of IB, “The IB is engaged in a scenario-planning exercise that asks us to look ahead 10 to 20 years and consider how the IB will need to adapt to what the future may be like”.

Covid-19 has certainly brought a reflective air to bigger questions in international education, and while standardised testing comes under scrutiny those working in IB are certain that the curricula are strong enough to withstand and continue developing highly educated individuals.

Rick Lewis from Brookes, Moscow also reiterated that Covid-19 has changed education but is certain that this latest scrutiny in the IB grades provides the IB with a great case study to reflect and guide their 10-year plan, following larger changes in education like standardized testing and distance learning. 

View this post on Instagram

On Wednesday, May 13, The International Women’s Club of Moscow (IWC) members had the opportunity to attend an 💻 online program presented by Rick Lewis, DP Coordinator and Key Centre Coordinator, of 🏫 Brookes Moscow & Saint Petersburg Schools. Brookes has had success with its distance learning in part because students and faculty already had technology in place that helped with the transition. Also, students followed the same time table as before, which was beneficial for them to maintain their normal routine. Rick, as a teacher and a parent, noted that distance learning has more adjustments needed for younger 🎓 students, who may need more help using the technology or whose attention spans may not be as long as that of older kids. Here is some ℹ️ advice for parents when it comes to distance learning. ⠀ ⠀ #unlockyourpotential #bebrookes #brookesmoscow #brookessaintpetersburg #dp #ib #internationalbaccalaureate #ibprogram #internationalschools #ibdp #ibpyp #ibmyp #myp #pyp #experientiallearning #ibstudent #ibdiploma #ibschool #internationaleducation #internationalschool #distancelearning #onlinelearning #onlineteaching #digitalteacher #digitaleducation #onlineducation #digitalclassroom #digitalclassroomsolution #onlineeducation #onlineclass

A post shared by Brookes Moscow IB School (@brookesmoscow) on

Connect. Support. Discover.
We're the world's leading community of international teachers. More than just a job search, Teacher Horizons is your online home, wherever your journey takes you.