Keen to globalise the way in which students think and study, US high schools are increasingly adding the International Baccalaureate (IB) to their academic provision.
Available at three varying levels the Primary Years programme for ages three-to-11, the Middle Years programme for ages 11-to-16 and the Diploma programme for students aged 16-to-19 it is this latter model that provides an internationally accepted qualification for entry into higher education. As it stands, 2,000 universities in 75 countries currently recognise the diploma, making it an attractive alternative to other qualifications.
Having introduced the two-year diploma programme in 2008, Lisa van Horne at the British School of Boston in Boston, MA, explains it was a natural fit. “We see it as a wonderful tool to help prepare students for the global community they will enter later in life,” she enthuses.
Similarly, Nancy Sherman at St. Timothy’s School in Stevenson, MD, relates that the programme, which was introduced in 2006, perfectly complemented the school’s own internationally-centred curriculum. “The IB was adopted as a natural fit to the international focus of the school and as a worthy complement to the school’s rigorous and excellent academic programme that prepares young women to lead, learn and live in a global society,” she observes.
With an international body representing six continents and over forty countries, The Village School in Houston, TX part of the Meritas group began offering the IB diploma much more recently, but according to IB Coordinator, Gillian Richardson, enquiries have already increased, with students, parents and indeed universities, recognising the programme’s value. She adds, “With the IB diploma, international students have the opportunity to study in the US and then return home to attend university or if they choose, attend college within the USA.”
Dr Robert Bouressa at Saint Andrew’s School in Boca Raton, FL, concurs, adding that aside from the academic credentials that come with a programme that is “enthusiastically embraced by colleges and universities the world over”, students can earn up to a year and a half of advanced college credit. He also expounds the many differences between IB and one of its closest comparisons, the Advanced Placement (AP). While the AP has a more academic approach, the IB places more emphasis on the philosophical, asking why more than what. In addition, while the AP hinges on one final written exam, the IB factors in papers, orals, and project work.
Indeed, students are required to take six subjects, three at the standard level and three at the higher level. These include English literature, a second language, humanities, science, maths and an art elective, explains Sherman. However, in addition to these academic subjects, students are also required to fulfil three further requirements Theory of Knowledge (TOK), Creativity, Action, and Service (CAS) and the Extended Essay (EE). “Critical thinking, original research and service are mandatory components, under the auspices of a global curriculum that is always undergoing a five-to-seven year review/update,” notes Bouressa.
For those whose first language isn’t English, additional ESL can be provided. Richardson notes that the school has an inbuilt language department to assist students. “We are currently in the process of expanding our programme to increase our language provision for students whose first language is not English,” she adds.
Think Global School (TGS), an international travelling boarding school, is currently pursuing authorisation to become an IB World School. If successful it hopes to welcome its first cohort of students this year, affirms the school’s Lily Just. She adds that TGS which travels to three different international cities each academic year and adheres to a predominantly US curriculum shares many of the IB’s philosophies.
“Our student body is about one third international and two thirds local,” observes van Horne, and she adds that the school currently utilises local educational consultants for recruiting purposes. The school is looking to expand its international outreach by working with overseas recruiters, however, keenly those who are helping to relocate entire families to the Boston area owing to work commitments.
At St. Timothy’s, Sherman relates that they use a combination of techniques when marketing the IB programme and indeed their school overseas. These include student fairs, study abroad advisors and recruitment trips. Just, meanwhile, explains that their website yields particularly high levels of enquiries, however, they do accept enquiries made by educational consultants. “We are always searching for new ways to connect with incredible young people who are ready to undertake an incredible intellectual and developmental journey,” she enthuses.
Number of candidates registered at an IB school in The Americas, May 2007- May 2011
The IB Americas includes IB World Schools in 30 countries and territories in Central, North and South America. The total includes domestic and international students