The ultimate goal of the International Baccalaureate curriculum is to equip its students with the values, knowledge, and skills that they’ll need to become better global citizens, and work towards making the world a better place.
This goal is carried over throughout the continuum of IB education, across the Primary Years, Middle Years, and Diploma or Career-related Programmes, and this continuity is achieved by an educational philosophy that puts particular focus on international-mindedness, a balanced education, and tailored approaches to learning.
In today’s blog post, we explore the elements that guide the IB and discover how they work to shape its students into tomorrow’s lifelong learners.
International-mindedness is the understanding that one is not just a member of one’s own culture or nation, but also is part of humanity and an entire planet. This sort of principle eschews ethnocentric thinking and promotes open-mindedness, cultural sensitivity, and the ability to look at things from a global mindset.
Being an international curriculum, it makes perfect sense that the IB espouses the international mindset, and it does so by engaging students with other cultures, while creating classroom lessons and projects that require them to look beyond one’s own borders.
It also weaves globalisation into the context of every subject, and tackles international issues such as climate change and social inequality to promote awareness and expand every student’s viewpoints.
IB Learner Profile
The IB Learner Profile is a set of ten attributes that every IB World School aims to cultivate in each of its students. According to the Learner Profile, IB learners strive to be:
These highlight that the IB isn’t just about promoting academic excellence and measurable “hard” skills in its pupils, but also soft skills that would be helpful in navigating the 21st century workforce and contributing to society. They also show that the IB is centered on building independent, creative thinkers who will continue to learn, and love learning, for the rest of their lives.
Broad, Balanced, Conceptual, Connected Curriculum
Every IB curriculum is characterised by being broad, balanced, conceptual, and connected.
Broadness and balance refers to the breadth of topics and subjects that students go through as part of their studies. IB programmes offer students a range of topics that are learned intensively, such as Individuals and Societies, Language Acquisition, and Design in the MYP. These are taught alongside classes such as Science and Mathematics.
Conceptual learning is also promoted by IB programmes, in which students are provided with integrated learning frameworks that help improve how they learn, not just what they learn, developing organizing ideas that make for a more coherent curriculum.
With connectedness, students are always exposed to interdisciplinary learnings in each subject, not just isolated to the purview of, for example, language, science, or mathematics. They also gain experiences that aren’t just limited to classroom learning, and are often tasked with projects that focus on society and the world around them.
These four attributes of each curriculum are expressed differently depending on the Programme in question.
In the PYP, students begin their learning with interdisciplinary learning immediately, where transdisciplinary themes, rather than provide coherence to the curriculum:
- Who we are, which introduces students to the concept of the self, and explores beliefs, values, relationships, responsibilities, and society;
- Where we are in place and time, which discusses homes and journeys, civilizations and cultures from different perspectives, discoveries throughout history;
- How we express ourselves, which inquires into how people express ideas and emotions;
- How the world works, which discusses the natural, scientific world and how it interacts with society;
- How we organize ourselves, which exposes organizations, societal decision processes, economics, and the general workings of human systems;
- And sharing the planet, where students explore what rights and responsibilities each individual has in a world where they must share limited resources with others, and interact with others regularly.
These transdisciplinary themes govern how every subject area is taught, and demonstrates how a broad range of high-level concepts are taught even from a young age, in an interconnected fashion.
The MYP applies six global contexts to every topic learned in class:
- Identities and relationships
- Personal and cultural identity
- Orientations in space and time
- Scientific and technical innovation
- Fairness and development
- Globalisation and sustainability
In many ways, these are maturations of the transdisciplinary themes that are taught in PYP. They illustrate how the importance of each topic isn’t just localised to a single subject area, but how they expand in context to everything around them.
As students enter the DP, they are assigned a Theory of Knowledge course which explores and expands the process of learning, how their perspectives are shaped and how they must be expanded, and how certain in-built assumptions they’ve developed must be challenged.
A student entering the CP will take a number of Diploma courses and they will then supplement this with a careers-related study in a professional field and complete a CP core which consists of a reflective project, service learning and a course on personal and professional skills. The careers-related study and the core are taught in a very practical way which applies a student’s learning to the chosen career path. CP students are brought into a broader context of globalisation and social interaction.
Approaches to teaching and learning
The IB uses several innovative models of teaching and learning that are specifically tailored to advance the goals of IB education. These approaches are grounded in research, and emphasize inquiry, action, and reflection, in order to ensure that both teachers and students are always asking, doing, and thinking at every step. They also instill the value of relationships between teachers and students, how every student should play a part in their own education, not just as a passive recipient of knowledge or skill instruction.
The teaching approaches of the IB provide teachers with a guide on how to approach each topic and each student. They are not rigid approaches, but are rather broad guidance to help teachers build their own approach for each context.
All teaching is based on inquiry, which is to say that students shouldn’t just receive information and memorise it, but also uncover it on their own and form their own opinions and understanding of the topic.
It ls also based on deeper conceptual understanding, so that students are able to connect ideas and understand every new topic from different perspective, and even use this knowledge in other topics and contexts.
Teaching is also developed in local and global contexts, reflecting the international-mindedness that the IB wishes to instill in its students. Teachers are to use real-life examples from both local and international perspectives, to connect learning to the real world.
There is also focus on effective teamwork and collaboration, in order to instill the value of teamwork and collaboration among students, as well as underpinning the relationship between teachers and students.
Teaching should also be designed to remove barriers to learning, allowing students of every identity and background to gain equitable opportunities to develop and achieve their objectives.
Finally, all learning must be informed by assessment, not only to produce grades for students, but also to show how students can be provided with feedback to help them on their journey of learning.
Students are also challenged to develop five sets of skills throughout their programmes.
Thinking skills such as critical thinking, creativity, and ethics help students solve problems and understand concepts better.
Research skills, such as comparing, contrasting, verifying information, can help students with discovering their own information and knowledge, as well as fend off the risk of misinformation and fake news.
Communication skills, both written and spoken, as well as listening and argumentation are important to express ideas, and are extremely valuable in any context, especially the workforce.
Social skills such as relationship-forming and diplomacy are critical to becoming responsible members of society.
Self-management skills help students manage their time and complete tasks more effectively, while reducing stress.
Such skills are developed in order to help students achieve not only academic excellence, but also their own learning goals and independence. Over time, students develop a sense of agency, and learn to love learning as a whole.
The IB Approach at SISD
At Swiss International Scientific School, we understand integrate the four elements of the IB as guidance for every stage of learning. Our goal is to have students who are aware of their place in the world and have a sense of stewardship over it. These lifelong learners are supported not only by the IB’s instruction, but also our pastoral care environment and the diverse community that we offer to every student on our campus.