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What is International Baccalaureate, anyway?

Friday, January 28, 2011 Leave a Comment

One thing I learned at Bunco last night: no one is really very clear on what, exactly, the International Baccalaureate program is, or how it applies to elementary school kids.

So I asked Sophia Briegleb, mom to a kindergartner at Swigert-McAuliffe International School. She's on the Steering Committee, and has been very involved in the third school -- from working with DPS to find a way to build the school, to hiring the principal, to naming the school, to determining the programming.

Here's what she explained:

IB is an approach to teaching.  The IB philosophy is layered on top of the existing curriculum.  In Swigert's case, this is the standard DPS curriculum (with the exception of Singapore Math, which will replace EveryDay Math).

The IB approach is inquiry based.  Rather than have a teacher stand at the front of the classroom and lecture at the students, lessons are devised around children's questions.  This makes the content interesting and relevant to students.  Additionally, children are taught how to seek out answers for their questions.  This allows students to be more independent and sets them up to be lifelong learners.

Units at an IB school are framed under one of six themes:  Who we are, How we express ourselves, Where we are in place and time, How the world works, Sharing the planet, and How we organize ourselves.  An IB facilitator helps teachers organize the DPS curriculum into these IB themes.  The facilitator also ensures that the school is adhering to the principals of IB and that the curriculum is coherent and consistent across classrooms and grades.  IB schools do not platoon.  Students have one teacher, allowing that teacher to make connections to big ideas and demonstrate concepts that are relevant throughout various disciplines.  This is called conceptually based, transdisciplinary learning.  For example, if students are learning about the human body in science, they may also be reading and writing about it during literacy, measuring the length of their bones in math, etc.

IB does not only focus on academics, but on the development of the whole child.  For example, the IB Primary Years Program, or PYP, emphasizes the learner profile.  This profile includes ten traits that describe the IB learner--inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, reflective, principled, open-minded, caring, academic risk-takers, and balanced.  Children learn how to develop these characteristics and how to assess themselves.  Children lead their own "parent-teacher conferences" and can recognize that they are, for example, not good communicators or risk-takers.  They can then help devise plans to work on deficiencies.  Some IB schools have a community service requirement in the higher grades.  This helps children develop the caring and open-minded aspects of the IB learner profile.

One of the aspects of IB that especially seems to appeal to parents is the foreign language component.  Children begin taking a foreign language in Kindergarten.  At Swigert, this will be Spanish, which will most likely be taught as the specials art or music are taught.  While this will not produce a fluent Spanish speaker, it will expose the children to a different language and culture at a young age, hopefully giving them greater intercultural understanding and appreciation.

As for math and science, Swigert would like to offer a very rigorous math curriculum, which is why the Steering Committee suggested Singapore Math.  And I do believe the inquiry based approach of IB gives children a solid foundation for their science studies.


  • Anonymous said:  

    Thanks for this explanation, it helps clarify the program!

  • Anonymous said:  

    And you buy all of that nonsense? Good grief. IB most certainly is a philosophy - a philosophy of UNESCO values which take precedence over and in many cases, directly violate American Constitutional principles.

    IB is the biggest waste of money and the most expensive educational "program(me) on the market.

    Are your children American citizens? Or are they global citizens? Do you want them to learn to read and write under the biases of an extreme left-wing philosophy? Or do you want REAL academics where your children become knowledgeable?

    Learn the facts about IB at: http://truthaboutib.com/