The International Baccalaureate’s handling of results for this year’s graduating cohort, amid school closures and the cancellation of examinations, has drawn widespread criticism from students, parents and teachers.
So much so that the IB announced a revision of results earlier this week.
As the results were announced, it took students just a few hours to mobilise an online petition with thousands of signatures.
It should have come as no surprise to the IB that the students it is so keen to develop into reflective, inquiring and principled young people should have responded so quickly and effectively to what they perceived to be a clear injustice.
And those aspirations articulated in the Learner Profile are more important than ever as schools look to prepare students to make sense of the world and stand up for what’s right.
Why the International Baccalaureate has never been so vital
1. It has a vision for students
The IB Diploma Programme has a visionary ethos. It takes as a starting point the attributes it believes that all students following the programme should develop. These provide a shared framework for teachers to develop a holistic programme that knits the individual components of the curriculum together.
In my experience, this shared ethos generates a huge amount of love and affection from the teachers who teach it.
2. It’s collaborative
The IBDP encourages students to think for themselves and collaborate with others. In doing so, they are taught to critique arguments and to debate.
The IB Learner Profile allows students to reflect and to be open-minded. In an era when the validity and reliability of the information that individuals are exposed to has never been harder to assess, this is increasingly important.
IBDP students are also taught to lead and to contribute to a team, to communicate and to take risks.
As the current crisis changes local, regional and national economies, it will be vital for independent and creative thinkers to identify and exploit opportunities that exist.
3. It’s balanced
The IBDP is built on balance and breadth. This ensures that students not only develop competency across a broad range of subject areas but also that they are able to understand – and respond to – the importance of their own intellectual, physical and emotional wellbeing.
This approach can be hugely challenging for the students who complete the programme, but it ensures that they are better prepared to identify links and interactions between the various academic disciplines.
As the borders between these disciplines become less clearly defined, and as new areas of academic study emerge, this approach better prepares students for further study and for an increasingly dynamic labour market.
4. It’s values-driven
Against the backdrop of a high-stakes qualification, the IB Learner Profile ensures that curiosity is maintained and that teachers are discouraged from teaching to the examination.
Students are encouraged to develop their own interests, carry out unique research and effectively communicate their findings.
Nowhere is this more clearly on display than during the completion of the compulsory Extended Essay, although learning beyond the confines of the curriculum is a key component at all stages of the diploma.
5. It creates global citizens
Most importantly, the IB Learner Profile is centred on compassion and internationalism. It encourages students to develop empathy, respect and understanding towards the needs, views and priorities of others.
It also helps them to develop a greater understanding of their cultural background, as well as that of the country in which they reside and the culture of others.
The IBDP’s focus on community and service demonstrates to all students that they can make a difference in the world and to the lives of others, and that they are never too young to make a start.
In a world where individual success and survival are likely to come to the fore, its role in the creation of good global citizens may well be the IB’s greatest asset.
David Tongue is Principal and CEO of St George’s British International School Rome