International Baccalaureate: what is it?

The IB is now a widely taught across the world, but what is it and how does it differ from other qualifications?

Joshua Morris

What is the International Baccalaureate?

The International Baccalaureate (IB) is an education foundation established in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1968.

It began life as the International Baccalaureate Office (IBO), and then became the International Baccalaureate Organisation before it was rebranded as the International Baccalaureate in 2007.

The term is now used to refer not just to the organisation but to the four academic programmes that make up an IB education. There are currently more than 5,000 schools offering the IB in more than 150 countries, reaching an estimated 1,250,000 students. That number is growing.

The IB started with the Diploma Programme (DP) for students aged 16-19 (equivalent to A levels). The DP is the programme most widely associated with the IB, but the IB has since grown to add the Primary Years Programme (ages 3-12), the Middle Years Programme (ages 11-16) and the Career-Related Programme (ages 16-19).

Find out more about the IB programmes: 

All IB programmes focus on two core objectives.

The first is to develop international-mindedness: the IB’s mission is to give young people the skills, values and knowledge they need to better connect with their peers internationally.

The second is to develop a specific set of characteristics, referred to as the “IB Learner Profile”. The aim is to create learners who are:

  • Inquirers

  • Knowledgeable

  • Thinkers

  • Communicators

  • Principled

  • Open-minded

  • Caring

  • Risk-takers

  • Balanced

  • Reflective

IB approaches to teaching and learning

To achieve these objectives, the programmes focus on critical analysis, student choice and holistic education.

As a result, IB study is designed to be based on inquiry, focused on conceptual understanding, developed in local and global contexts, focused on effective teamwork and collaboration, designed to remove barriers to learning and informed by assessment.

Through these processes, students are said to be better able to develop skills in thinking, communication, self-management, research and interaction. 

Many educators feel that the IB DP is more demanding than A levels, and schools looking to adopt the programme may be concerned about their students’ ability to handle its demands. 

However, many of those who do follow the IB curriculum praise its ability to make students feel like part of an international community, equipping them with the skills to lead their own learning, understand that learning in a global context and develop the ability to connect with others to facilitate that journey.

Find more on the IB, including resources, discussion and news

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Joshua Morris

Joshua Morris

Joshua Morris is staff writer at Tes

Find me on Twitter @joshua_tes

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