Why I choose to teach the International Baccalaureate

When it came to choosing a new school, this teacher knew he wanted to teach the International Baccalaureate

Mark Aston

Why I had to teach the International Baccalaureate

It was 2016 and I was sitting in an after-school CPD session when I got my first inkling of what I needed to teach.

The topic of the session was a question: “How can we incorporate the values of the International Baccalaureate (IB) into our everyday teaching?”

We were trying to figure out how we could better help our students (and here I paraphrase the IB’s mission statement) to become inquiring, knowledgeable and caring, with a view to creating a more peaceful world.

The penny fully dropped, with a great clang, in 2020. It had taken a two-year stint teaching A level for me to realise that, for me, the IB was more than just a curriculum. It was the DNA of education; it bound teachers, students and the wider community together in a common endeavour: to make a better world.

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International Baccalaureate 'is the DNA of education'

I still enjoyed teaching A levels and my students remained inquisitive and a pleasure to teach, but some binding force and sense of mission were lacking.

Having spent two of the past nine years away, I am ready to return to teaching the IB.

Ask an IB teacher about their particular brand of teaching and they will look at you like a shifty shopkeeper, always ready to show you the real goods beneath the counter. They’ll quickly look left and right, and they’ll whisper, “Come with me." 

They’ll then raise the lid on the counter and beckon you through to a land of perpetual peace.

The IB is grounded in a search for peace, through dialogue and critical thinking. It is designed to create a student who is discerning of truth, who looks for it, tests it and is open to change.

At its heart (and, by God, it does have heart) is a rigorous set of trials that take students through a process of hypothesis, synthesis and application. It does not promote a knowledge-free scepticism, rather it facilitates both a curiosity about the truth and an authentic desire to work more closely towards that truth.

Joined-up thinking

Unlike a conventional education programme, it is not structured in silos but is concerned with the best that has been thought and said.

Instead of trucking with outdated false dichotomies of knowledge and skills, the IB is concerned with concept-based learning – dealing with the preoccupations to which humans endlessly return, such as creativity, perspective and transformation.

In order to address these concepts, yes, you do need knowledge and, yes, you do need skills. But most of all, through these concepts, you are connected to local, national and global issues. Your courses of study really mean something and you are explicitly expected to synthesise not just the contents of each course but the overall diploma course of six subjects.

By the end of your IB studies, you have a pretty good idea of how you know what you know and how to test the truth. Who wouldn't want to teach a programme like that?

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Mark Aston

Mark Aston is an English teacher who has taught in the UK, China, Estonia, Lithuania and Peru, and is currently teaching in the Czech Republic.

Find me on Twitter @whatonomy

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