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Reasons for choosing the IB

by Tom Kline, Director of WISS of  The Western International School of Shanghai

Internationally recognized qualification discussed

Reasons for choosing the IB

A good school is a good school - regardless of which curriculum it delivers. Easy to say and, like everything easy to say, it hides considerable complexity. The curriculum must be internationally recognized, accessible, and be valued by universities. If you want to study in English at an international school in Shanghai, you broadly have three internationally recognized options: the International Baccalaureate (IB), the international version of the UK Curriculum, and an accredited American curriculum based on one of the many followed by the different states within the US.

Provided you are choosing from these three options, each delivered by a good school, then you have the international recognition covered. You would then need to consider accessibility and value to universities. In both areas, it is hard to compete with the IB.

Accessibility is prioritized in the IB through the promotion of the languages and communication. There is much greater flexibility in the language of instruction, with the complete curriculum deliverable in English, French, and Spanish, as well as substantial portions supported in many other languages up to Middle School. The IB understands that students will be from dozens of different countries and develops materials accordingly, with cultural references not alien to the majority of young people in class. The IB is the only curriculum of proven worth that has been specifically designed from scratch for the international student. The UK and the US variants are adaptations of national and state curricula and, though of high quality, still bear hallmarks of the societies for which they were originally created.

The IB is increasingly sought after by the best universities around the world, with much greater weight given to the best IB Diploma scores for acceptances, course credit, and scholarships. This is easy enough to confirm online. Though UK and US curricula can be beefed up to offer a similar rigour to the IB, it is the IB that requires this rigor as standard - studying two languages, math, science, humanities, arts, plus a 4000 word extended academic essay, a course on understanding how learning itself works, and following physical, creative, and community service pursuits outside of class. The IB prioritizes the inter-disciplinary nature of subjects as well as preventing a too narrow focus, yet still has an unmatched level of academic rigour. Grade deflation and national re-organizations do not affect the IB, while in-built international mindedness and cultural awareness add vital global perspectives which broaden the mind.

There is a final argument in favor of the IB - the Learner Profile. The ten characteristics called the Learner Profile are the bedrock of the IB curriculum; underpinning, informing and connecting every course at every level. It nurtures the development of students who are Inquirers, Knowledgeable, Thinkers, Communicators, Principled, Open-minded, Caring, Risk-takers, Balanced, and Reflective. This foundational element means the IB is not just a challenging curriculum, but is also a code of conduct and an ethical framework that feeds the whole student, builds character, and promotes a better world.