For decades, Advanced Placement has been the go-to for students seeking a rigorous high school curriculum. But these days, there’s another, increasingly popular option: The International Baccalaureate program.
In fact, in 2018, 931 U.S. high schools offered the International Baccalaureate Diploma program, with dozens more in the midst of getting certified. Educators say IB prepares students for college and ensures they’re ready for today’s globalized and rapidly changing world. Plus they can get college credit for the classes too.
The IB Curriculum
“It’s a very forward thinking program with a global perspective,” explains Nick Beyer, principal of Beaumont School in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, which began offering theInternational Baccalaureate Diploma program in 2015. “The breadth and depth of the curriculum is significant.”
Starting in junior year, IB Diploma students take courses in five interdisciplinary areas—math, language, literature, the sciences, and the arts. Students also take a required Theory of Knowledge course. This course is designed to help them learn to think critically about what they’re studying in the classroom.
The IB Approach
In many ways, the two-year International Baccalaureate Diploma program is similar to what it’s like to study at a liberal arts college. “It’s not just what is being taught, it’s how it’s being taught,” explains Beyer.
IB students are expected to be highly engaged participants in their own learning, and teachers are expected to create a classroom that is less about rote memorization and more about engaging students in inquiry, communication, and learning in a variety of ways.
“It makes teachers reflect on what they are doing in the classroom every day,” says Beyer. “How am I going to encourage students to be, say, a risk taker or an inquirer? That’s a beautiful thing.”
Also intrinsic to the International Baccalaureate program is its emphasis on service. It aims to develop “inquiring, knowledgeable, and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.”
To earn an International Baccalaureate Diploma, students must complete a significant amount of community service. And for schools like Beaumont—the first all-girls Catholic high school to offer the IB Diploma in the Cleveland area—this is a major draw. “IB calls it Creativity, Action, and Service, and it’s a core component of the IB Diploma program,” explains Beyer.
“With IB, there is more opportunity for reflection on service and how it has an impact on our student’s community and the world,” adds Beyer. “It aligns perfectly with our mission of creating women for life, leadership, and service.”
The International Baccalaureate approach can also give students an edge when it comes to college admissions; research by the International Baccalaureate Organization shows that IB Diploma students are accepted at higher rates to many U.S. institutions.