Thursday, 17 May 2007

International Baccalaureate (IB) and Languages

The International Baccalaureate (IB) offers programmes of international education to schools around the world. It comprises three programmes for students aged 3 to 19 help develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills to live, learn and work in an international world. There are more than 539,000 IB students at 2,051 schools in 125 countries. Its main web page includes a search facility to find out if a school near you teaches it.

The 3 programmes are: Primary Years (3-12) , Middle Years (11-16) and Diploma (16-19).
Last summer, after the usual debate about the drop in standards at A Levels, the IB received favourable reviews as an alternative post-16 course for able students to be appropriately prepared for University. In addition, the programme includes the compulsory study of a foreign language as a way to develop students communication skills, which raised issues with students moving on to the programme post-16 in the light of the decline of language-teaching in secondary schools.

The IB Learning profile describes the attributes of the type of learner the IB hopes to develop through its programmes. I felt some of those could certainly be presented as qualities and attributes naturally developed through the study of a foreign language.

The IB programmes promote the education of the whole person, with a special emphasis on intellectual, personal, emotional and social development through a wide range of areas of knowledge. The IB combines knowledge, skills, independent critical and creative thought and international awareness in order to put into practice the principle of educating the whole person to make them active and responsible citizens as well as lifelong learners.
Key qualities and attributes to developed by IB learners are:
  • An inquiring mind: They develop their natural curiosity. They acquire the skills necessary to conduct inquiry and research and show independence in learning. They actively enjoy
    learning and this love of learning will be sustained throughout their lives.
  • Knowledge: They explore concepts, ideas and issues that have local and global significance.In so doing, they acquire in-depth knowledge and develop understanding across a broad and balanced range of disciplines.
  • Thinking skills: They exercise initiative in applying thinking skills critically and creatively to recognize and approach complex problems, and make reasoned, ethical decisions.
  • Communication skills: They understand and express ideas and information confidently and creatively in more than one language and in a variety of modes of communication. They work effectively and willingly in collaboration with others.
  • Moral principles: They act with integrity and honesty, with a strong sense of fairness, justice andrespect for the dignity of the individual, groups and communities. They take
    responsibility for their own actions and the consequences that accompany them.
  • An open mind: They understand and appreciate their own cultures and personal histories, and are open to the perspectives, values and traditions of other individuals and
    communities. They are accustomed to seeking and evaluating a range of points
    of view, and are willing to grow from the experience.
  • Caring: They show empathy, compassion and respect towards the needs and feelings of
    others. They have a personal commitment to service, and act to make a positive
    difference to the lives of others and to the environment.
  • Willing to take risks: They approach unfamiliar situations and uncertainty with courage and forethought, and have the independence of spirit to explore new roles, ideas and strategies. They are brave and articulate in defending their beliefs.
  • Balanced: They understand the importance of intellectual, physical and emotional balance to achieve personal well-being for themselves and others.
  • Reflective: They give thoughtful consideration to their own learning and experience. They are able to assess and understand their strengths and limitations in order to
    support their learning and personal development.

    A full description of the middle year programme can be viewed at

    IB world magazine showcases how is the programme implemented around the world

    Powerpoint presentations to present the different programmes and the philosophy of the IB can be downloaded at

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