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UK ready to learn from IB Americas? July 20, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Conferences, International education.

Perhaps it is only in the attending of something like the IB Americas Conference that you can truly gauge the size, influence and enthusiasm of the International Baccalaureate organisation, its teachers and its students.

I am back in the office today following six days attending and exhibiting in Miami, where the IB put on another inpassioned and forward-looking conference, made up of respected keynote speakers and inspiring breakout workshops.

Some points made themselves immediate: most obviously that the IB is far more established in the Americas than it is in the UK. One or more of the three programmes (Primary Years, Middle Years and Diploma) are taught in around 2000 schools throughout North and South America – with a further 1500 in the process of authorisation.

By contrast, the UK has just 225 schools offering IB programmes – 219 of which are schools offering the Diploma in place of A Levels – with another 99 schools awaiting accreditation.

Listening to the confident and wholehearted testimonies of young IB students such as Alejandro Gomez-Barbosa, who spoke at the opening address, it is difficult not to come to the conclusion that our own education system might perhaps benefit if more UK schools looked to the IB.

All three IB programmes are based on developing the whole child, in an international context and in a curriculum that is eclectic, deep and demanding. They are the antithesis to curriculums that see sleepy students sit in classrooms, listening without interest to uninspiring material they are then expected to faithfully repeat on their exam papers as the “right” answer.

This development of  “citizens of the world”, young people who are responsible, active participants in their local, national and international communities, is central to the IB’s dedication to international learning. Their programmes focus on the development of critical thinking and language skills necessary for success in the global community.

So perhaps returning from Miami to news such as  this is encouraging: two teachers are planning to take advantage of the Government’s Free Schools Initiative to set up their own non-selective school for around 650 five to 18-year-olds in Greenwich, London – and in the process become the first state school in England to offer all three IB programmes.

Good luck to them – we will certainly keep an eye on their progress. Until the school is up and running, perhaps we will continue to see a slowly growing interest in the IB programmes in the UK. The IB Africa, Europe, Middle East regional conference in Liverpool, 26-29 September, might be a good place for interested parties to start their enquiries.




1. Maurice Carder - July 29, 2010

The comment about the IB being more established in the Americas than in the UK is strange: if one takes the total populations of the two entities then the percentage of IB schools in each block results in the following:
UK: 0.00000375
Americas: 0.0000035
However, the quantitative factor is less important than the fact that many students are learning to think for themselves and will thus be able to cast their own critical eye on the vast amount of persuasive texts produced around the world.

John Catt Educational - July 29, 2010

Hi Maurice, thanks for reading.
You’re right of course, I guess when you stack the numbers up like that, it certainly doesn’t appear like the IB is any more established in the Americas than it is in the UK… But there is certainly a case for saying that the IB is much more widely known and accepted in the US than in the UK – probably due to the fact that IB programes are offered in many state schools over there.
In fact – and I wouldn’t like to do the numbers on this – I think it is fair to say that because IB programmes are offered in US state schools, a much higher percentage of students in the US have IB programmes available to them than in the UK, where IB is taught only in a few fee-paying schools.

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