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Deputy Director General: My history of the IB September 8, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in International education, New releases.
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It’s been a very busy few weeks in the John Catt Educational offices; over the last couple of months we have been working across four association magazines, four school guides, three books, one gap-year guidebook and one professional development journal.

The out-tray got just a little smaller this morning when we sent off to the printers the latest release in our Compendium series reprinting the best articles from our fantastic International Schools Journal.

The fourth volume in the series is titled The International Baccalaureate: pioneering in education. In it, Dr Ian Hill, Deputy Director General of the IB, traces the early days of the organisation and the goal to create, develop and implement a truly international curriculum and qualification.

We spoke to Ian this week to get his thoughts on the Compendium: below is the first of two blog posts of his answers. We’ll put up the second half in a week or so.

John Catt Educational: Why did chronicling the history of the IB in the International Schools Journal?

Ian Hill: I was working as senior private secretary to the Minister of Education in Tasmania, Australia when we had a visit in 1986 from an IB representative from Europe who was talking to education ministries in three Australian states. We were both intrigued and impressed by the IB system and its Diploma Programme. As a result, the IB was discussed at the next meeting of all Australian ministers of education that same year.

As a result, the ministers council wished to have a representative at the meetings of the then Council of Foundation of the IB which met in Geneva each November in those days. Parliament sat in each Australian state in November so no minister could attend. I volunteered to go and was accepted. I attended my first IB Council of Foundation meeting in 1987 as an observer and in the subsequent year Australia became a member of the IB Council for three years with me as the representative.

This gave me the occasion to visit IB schools each time I went to Europe for the meetings. I was impressed. Something different was taking place in these schools that I hadn’t seen before in my 25 years in state schools in Australia – students were active, articulate, debating, thinking critically, doing community service, TOK and an extended essay. I wanted to find out where the IB organisation came from. Who started it? When? Where? Why?

At the same time I had been toying with doing a PhD and had been interested in policy process in education. So I decided to embark on a history of the IB using policy process as the over-arching theoretical framework for my study.

I started my PhD in 1988 and finished it in 1993 while head of an IB bilingual school in France. When I began working with the IB in October 1993 as regional director for Africa, Europe and the Middle East, based in Geneva, I talked about the history of the IB on my many visits to schools and ministries of education in many countries. I found people were genuinely interested so in 2001 I approached the editors of the ISJ with the idea of  writing instalments about the history of the IB in each edition. I used my thesis work and updated it to write the instalments.

JCE: Has it been something of a labour  of love? Are you interested in history in general?

IH: I’m not an historian but history does interest me.  I really enjoyed the research: visiting the archives in Geneva and most of all meeting some of the pioneers of the IB – remarkable people – to interview them about its origins.

JCE: Has your research thrown up anything surprising? What are the areas / times that have interested you most in the IB’s history?

IH: The following:
1. It was a “bottom up” initiative – started with the teachers in the early 1960s… it was not imposed from the top, but supported by people with influence.  So it had immediate “buy-in”.

2. The dedication and energy of those heads and teachers in international schools really struck me. Many of them did, and still do, love teaching in those schools although they are usually in more precarious financial positions (particularly in relation to pension arrangements) than say teachers in national systems. They are there for international education, for the kids. Great to witness.

3. It was the heads of the first IB schools (almost all international schools) who agreed to pay an annual registration fee to keep the organisation solvent when it was due to wind down by 1977 if no further funding could be found. This saved the IB.

4. Surprised  to learn that the extended essay (EE) was required in each of the three HL subjects in those first years and it was examined orally via tape recordings.

5. The meeting of Alec Peterson with the Shah of Iran where, after returning to his hotel, he was contacted by the Shah’s staff to say that he would like to make a contribution to the IB and how much would Peterson like.

6. Remarkable that the original profile of the diploma programme – breadth, with some specialisation, community service, critical thinking skills, educating the whole person, learning how to learn, research skills – has stood the test of time. This is not to say we shouldn’t review it, but it has attracted so many schools and continues to do so.

The International Schools Journal Compendium, Volume IV: The International Baccalaureate: pioneers in education will be published at the end of September.

We were both intrigued and impressed by the IB system and its Diploma Programme. As a result, the IB was discussed at the next meeting of all Australian ministers of education that same year.
As a result, the ministers council wished to have a representative at the meetings of the then Council of Foundation of the IB which met in Geneva each November in those days. Parliament sat in each Australian state in November so no minister could attend. I volunteered to go and was accepted. I attended my first IB Council of Foundation meeting in 1987 as an observer and in the subsequent year Australia became a member of the IB Council for three years with me as the representative.
This gave me the occasion to visit IB schools each time I went to Europe for the meetings. I was impressed. Something different was taking place in these schools that I hadn’t seen before in my 25 years in state schools in Australia – students were active, articulate, debating, thinking critically, doing community service, TOK and an extended essay. I wanted to find out where the IB organisation came from. Who started it? When? Where? Why?
At the same time I had been toying with doing a PhD and had been interested in policy process in education. So I decided to embark on a history of the IB using policy process as the over-arching theoretical framework for my study.

I started my PhD in 1988 and finished it in 1993 while head of an IB bilingual school in France. When I began working with the IB in October 1993 as region I denal director for Africa, Europe and the Middle East, based in Geneva, I talked about the history of the IB on my many visits to schools and ministries of education in many countries. I found people were genuinely interested so in 2001 I approached the editors of the ISJ with the idea of  writing instalments about the history of the IB in each edition. I used my thesis work and updated it to write the instalments.

2. Has it been something of a labour  of love? Are you interested in history in general?
I’m not an historian but history does interest me.  I really enjoyed the research: visiting the archives in Geneva and most of all meeting some of the pioneers of the IB – remarkable people – to interview them about its origins.

3. Has your research thrown up anything surprising? What are the areas / times that have interested you most in the IB’s history?
The following:
1. It was a “bottom up” initiative – started with the teachers in the early 1960s… was not imposed from the top, but supported by people with influence.  So it had immediate “buy-in”.
2. The dedication and energy of those heads and teachers in international schools really struck me. Many of them did, and still do, love teaching in those schools although they are usually in more precarious financial positions (particularly in relation to pension arrangements) than say teachers in national systems. They are there for international education, for the kids. Great to witness.
3. It was the heads of the first IB schools (almost all international schools) who agreed to pay an annual registration fee to keep the organisation solvent when it was due to wind down by 1977 if no further funding could be found. This saved the IB.
4. Surprised  to learn that the extended essay (EE) was required in each of the three HL subjects in those first years and it was examined orally via tape recordings.
5. The meeting of Alec Peterson with the Shah of Iran where, after returning to his hotel, he was contacted by the Shah’s staff to say that he would like to make a contribution to the IB and how much would Peterson like.
6. Remarkable that the original profile of the diploma programme – breadth, with some specialisation, community service, critical thinking skills, educating the whole person, learning how to learn, research skills – has stood the test of time. This is not to say we shouldn’t review it, but it has attracted so many schools and continues to do so.

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Comments»

1. Luis Alfredo Rivadeneira Valencia - September 25, 2010

Importante La historia del Director Genral Adjunto de la Oficinade la IB, es evidente que constituye una experiencia muy importante para elevar la calidad de la educación en todo el mundo.

El colegio que coordino desde el 2008, ha iniciado este reto con experiencias positivas para hacer del Programa del Diploma un referente particular en lo que a educación en el Ecuador se refiere en el campo de los coclegios públicos que por iniciativa del Estado han comprometido su esfuerzo en el IB.

Tenemos sproblemas por la falencias de la educación básica de 10 años, debiso a múltiples factores, pero estamos empeñados con vuestras experiencias en seguir adelante.

Esperamos su asesoramiento y consultoría para contribuir desde este lado del planeta y con estudiantes que no cuentan con los recursos necesario para acceder a esta educación, obtener buenos resultados en nuestra primera promición para el presente año.

Esperamos contar siempre con ustedes.


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