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The rise and rise of the International Baccalaureate: Part two September 16, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in International education, New releases.
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The International Schools Journal Compendium: The International Baccalaureate: pioneering in education

The International Baccalaureate: pioneering in education is the fourth in our Compendium series for the ISJ.  The author, Dr Ian Hill, Deputy Director General of the IB, has kindly answered a few questions about the book and the IB in general.

John Catt Educational: Where does the IB go from here? In what areas do you think the IB can improve?

Ian Hill: The IB is in the process of improving its infrastructure which was lagging behind its educational programmes. The annual growth rate of schools has been a world average of about 15% for at least twelve years – a phenomenal growth rate by anyone’s estimation. With the increasing number of schools come legitimate questions about maintaining the quality of the assessment process, and also ensuring that there is alignment across the world of IB procedures such as the authorization and evaluation of schools, and of teacher professional development. The IB is spending much time on moving towards electronic marking of examination scripts which also assists standardising the grading of examiners. We are also spending much time on getting feedback from schools about PD and the authorization and evaluation processes.

The number of state (government) schools makes up some 57% of all IB schools in 2010 and the percentage of international schools themselves is decreasing (but not the number – international schools continue to grow). We need to be careful not only to embrace the future but to also value the past, and particularly not lose sight of the fact that it was thanks to the international schools that the IB came about. I personally welcome the growing interest in state systems – this provides a world class programme to students who might not have been able to afford it.

There are some concerns that the large number of state schools, and particularly in the US, will change the IB programmes to cater for particular markets. I don’t believe this will happen and it isn’t happening. International education is international education. It can be delivered in any type of school as long as teachers and students adopt the right attitude of mind. The IB has changed from being an education programme for international schools to an  international education programme for all schools and we should all applaud that.

We are also starting to offer a small selection of online programmes for the DP (Diploma Programme) and this will grow. For the time being these are to help schools supplement existing offerings with subjects they could not offer because they lack the expertise or a viable class size.  For example, offering languages online with class members around the world and an experienced teacher in charge. We want to protect the integrity of the school experience but at the same time acknowledge that online learning is here to stay and we need to be part of that. The current regulations require online students to be registered in an IB World School.

JCE: The IB Africa, Europe, Middle East regional conference in Liverpool is just a couple of weeks away. Are you hopeful the book will be well received there? Have you had much feedback from colleagues about your histories in the ISJ?

IH: I think most people in IB schools and IB staff are interested in the origins of the IB, so I hope this will be an occasion for people to celebrate the past and what it has meant for so many students over the last 40 years. Some of my colleagues have used the history articles from the ISJ in their own research and also in designing PD session content. I have also been contacted by a number of research students from around the world, seeking to discuss some of the history articles. Recently I gave a brief history of the IB in each of the major IB offices to staff, similar to what I will be doing in a break-out session at Liverpool.

JCE: You’ve written and contributed to many publications and journals in the past; it must be something you enjoy? Any further plans for books in the future?

IH: I do enjoy the challenge of writing and particularly about international education and the IB – there is so much to say and learn. My next publication will be a chapter entitled “The IB influencing mainstream systems of education”. It will appear in The Changing Face of International Education (both titles may be change slightly prior to publication), edited by George Walker, and including contributions from a number of my senior colleagues within the IB.

I have just completed a draft article and forwarded it for publication in Prospects, a journal published since many years by the International Bureau of Education (Piaget was director for some thirty years until 1967). The IBE is the curriculum development and PD arm of UNESCO, in the same building as our IB offices in Geneva.  The article attempts to define a “world class” education (the theme of this special issue of Prospects) and how the IB fits the definition as one example of that. Many national systems are talking about offering a “world class” education these days but the term itself is perceived differently. This publication contains several examples of a “world class” education.

Where does the IB go from here? In what areas do you think the IB can improve?
The IB is in the process of improving its infrastructure which was lagging behind its educational programmes. The annual growth rate of schools has been a world average of about 15% for at least twelve years – a phenomenal growth rate by anyone’s estimation. With the increasing number of schools come legitimate questions about maintaining the quality of the assessment process, and also ensuring that there is alignment across the world of IB procedures such as the authorization and evaluation of schools, and of teacher professional development. The IB is spending much time on moving towards electronic marking of examination scripts which also assists standardising the grading of examiners. We are also spending much time on getting feedback from schools about PD and the authorization and evaluation processes.

The number of state (government) schools makes up some 57% of all IB schools in 2010 and the percentage of international schools themselves is decreasing (but not the number – international schools continue to grow). We need to be careful not only to embrace the future but to also value the past, and particularly not lose sight of the fact that it was thanks to the international schools that the IB came about. I personally welcome the growing interest in state systems – this provides a world class programme to students who might not have been able to afford it.

There are some concerns that the large number of state schools, and particularly in the US, will change the IB programmes to cater for particular markets. I don’t believe this will happen and it isn’t happening. International education is international education. It can be delivered in any type of school as long as teachers and students adopt the right attitude of mind. The IB has changed from being an education programme for international schools to an  international education programme for all schools and we should all applaud that.

We are also starting to offer a small selection of online programmes for the DP (Diploma Programme) and this will grow. For the time being these are to help schools supplement existing offerings with subjects they could not offer because they lack the expertise or a viable class size.  For example, offering languages online with class members around the world and an experienced teacher in charge. We want to protect the integrity of the school experience but at the same time acknowledge that online learning is here to stay and we need to be part of that. The current regulations require online students to be registered in an IB World School.

5. The IB Africa, Europe, Middle East regional conference in Liverpool is just a couple of weeks away. Are you hopeful the book will be well received there? Have you had much feedback from colleagues about your histories in the ISJ?
I think most people in IB schools and IB staff are interested in the origins of the IB, so I hope this will be an occasion for people to celebrate the past and what it has meant for so many students over the last 40 years. Some of my colleagues have used the history articles from the ISJ in their own research and also in designing PD session content. I have also been contacted by a number of research students from around the world, seeking to discuss some of the history articles. Recently I gave a brief history of the IB in each of the major IB offices to staff, similar to what I will be doing in a break-out session at Liverpool.

6. You’ve written and contributed to many publications and journals in the past; it must be something you enjoy? Any further plans for books in the future?

I do enjoy the challenge of writing and particularly about international education and the IB – there is so much to say and learn. My next publication will be a chapter entitled “The IB influencing mainstream systems of education”. It will appear in The Changing Face of International Education (both titles may be change slightly prior to publication), edited by George Walker, and including contributions from a number of my senior colleagues within the IB.

I have just completed a draft article and forwarded it for publication in Prospects, a journal published since many years by the International Bureau of Education (Piaget was director for some thirty years until 1967). The IBE is the curriculum development and PD arm of UNESCO, in the same building as our IB offices in Geneva.  The article attempts to define a “world class” education (the theme of this special issue of Prospects) and how the IB fits the definition as one example of that. Many national systems are talking about offering a “world class” education these days but the term itself is perceived differently. This publication contains several examples of a “world class” education.

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