You may have heard of the International Baccalaureate (IB) and its value when applying to top universities worldwide, but what is the IB, and why are more and more schools adopting it?
Studies have shown that deep understanding is not passively learned but actively built, and that engaging and challenging learners improves both cognitive understanding and performance. Moreover, a connection to real world issues fosters empathy and deepens the desire to make a difference.
The IB’s value lies in the fact that the programmes recognise this and are designed to stimulate young people to be intellectually curious and provide them with the knowledge, conceptual understanding, skills, reflective practices, and attitudes needed to become autonomous lifelong learners.
Now more than ever, we are confronted with a rapidly changing world, and the old-fashioned model of education is, quite frankly, no longer fit for purpose – our children need to be agile, versatile, and courageous thinkers to truly thrive in the world and the modern workplace. Many career pathways have already ceased to be linear, and portfolio careers are becoming the norm. The IB programme is skilfully designed to build the skills, aptitudes, and deep understanding to enable our children to be the influencers and changemakers of the future.
The IB programme spans all three main phases of education from the Primary Phase (PYP), Middle Years (MYP) and culminating in the Diploma Programme (DP). The programmes can be entered at any point, and if you need to move geographically, there are over 5000 schools worldwide to choose from.
There are only a handful of IB continuum schools in Belgium and one of the most established lies just outside Brussels, in the leafy green surroundings of Waterloo.
St John’s International School can look back at more than 40 years of experience teaching the IB. The current leadership team, who all have extensive experience in international education, have perspective of the IB both as parents and educators. Nothing comes close to the IB, and they all wish their children had embarked on this ambitious programme even earlier.
“As parents, we want the very best for our children, and when they are tiny, we do wonder what they will become. Our son has just graduated from the IB Diploma Programme at St John’s, and there were many times when he was at Primary School in the UK that we wondered what this effervescent, impulsive boy with impossible handwriting might become. As the youngest student in his year, we worried that he was several steps behind the other children in his class. Now he is in his first year studying Law at a top university; he has become a principled, ambitious young man – probably still a little impatient, still with occasionally illegible handwriting – but most certainly on an exciting trajectory” said Elaine Purves, Head of St John’s, commenting on her own family’s IB experience.
We also spoke with Simon Vanderkelen, Middle and High School Principal at St John’s “my son started his IB journey at an international school in Singapore – where he responded joyfully to the units of inquiry that set him up as a life-long learner. From Singapore to Germany, he was able to transition seamlessly to a new PYP learning environment in Europe, swapping Mandarin Chinese as an additional language for German. He then moved out of the IB system to France, where he studied in a French Middle School for four years before returning to St John’s in Waterloo as an MYP student. He is now thriving on the challenging Extended Maths curriculum, studying German again at a high level.”
We asked if he had made the right decision to enrol his son in an IB World School “as a parent, I certainly made the right choice, it’s a common approach to learning that has undoubtedly given my son consistency in his international education, that he would not have had otherwise. He often reflects on how the IB approach embraces inter-disciplinary learning and addresses the world’s big problems, as well as the way the St John’s approach reminds him of many of the bigger PYP concepts he learned in Germany and Singapore.”
“As a head and employer, I know that the future is different. We are preparing our children for a world we do not know,” said Purves.
“However, as parents, we are much more likely (even though we try to deny it!) to want a similar learning experience for our children to the one we had. Choosing the IB does require a leap of faith, particularly for parents who have grown up on a traditional diet of subjects taught in separate, unconnected silos, tested solely by a terminal exam. The IB dares to think differently and really does prepare young people for that world we do not know.”
If you would like to learn more about the IB, St. John’s is always keen to engage in a dialogue about education. Contact them directly here, there are many ways to start a conversation.