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The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) is a two-year educational programme primarily aimed at students aged 16–19 that provides an internationally accepted qualification for entry into higher education, and is recognized by many universities worldwide. It was developed in the early to mid-1960s in Geneva by a group of international educators. Following a six-year pilot programme ending in 1975, a bilingual diploma was established.
Administered by the International Baccalaureate (IB), the IBDP is currently taught in English, French or Spanish. In order to participate in the IBDP, students must attend an IB school. IBDP students complete assessments in six subjects from the six different subject groups, and complete three core requirements. Subjects are assessed using both internal and external assessments, and courses finish with an externally assessed series of examinations, usually consisting of two or three timed written examinations. Internal assessment varies by subject (there may be oral presentations, practical work, or written works) and in most cases is initially graded by the classroom teacher, whose grades are then verified or modified, as necessary, by an appointed, external moderator.
Generally the IBDP has been well received. It has been commended for introducing interdisciplinary thinking to students. In the United Kingdom, The Guardian newspaper claims that the IBDP is "more academically challenging and broader than three or four A-levels"; however, a pledge to allow children in all areas to study the IBDP was shelved amid concerns that a "two-tier" education system was emerging as the growth in IB was driven by private schools and sixth form colleges. Despite the Guardian's article and the internationally recognised difficulty of the IB, universities in the UK do not recognise this and have a much higher requirement from an IB student than an A-level student. As a result, IB students who have much higher qualifications than A-level students will usually find it more difficult to get into the university of their choice. For the UK only, taking the IB with its six subjects, EE, TOK and CAS is actually a disadvantage compared to sitting three A-levels.
In 1948 the "Conference of Internationally-minded Schools" asked the International School of Geneva (Ecolint) to create an international schools program. When he became director of Ecolint's English division, Desmond Cole-Baker began to develop the idea; and in 1962 his colleague Robert Leach organised a conference in Geneva, at which the term "International Baccalaureate" was first mentioned. An American social studies teacher, Leach organized the conference—with a $2500 grant from UNESCO—which was attended by observers from European schools and Unesco. Writing about the genesis of the International Baccalaureate in Schools Across Frontiers, Alec Peterson credits Leach as "the original promoter of the International Baccalaureate." At the end of the conference Unesco funded the International School Association with an additional $10,000 which was inadequate to do more than produce a few papers, or bring teachers together for meetings.
By 1964, international educators such as Alec Peterson (Director of the Department of Education at Oxford University), Harlan Hanson (Director of the College Board Advanced Placement Program), Desmond Cole (Director of United Nations International School in New York) and Desmond Cole-Baker (Head of the International School of Geneva) founded the International Schools Examination Syndicate (ISES). Cole and Hanson brought to the group experience with college entrance examinations in the United States, and Hanson, in particular brought his experience from a long relationship with the College Board, all of which were welcome additions. According to Peterson, "the breakthrough in the history of the IB" came in 1965 with a grant from the Twentieth Century Fund who commissioned Martin Mayer, author of The Schools, to produce a report on the feasibility of establishing a common curriculum and examination for international schools, which would be acceptable for entry to universities world-wide. This led to conferences involving Ecolint, the United World College of the Atlantic (Atlantic College), and others in the spring and fall of 1965, at which details about the curriculum for the Diploma Programme were discussed and agreed upon.
The Ford Foundation grant, secured in 1966, funded Peterson's study at Oxford University which focused on three issues: a comparative analysis of "secondary educational programmes in European countries...in cooperation with the Council of Europe"; university expectations for secondary students intending to enter university; and a "statistical comparison of IB pilot examination results with...national school leaving examinations such as British A Levels and US College Board (AP) Tests." As a result of the study and the curriculum model developed at Atlantic College, Peterson initiated the pattern of combining "general education with specialization", which melded with the curriculum of the United States and Canada, and became the "curriculum framework" proposed at the UNESCO conference in Geneva in 1967. Late in 1967, ISES was restructured, renamed the IB Council of Foundation, and John Goormaghtigh became the first President in January 1968. In 1967 the group, that by then included Ralph Tyler, identified eight schools to be used for the experimentation of the curriculum.
In 1968, the IB headquarters were officially established in Geneva, Switzerland for the development and maintenance of the IBDP. Alec Peterson became IBO's first Director General, and in 1968 twelve schools in twelve countries participated in the IBDP, including Atlantic College and UNIS of New York. The aim of the IB was to "provide an internationally acceptable university admissions qualification suitable for the growing mobile population of young people whose parents were part of the world of diplomacy, international and multi-national organizations."
The first six years the IB offered the IB Diploma Programme is referred to as the "experimental period". The experimental period was designed to extend for six years and to include a limited population of students. Each school was to be inspected by ISES or IBO and had be school approved by their government. The experimental period ended in 1975, and in that year the International Baccalaureate North America (IBNA) was established as a separate entity, allowing the funding for implementation of the IBDP to remain in the country rather than being sent to Geneva. The first official guide to the programme containing its syllabus and official assessment information, was published in 1970 and included the theory of knowledge course. The extended essay was introduced in 1978, but creativity, action, service (CAS), although mentioned in guides beforehand, was not specifically identified in the guide until 1989.
In 1980, responding to criticism that the "internationalism" was perceived as "Eurocentric", the IB hosted a seminar in Singapore with the goal of incorporating Asian culture and education into the IB curriculum. In 1982 the Standing Conference of Heads of IB Schools took steps to modify the Eurocentrism in the curriculum. The same year the Japanese government also hosted a science conference for IBO "as a token of Japanese interest in the various dimensions of the IB."
From the start, all subjects of the IB Diploma Programme were available in English and French; and it was mandatory for all students to study both a first and a second language. In 1974 bilingual diplomas were introduced that allowed students to take one or more of their humanities or science subjects in a language other than their first. The IB Diploma Programme subjects became available in Spanish in 1983.
To be awarded an IB Diploma, a candidate must fulfill three core requirements, in addition to passing his or her subject examinations:
Students who pursue the IB Diploma must take six subjects, one from each of subject groups 1–5, and either one from group 6 or a permitted substitute from one of the other groups, as described below. Either three or four subjects must be taken at Higher level (HL) and the rest at Standard level (SL). The IB recommends a minimum of 240 hours of instructional time for HL courses and 150 hours for SL courses.
While the IB encourages students to pursue the full IB diploma, the "substantial workload require a great deal of commitment, organization, and initiative". If they wish, students may instead choose to register for one or more individual IB subjects, without the core requirements. Such students will not receive the full Diploma.
The six IBDP subject groups and course offerings are summarised below. More information about the subject groups and individual courses can be found at the respective subject group articles:
Environmental systems and societies SL is a transdisciplinary course designed to meet the diploma requirements for groups 3 and 4.
The IB is developing a pilot online version of the IBDP and currently offers several online courses to IBDP students. Eventually, the IB expects to offer their online courses to any student who wishes to register. Additionally, the IB has developed pilot courses that include world religions, sports, exercise and health sciences, dance, and a transdisciplinary pilot course, text and performance.
All subjects (with the exception of CAS) are assessed using both internal and external assessors. The externally assessed examinations are given worldwide in May (usually for Northern Hemisphere schools) and in November (usually for Southern Hemisphere schools). Each exam usually consists of two or three papers, generally written on the same or successive weekdays. The different papers may have different forms of questions, or they may focus on different areas of the subject syllabus. For example, in Chemistry SL, paper 1 has multiple choice questions, paper 2 has extended response questions, and paper 3 focuses on the "Option(s)" selected by the teacher. The grading of all external assessments is done by independent examiners appointed by the IB.
The nature of the internal assessment (IA) varies by subject. There may be oral presentations (used in languages), practical work (in experimental sciences and performing arts), or written works. Internal assessment accounts for 20 to 50 percent of the mark awarded for each subject and is marked by a teacher in the school. A sample of at least five per subject at each level will also be graded by a moderator appointed by the IB, in a process called external moderation of internal assessment.
Points are awarded from 1 to 7, with 7 being equal to A*, 6 equal to A, and so on. Up to three additional points are awarded depending on the grades achieved in the extended essay and theory of knowledge, so the maximum possible point total in the IBDP is 45. The global pass rate for the IB diploma is approximately 80%. In order to receive an IB diploma, candidates must receive a minimum of 24 points or an average of four (or C) out of a possible seven points for six subjects. Candidates must also receive a minimum of 12 points from their Higher Level subjects and a minimum of 9 points from their Standard Level subjects. Additionally, candidates must complete all of the requirements for the EE, CAS and TOK. Failing conditions that will prevent a student from being awarded a diploma, regardless of points received, are non-completion of CAS, more than three scores of 3 or below, not meeting the specific points required for Higher Level or Standard Level subjects, or plagiarism.
Candidates who successfully complete all the requirements of the IB Diploma Programme and one or more of the following combinations are eligible to receive a bilingual diploma: two languages A1, a language A1 taken with a language A2, a group 3 or 4 subject taken in a language other than the candidate's language A1, or an extended essay in a group 3 or group 4 subject written in a language other than the candidate's language A1. IB certificates are issued to indicate completion of diploma courses and exams for non-diploma candidate students.
Where standard assessment conditions could put a student with special educational needs at a disadvantage, special arrangements may be authorized. The Candidates with Special Assessment Needs publication contains information regarding procedures and arrangements for students with special needs.
To offer the IB Diploma Programme, an institution must go through an application process, and during that period the teachers undergo training in the IB. At the end of the application process, IB conducts an authorization visit. Once a school is authorized to offer the IBDP, an annual fee guarantees the school ongoing support from the IB, the ability to display the IB logo and access to the Online Curriculum Centre (OCC) and the IB Information System (IBIS). The OCC provides information, resources and support for IB teachers and coordinators. IBIS is a database used by IB coordinators. Other IB fees also include student registration and individual Diploma subject examination fees.
IB diploma is recognized in 75 countries at over 2000 universities, and the IB has a search directory on their website, although they advise students to check directly with each university for the recognition policy. The IB also maintains a list of universities offering scholarships to IBDP graduates under conditions specified by each higher education institution, including 58 non-highly selective colleges and universities in the U.S. The following is an overview of university recognition policies in various countries.
For the purposes of university admissions in Austria, the IB diploma is considered a foreign secondary school leaving certificate, even if the IB school issuing the diploma is located in the country. The admission decisions are at the discretion of the higher education institutions. In Finland, the IB Diploma gives the same qualification for matriculation as the national matriculation examination; the core requirements differ very little although the Finnish degree has more electives and languages are a larger part of the final grading. In France, the IBDP is one of the foreign diplomas which allow students access into French universities. Germany sets certain conditions for the IB diploma to be validated (a foreign language at minimum A2 Standard Level, Mathematics standard level minimum, and at least one Science or Mathematics at Higher Level). German International Baccalaureate students in some schools are able to earn a 'bilingual diploma' which gains them access to German universities; half of the classes in this programme are held in German. The Italian Ministry of Education (Miur) recognises the IB diploma as academically equivalent to the national diploma, provided the curriculum includes the Italian language and the particular IB programme is recognized for H.E.D. matriculation in Italy. Spain recognizes the IB diploma as academically equivalent to "Titulo de bachillerato español". Starting 1 June 2008, IB Diploma holders no longer need to pass the University Entrance Examination to be admitted to Spanish Universities. Turkish universities recognize the IB diploma but all applicants are required by law to take the university entrance examinations. According to the IB, there are two universities in Russia that officially recognise the IB diploma subject to certain guidelines. The Russian Ministry of Education considers the IB diploma issued by state-accredited IB schools in Russia equivalent to the certificate of secondary (complete) general education (attestat). In the United Kingdom, UCAS publishes a University entrance tariff table that converts IB and other qualifications into standardised "Tariff points" but this tariff is not binding, so institutions are free to set minimum entry requirements for IB candidates that are not the same as those for A level. Most universities in the UK will have much higher requirements for IB students than A-level students, requiring, for instance, four As and two Bs from an IB student, whereas an A-level student will only need an ABB.
Although every university in Australia recognizes the IB diploma, entry criteria differ between universities. Some universities accept students on their IB point count, while others require the points to be converted and in most states this is based on the Equivalent National Tertiary Entry Rank (ENTER). In Queensland, IBDP scores are converted to a QTAC scale to determine selection rank.
In the United States, institutions of higher education set their own admission and credit policies for IB diploma recognition. Colorado and Texas have legislation requiring universities to adopt and implement policy which awards college credit to students who have successfully completed the IBDP or the much larger Advanced Placement exams of the College Board. In Canada, IB North America publishes a IB Recognition Policy Summary for Canadian Universities. Peruvian universities do not officially recognize the IB Diploma. However, the Ministry of Education may grant partial equivalence to national diploma to students who have satisfactorily completed the fourth year of high school in the country.
In Hong Kong, IB diploma students may apply to universities as non-JUPAS (Joint University Programmes Admissions System. Currently the People's Republic of China does not formally recognize the IB diploma for university qualification. In the 2008–2009 prospectus in Singapore, the National University of Singapore (NUS) recognises the IBDP as a high school qualification for Singapore universities. University requirements are as follows: 3 HL subjects with scores of 5 or better, 2 SL subjects with scores of 4 or better, and a grade of 4 or better in English A, Standard Level. In India, the Association of Indian Universities recognises the IBDP as an entry qualification to all universities in India provided that the applicants include a document from the IB detailing percentage equivalency and specific course requirements for admission to medical and engineering programs are satisfied.
The IBDP was described as "a rigorous, off-the-shelf curriculum recognized by universities around the world” when it was featured in the December 10, 2006 edition of Time magazine titled How to bring our schools out of the 20th Century. The IBDP was also featured in the summer 2002 edition of American Educator, where Robert Rothman described it as "a good example of an effective, instructionally sound, exam-based system." Howard Gardner, a professor of educational psychology at Harvard University, said that the IBDP curriculum is "less parochial than most American efforts" and helps students "think critically, synthesize knowledge, reflect on their own thought processes and get their feet wet in interdisciplinary thinking." An admissions officer at Brown University claims the IBDP garners widespread respect.
In the United Kingdom, the IBDP is "regarded as more academically challenging and broader than three or four A-levels" according to an article in the Guardian. In 2006, government ministers provided funding so that "every local authority in England could have at least one centre offering sixth-formers the chance to do the IB." In 2008, then Children's Secretary Ed Balls abandoned a "flagship Tony Blair pledge to allow children in all areas to study IB." Fears of a "two-tier" education system further dividing education between the rich and the poor emerged as the growth in IB is driven by private schools and sixth-form colleges.
In the United States, criticism of the IBDP has centered around the claim by opponents to the program that it is anti-American, according to The New York Times. Early funding from UNESCO, and the organization's ties to the United Nations are cited as objectionable. The cost of the program is also considered to be too high. In 2012, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, the school board voted to eliminate all IB programmes in the district.
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