The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program
The International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP) is the most prominent component of the International Baccalaureate (IB) educational foundation, based in Geneva, Switzerland. This program focuses on providing high school students all over the world with 2 years of intense, university-level education for grades 11 and 12. Although the IBDP is similar to the US-based Advanced Placement program, it has higher recognition abroad, and is praised for providing students with an open-minded and sophisticated “international” education.
The IB program is also held in very high regard by most of the world’s universities. In order to attend the program, prospective students have to be attending an IB school (i.e. a high school with an IB department), and usually undergo an interview with the head of the department, in order to ensure that they are ready for the rigorous nature of the program.
The IBDP focuses on two major areas: 3 core requirements and 6 subject groups. The 3 core requirements are the Extended Essay (essay of up to 4,000 words on one of the approved subjects), the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course, which includes 100 hours of instruction on the nature and limitations of knowledge, and a 150 hour CAS (creativity, action, service) requirement, which focuses on community involvement.
The 6 subject groups are more open-ended, and allow students to have some choice. The only requirement for the subjects is that students must take a minimum of 3 or 4 higher level (HL) courses. Higher level courses differ from their standard level counterparts in difficulty and amount of work.
Group 1: language: this is usually the native language of the school, i.e. English.
Group 2: Second Language: students have a large choice of secondary languages they can pursue. Spanish and French are popular choices.
Group 3: Individuals and Societies: this group contains a number of subjects, ranging from Geography to Economics.
Group 4: Experimental Sciences: as the title suggests, this group focuses on the sciences, with courses like Biology, Chemistry and Physics.
Group 5: Mathematics and Computer Science: this group includes various math courses and a computer science course.
Group 6: Arts: this group includes Music, Theatre, Visual Art, and Film.
Students in the IBDP are assessed on a scale of 1 to 7, both for how well they do in their courses, and on their final IB exams. A 7 is considered to be a very high mark, whereas a 5 is good and 4 satisfactory. In addition to these grades, 3 more points are attainable with a good Extended and TOK essays, the maximum number of points thus being 45. The minimum to graduate with the diploma is 24.
The amount of course work in the IBDP is quite high; as the foundation states, the program is designed to emulate first year university. Homework is assigned practically every day for all subjects, and there is a large number of projects, essays, and other assignments which all meet university standards in difficulty and sophistication.
Although the program is difficult and time-consuming, it does provide significant advantages.
Doing well in courses allows you to get transfer credit in college/university
All major universities accept transfer requests for IB courses, provided you achieved a good grade (typically a 5 or higher). This means having to take fewer university courses, and spending less money. For example, if you get a 5 in Geography and a 6 in English, you can get direct or unassigned transfer credit for these courses at your post-secondary institution.
You prepare yourself for university
This works twofold: not only do you learn the material taught in first year university, but you also get used to the workload required in order to succeed at a post-secondary institution. Constant note-taking, essays, projects, presentations and other assignments emulate the situation you are put in at university.
You get priority over other students in post-secondary applications
As the IB program is quite prestigious, it grants you a higher “status” than students who complete normal high school curriculums.
If you do well you get access to IB scholarships
Getting a mark of 6 or higher in most of your subjects and doing well on essays gives you a good chance of being considered for various post-secondary IB scholarships.
You get an international education and open your mind to the world
This may sound cheesy, but it is quite true. TOK in particular allows you to learn about major issues, problems, and ideas of the world. IB provides its students with an open-minded, bias-free perspective of the world and its issues.
Although there may be small, one-time fees for something like a field trip, the IBDP is otherwise completely free.
The most significant disadvantage of the IB diploma program is the amount of work you have to put into it in order to succeed. Students who are struggling in the normal curriculum should not join the IB Program, as you may very well find yourself unable to even graduate.
The IB program is for those who take their education very seriously; while this doesn’t mean that only “nerds” join the IBDP, it does however require good grades and some interest in your education. If you do not apply yourself, you may end up actually shrinking your post-secondary opportunities through the program, rather than expanding them.