The relevance of an IB education in the time of Covid-19

Historians of education tell us that over the last few centuries, the purpose of education had been to teach students to be sufficiently literate to read and understand the laws of the land, and to be good and efficient workers: in essence, to be compliant, obedient citizens. Good citizens pay their taxes, and follow the law, and vote. They work to contribute to the economy, and fight to defend their fellow citizens when under attack. By definition, then, citizenship has been associated with individual loyalty to a specific nation-state.

The increase in the number of democratic states in the 19th and 20th centuries challenged the notion of compliance and replaced it with individual empowerment. The shrinking of the world, brought on by increasing international travel, the interdependence of global trading and supply chains, and improved communication and technological development have called the very nature of citizenship into question. Can governments truly demand exclusive loyalty of its citizens and separate their best interests from the interests of the world at large? The ongoing novel coronavirus crisis has reminded us of the difficulty of this task, and the important role education must play in enlarging the definition of the word “citizen” to embrace the entirety of humanity. We are, in fact, our brother’s keeper.

A well-rounded, global education helps students understand their responsibility to themselves and others. Since its inception, the International Baccalaureate Organization has aimed to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people “to help create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect”. Although it produces thoughtful, critical thinkers through its thorough academic curriculum, the heart of the IB is its Creativity, Activity, and Service (CAS) program. It is within CAS that students learn to apply their knowledge and their empathy for their fellow man (in the immediate community and beyond) to solve real-world problems.

An IB Diploma student, on successfully completing the two year programme, arrives at the University with several distinct and useful qualities that give them an edge as they begin their undergraduate course. A successful Diploma student, no matter what their final IB score is, would have a developed an international mindedness and awareness, would be able to manage time well between a myriad of activities and academics, would have developed a compassionate and empathetic attitude towards the community and would have developed strong research skills while pursuing a rigorous academic programme built around independent learning and critical thinking. These qualities emerge from the way the IB has been designed around not just the six subject areas,  but also the requirements of CAS, Extended essay and Theory of Knowledge. This, combined with the Learner Profile attributes, around which the Diploma programme revolves,is what sets the programme in a league of its own.

This has never been more true than the current uncertain circumstances brought on by the Covid pandemic. The IB Learner attributes have instilled a deep resilience in the students and they are well prepared for what lies ahead. While the IB Programme keeps the student at the centre, it also supports the IB educator with several opportunities to remain on top of their game through workshops, training and programme support communities. Curriculum is reviewed every 5 years to keep it dynamic and allow modifications so that new concepts and streams of thought may be included. Finally,  while IB does not interfere in how schools run on a day to day basis they place a lot of value in ensuring that schools are aligned to IB’s philosophy and hence a periodic self study is mandatory for schools so as to assess for themselves how they deliver this truly holistic pre University programme. The Covid-19 pandemic saw a swift and sound response from the IBO. The student interest and welfare has remained at the heart of the IB Programme.

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