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Origins, Philosophy and Goals of the Program

The Educational Philosophy of the IB Organization and Programme

“Through comprehensive and balanced curricular coupled with challenging assessments, the International Baccalaureate Organization aims to assist schools in their endeavours to develop the individual talents of young people and teach them to relate the experience of the classroom to the realities of the world outside.  Beyond intellectual rigor and high academic standards, strong emphasis is placed on the ideals of international understanding and responsible citizenship, to the end that IB students may become critical and compassionate thinkers, lifelong learners and informed participants in local and world affairs, conscious of the shared humanity that binds all people together while respecting the variety of cultures and attitudes that makes for the richness of life.”

From the Director General of IBO, Mr. R. M. Peel:

“Ideally at the end of the IB experience, students should know themselves better than when they started, while acknowledging that others can be right in being different.”

The Origins of the IB Program

The idea of an International Baccalaureate – that is, of an international university entrance examination which could be taken in any country and recognized in any country, was first conceived by a group of teachers in the International School of Geneva in conjunction with other international schools in Llantwit Major (Wales), New York, Teheran, Copenhagen, Paris, Frankfurt, and Montevideo.  They were concerned with both practical and educational needs.  On the practical side, the school authorities found that the necessity of preparing their sixteen to eighteen year old university-bound pupils for separate examinations – for example, the Swiss Maturite, the College Board Achievement tests, the British G.C.E. “A” Levels, and the French Baccalaureate – required the establishment of a large number of very small and therefore every expensive classes.

On the educational side, the teachers were impressed by two grave disadvantages resulting from separate examinations in the various countries.  Students preparing for the different examinations became segregated according to their various nationalities.  At the same time, subjects had to be taught so as to accommodate the vagaries and varieties implicit in the national system of education requirements.

The founders of the International Baccalaureate were also concerned by what they saw as defects in many national programmes and they sought to remedy these defects.  They were most concerned with the ever-increasing emphasis on education as the mere delivery of information, the related fragmentation of knowledge, and the exclusion of aesthetic and creative experience.

As early as 1962 the International Schools Association instructed its executive to “explore the possibilities of a joint social studies examination, as a first step toward the establishment of a basic standard.”  In 1963, a grant from the Twentieth Century Fund made it possible for the International Schools Association to set up an ad hoc group of international educators to investigate the possibility of an international examination.  Their studies and discussions and the programmes that resulted also received substantial support from The Ford Foundation.  In 1965 the International Baccalaureate Office (IBO) was established in Geneva as a foundation under Swiss law.  An International Council of Foundation was formed and an experimental project was launched in 1967 and offered for use in twenty schools starting in 1970.

The IBO is based in Geneva.  Other offices are in Buenos Aires, Cardiff, New York, and Singapore, and there is representation in the Caribbean, Mexico, and the Middle East.  The IBO is a non-government organization holding a consultative status with UNESCO.  It is registered as a foundation under Swiss law, governed by an International Council of Foundation, and is supported by Standing Conferences of Governments and Heads of Schools.

The IB Council of Foundation meets annually and is composed of elected representatives from the Standing Conference of Governments, The Standing Conference of Heads of IB Schools, and individuals distinguished in the field of international education.

The International Understanding to which IB aspires

Schools adopting the IB programme become partners in an international enterprise.  No IB school nor IB candidate is more or less important than any other and each must recognize and respect the traditions and needs of the others.  The programme is not designed specifically to achieve international understanding, but without this as an integral part of the IB it could not have become so widely accepted.

The fact that at a specified time in May, students throughout the world are sitting for the same examination – some responding in English, some in French or Spanish, and a few in several other languages – to be graded by examiners in many countries adhering to uniform standards – cannot help but impress on the individual candidate the common goals of education to which all schools aspire.

The intrinsic international quality is more apparent in the design of individual syllabuses.  In history, a student cannot be expected to understand the development of Canada or the USA except in the broader context of the Americas, or Germany except in the broader context of Europe.  In mathematics teachers must recognize the disparate views of their peers in other countries on the material to be covered in the upper secondary level, and the need for the IB to offer syllabuses that synthesize these views.  Those participating in the IB programme are teaching and learning in an international environment.

It is because schools can recognize the needs of those in other countries, without infringing on their own integrity, that the IB programme is now offered in approximately 1200 schools in over 60 countries.  Furthermore, because of the IB’s rigorous standards, and because secondary schools around the world can adapt to the requirements of the programme, universities in 35 countries outside North America now accept the IB Diploma as an admission credential, in place of national examinations where these are required.