Can you picture a classroom where students are hunched over their desks, busy writing in notebooks as their teacher dictates from the front of the room? Can you imagine reading a textbook chapter, trying to memorize the facts at night, and then regurgitating them the next day for a test?
How about studying a topic in science that is quite challenging but never knowing how it relates to the real world, so inevitably as a frustrated student, you implore the teacher with, "Why are we learning this?"
Many of us, unfortunately, may have recollections of classroom learning like this. It was exactly these kinds of experiences that fueled my own desire as a teacher to seek out different curriculum systems. I wanted to see how a curriculum could offer students not only a better window through which to view the world, but also an even better doorway to enter and thrive in the global community.
As I traveled and taught in different educational systems around the world, the International Baccalaureate (IB) kept rising to the top of my preferred curriculum list. The IB teachers I met were passionate, informed educators who loved the philosophy behind the curriculum. They appreciated the academic breadth of the IB and the holistic (whole child) focus of the curriculum, as well as the idea that learning goes beyond classroom walls and a textbook. They appreciated that the IB offers character education, promotes growth in social skills, and looks at learning through a much bigger lens than a multiple choice test or standardized exam.
Parents of IB students were excited to see the sparkle in their child's eyes when they openly discussed what they were learning in school each day with enthusiasm and confidence. Yes, that's right, children actually talking excitedly (to adults and their peers) about what they were learning in class and how they were learning it ... children understanding what kind of learner they were and how to study a particular way because it contributes to their academic success.
Ultimately for me as an educator, it was seeing the engagement of students in the classroom and their desire for learning that really stood out. IB classrooms encourage all participants ― students and teachers ― to seek knowledge, ask questions, collaborate, communicate, and create answers together. They look beyond local and national experiences and see the world as one whole community.IB teachers empower students not only to ask questions but also to solve problems that perhaps we as adults have not yet realized. It is when students have those "aha" moments, connecting one subject of learning to another, seeing how something relates to what they just studied in math or what they saw in a movie that really stand out ... it is the ability to converse with peers from anywhere in the world and feel equipped to step into their shoes and appreciate their differences ... to ask challenging questions, to reflect critically, to develop essential research skills, and to learn how to learn.
Isn't this what we as parents and educators desire for our kids? To see them become independent thinkers who are confident about embracing a future that offers so many possible trajectories for them? To see children not only excited about their future but also about how they can impact the future for themselves and others?
It is a lofty thought, yet one based on the realities of an IB education that I have seen in and out of the classroom. My daughter may only be two now, but I want her to have an IB education above any other curriculum offering. I want her to be a compassionate, open- minded, risk-taking learner who can advocate for herself and, more importantly, for others.
I want her to be a creative thinker, a confident communicator, and a realistic problem solver who dreams of finding answers to the impossible.When I think "Why IB?" I picture all the students who have graduated from Dwight, shaken my hand on stage, and embarked on their next chapter of life. I am reassured that we, through the IB, have provided them with such a strong foundation for a successful future. They have experienced academic vigor, viewed learning through a global lens, and gained maturity by understanding their unique place in the world ― all of which have set them on a strong path to embrace life with enthusiasm and confidence.
International Baccalaureate programs are undertaken by more than 1,400,000 students in 151 countries worldwide. Currently, 4,495 different schools implement an IB curriculum. Dwight, a New York international school, is proud to be one of them.