The International Baccalaureate: What it is and how it works

Written by: GEMS World Academy Chicago

International baccalaureate education at GEMS World Acacemy


The International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum framework has taken root in Chicago, with multiple public and private schools in the area offering at least one segment of the IB, and many schools considering to add it.

Those familiar with the academic programs in traditional American schools might very well wonder: What is the IB? What does it offer that other curriculums don’t?

The IB was founded in Switzerland 50 years ago in response to what many international educators at the time believed was an outdated education model. The new framework replaced the teacher-centered, lecture-based system of old with a student-centered approach that encourages young people to ask questions and take action to change the world. Within a decade, the IB boasted strong results and was implemented in classrooms all over the world.

Here are four key reasons why the IB grew in prominence and remains a popular choice for students, parents and teachers:

1. Student inquiry
Student inquiry is the building block of the IB framework. Under the guidance of their teachers, IB students steer the discussion by asking questions. They chart the path toward discovery, which makes content and learning more relevant and engaging. This approach shows students how to take ownership of their learning, how to set goals and how to overcome setbacks. These skills equip students to succeed at the college level and take leadership roles in their working lives. 

2. Critical thinking
Traditional education models often placed a premium on the memorization of facts. The IB takes a different approach, focusing on the ability to think. IB students are called upon to consider information with a nuanced eye, to examine the sources of it and explore how different perspectives might lead to varied interpretations of data. This is why, in a world where fact and fiction are often confused, critical thinking is a skill prized in today’s workforce

3. Global mindset
The current generation of students will have to collaborate with peers from other countries, cultures and experiences more than any generation before it. The IB prepares students to be leaders on the world stage by encouraging global thinking from the very beginning. The program requires students to study a world language, and it encourages students to take action in the community, particularly in the form of service. IB students understand their connections to the people and world around them.

4. College success
A growing body of research shows that the IB framework often leads to better student performance. The IB comprises three core programs — the Primary Years Program (PYP; preschool through grade 5), the Middle Years Program (MYP; grades 6 through 10) and the Diploma Program (DP; grades 11 and 12). Many schools offer just one of these programs, but all have been shown to develop stronger critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Students who complete the DP have proven to be better prepared for the challenges of college, with graduation rates that are significantly higher than those of non-IB peers. 

The world seems to change on a nearly daily basis. The International Baccalaureate is uniquely suited to prepare students to adapt to these changes and solve problems that can’t even be imagined today. 

GEMS World Academy Chicago offers a full IB experience, the latest in education technology and a commitment to mobile learning. We are part of the GEMS Education global network of schools, which has placed students in top universities all over the world for more than 60 years. We are the only private school in Illinois to be authorized for both the PYP and MYP, and we are a candidate school for DP authorization.


Posted on December 10, 2018 at 11:57 AM