The International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme, a way of life?

Many parents have shown continuous interest in international schools, especially in the past 10 years. The IB programme is one of the more popular curriculum’s chosen by parents. What sets it apart from the rest? We talk to the experts. 

The National Centre on Education identified five skills that is most relevant for the 21st century.

These skills include:

  • Creativity and innovation
  • Use of ideas and abstractions
  • Self-discipline, managing one’s own work and drive it to successful conclusion
  • Leadership
  • Ability to function well as a member of a team

The IB programme offers a child just that. Jeffrey Beard, the former Director-General of the International Baccalaureate programme in a press conference at the Fairvew International School yesterday, says the IB programme prepares a child for life beyond the confines of the classroom and examinations. Beard is also a non-executive director of Fairview International Schools, a major provider of IB international education in Malaysia. The school offers exclusive IB programmes in Malaysia which comprises of the Primary Years Programme (PYP), Middle Years Programme (MYP) and DP (Diploma Programme). Also present at the meeting was Dr Susan Saxton, the Chief Academic Officer of the Laureate Higher Education Group Administration.

When asked about the development of International Schools in the Asia Region, Beard said there is an undeniable growth in international schools because of a continuous demand for western-styled education. There seems to be a need for students to learn English and have a solid experience of a western education especially when they progress into higher tertiary education.

Beard quoted Indonesia who are well on their way of establishing more international schools offering the IB programme to get their students a feel of both the east and the west.

The IB programme compared 

No doubt that in Malaysia, the two of the more popular curriculum is the IGCSE and the IB programme. Sometimes the difference between the both can be a little vague.

According to Beard, the IGCSE is an examination and a qualification that allows a student to achieve a score. The results will give students a ticket to go to another school or an university of their choice.

With the IB programme (apart from the DP), there never was a summative examination or assessment determining a student’s level as compared to others, and this made the IB less competitive. In response to that, the IB has reworked its MYP programme to help address this need. In the end of Year 5, students now have an option to take an optional summative assessment that has up to 26 interdisciplinary component. With this assessment, students now have the opportunity to demonstrate the interdisciplinary nature of the IB programme through the performance in the examination. The assessment is being administered around the globe and he believes that it can compete with the IGCSE. This move also puts the MYP programme on par with the IB Diploma programme which universities love because they now can see specifically how the individual student scores as compared to everybody else in the world and that helps the university in its selection process.

Beard added that IB students are more likely than any other programme to achieve first class honours. Leave with an award in most subjects, be employed in higher paid occupations and go onto further studies after university.

Using IB 

Also present in the press conference was Dr Vincent Chian, the principal of Fairview KL Campus who said t there is an interest by the government to bring this type of education into the Malaysian population. Currently, there are 20 schools in Malaysia that has intended to take up the IB in Malaysia and 5 have emerged IB authorised schools with more schools likely to follow suit. At least for 15 to 20 years, MARA has been operating the IB Diploma, sending our brightest and our best through the IB already. He also added that the national education system is beginning to recognise there is a way forward into internationalising their education and in their children, the ability to exist in an international world.

Fairview is proud in being able to assist several of these schools in their journey, personally training their teachers and helping staff with no request of reimbursement because the school believes that a good education is not exclusively for the rich, the elite and the wealthy but should be made accessible to all. The process of changing over can be strenuous for teachers and faculty members. Mr Michael Chian, the MYP Programme Director and Instruction Trainer said the IB requires the leadership of an administration that understand the philosophy and teaching pedagogy of the programme and it could take a school up to 3 years to be a fully authorised IB school.

He added the IB is here to stay seeing the national decision, and exciting days lie ahead for the face of education in Malaysia.