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IB Diploma Programme

IB Diploma Programme

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The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) is a two-year educational programme for students aged 16–19 that aims to provide an internationally accepted qualification for entry into higher education and is recognised by many universities worldwide.The Diploma Programme, administered by the International Baccalaureate, is taught in one of three languages (English, French or Spanish). In order to participate in the IBDP, students must attend an IB school. IBDP students must complete assessments in six subjects and satisfy three core requirements.

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Early development
In 1948, Marie-Thérèse Maurette created the framework for what would eventually become the IB Diploma Programme when she wrote a handbook for UNESCO, and later, it was decided by the Conference of Internationally-minded Schools, that the International School of Geneva (Ecolint) begin the work of creating an international schools program.[5][6] In 1961, Desmond Cole-Baker (of Ecolint) began to develop the idea, and in 1962 his colleague Robert Leach organised a conference in Geneva, at which the term “International Baccalaureate” was first mentioned.

Chateau at Ecolint where IB was developed.By 1964, international educators such as Harlan Hanson (Director of the College Board Advanced Placement Program), Alec Peterson (Director of the Department of Education at Oxford University), Desmond Cole (Director of United Nations International School in New York) and Desmond Cole-Baker (Head of the International School of Geneva) founded the International Schools Examination Syndicate (ISES). According to Peterson, “the breakthrough in the history of the IB” came in 1965 with a grant from the Twentieth Century Fund who commissioned Martin Mayer, author of The Schools, to produce a report on the feasibility of establishing a common curriculum and examination for international schools, which would be acceptable for entry to universities world-wide.This led to conferences involving Ecolint, the United World College of the Atlantic (Atlantic College), and others in the spring and fall of 1965, at which details about the curriculum for the Diploma Programme were discussed and agreed upon.

A grant from the Ford Foundation, secured in 1966 by the members of ISES, funded Peterson’s study at Oxford University which focused on three issues: a comparative analysis of “secondary educational programmes in European countries…in cooperation with the Council of Europe”; university expectations for secondary students intending to enter university; and a “statistical comparison of IB pilot examination results with…national school leaving examinations such as British A Levels and US College Board (AP) Tests.” As a result of the study and the curriculum model developed at Atlantic College, Peterson initiated the pattern of combining “general education with specialization”, which melded with the curriculum of the United States and Canada, and became the “curriculum framework” proposed at the UNESCO conference in Geneva in 1967.Late in 1967, ISES was restructured, renamed the IB Council of Foundation, and John Goormaghtigh became the first President in January of 1968.
Establishment and implementation
In 1968, the IB headquarters were officially established in Geneva, Switzerland for the development and maintenance of the IBDP. Alec Peterson became IBO’s first Director General, and in 1968 twelve schools in twelve countries participated in the IBDP, including Atlantic College and UNIS of New York.The aim of the IB was to “provide an internationally acceptable university admissions qualification suitable for the growing mobile population of young people whose parents were part of the world of diplomacy, international and multi-national organizations.”

The first six years the IB offered the IB Diploma Programme is referred to as the “experimental period”.The first official guide to the programme containing its syllabus and official assessment information, was published in 1970 and included the theory of knowledge course. The extended essay was introduced in 1978, but creativity, action, service (CAS), although mentioned in guides beforehand, was not specifically identified in the guide until 1989.

In 1980, responding to criticism that the “internationalism” was perceived as “Eurocentric”, the IB hosted a seminar in Singapore with the goal of incorporating Asian culture and education into the IB curriculum. In 1982 the Standing Conference of Heads of IB Schools took steps to modify the eurocentrism in the curriculum. The same year the Japanese government also hosted a science conference for IBO “as a token of Japanese interest in the various dimensions of the IB.”
From the start, all subjects of the IB Diploma Programme were available in English and French; and it was mandatory for all students to study both a first and a second language.In 1974, bilingual diplomas were introduced, allowing students to take one or more of their humanities or science subjects in a language other than their first. The IB Diploma Programme subjects became available in Spanish in 1983.

Core requirements
Main articles: Extended essay, Theory of knowledge (IB course), and Creativity, action, service
To be awarded an IB Diploma, a candidate must fulfill three “core requirements,” in addition to passing his or her subject examinations:

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Extended essay (EE). Candidates must write an independent research essay of up to 4,000 words in a subject from the list of approved EE subjects.The candidate may choose to investigate a topic within a subject they are currently studying, although this is not required.The EE may not be written on an interdisciplinary topic.
Theory of knowledge (TOK). This is a course that aims to encourage students to be critical thinkers and to teach them basic epistemology. It is claimed to be a “flagship element” of the Diploma Programme, and is the one course that all diploma candidates are required to take. TOK requires 100 hours of instruction, the completion of an externally assessed essay of 1,200–1,600 words (from a choice of ten titles prescribed by the IB), and an internally assessed presentation on the candidate’s chosen topic.
Creativity, action, service (CAS). CAS aims to provide students with opportunities for personal growth, self-reflection, intellectual, physical and creative challenges, and awareness of themselves as responsible members of their communities through participation in social or community work (service), athletics or other physical activities (action), and creative activities (creativity). The guideline for the minimum amount of CAS activity over the two-year Diploma programme is approximately 3-4 hours per week, though “hour counting” is not encouraged.
Subject groups

Diploma Programme core and subject groupsStudents who pursue the IB Diploma must take six subjects, one from each of subject groups 1-5,and either one from group 6 or a permitted substitute from one of the other groups, as described below. Either three or four subjects must be taken at Higher level (HL) and the rest at Standard level (SL).The IB recommends a minimum of 240 hours of instructional time for HL subjects and 150 hours for SL subjects.

While the IB encourages students to pursue the full IB diploma, it has been described as “demanding” and students may instead choose to register for one or more individual IB subjects, without the core requirements. Such students are called certificate candidates and are considered part of an unofficial “Certificate Programme” offered by many IBDP schools.

The six IBDP subject groups and course offerings are summarised below. More information about the subject groups and individual courses can be found at the respective subject group articles:

Group 1: Language A1. Taken at either SL or HL, this is generally the student’s native language, with over 80 different languages available.Students may choose to take a second language A1 in lieu of studying a second language as a Group 2 subject.
Group 2: Second language. An additional language, taken at the following levels: Language A2 (SL or HL), Language B (SL or HL), or Language ab initio (SL only).Latin and Classical Greek are also offered and may be taken at SL or HL.
Group 3: Individuals and societies. Humanities and social sciences courses offered at both SL and HL: Business and management, Economics, Geography, History, Information technology in a global society (ITGS), Islamic history, Philosophy, Psychology, and Social and cultural anthropology.[34]
Group 4: Experimental sciences. Four courses are offered at both SL and HL: Chemistry, Biology, Physics, and Design technology.One course, Environmental systems and Societies, is offered at SL only.
Group 5: Mathematics and computer science. In order of increasing difficulty, the courses offered are Mathematical Studies SL, Mathematics SL and HL, and Further Mathematics SL, as well as two elective courses, Computer science SL and HL.
Group 6: The arts. Courses offered at both SL and HL: Music, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Film.[37] In lieu of taking a Group 6 course, students may choose to take an additional course from Groups 1-4 or either Further Mathematics SL (if already studying Mathematics HL) a Computer science course from Group 5, or a school-based syllabus course approved by IB.
Environmental systems and societies SL is a transdisciplinary course designed to meet the diploma requirements for groups 3 and 4.
Online Diploma Programme and pilot courses
The IB is developing a pilot online version of the IBDP and currently offers several courses to IBDP students. Eventually, the IB expects to offer their online courses to any student who wishes to register. Additionally, the IB has developed pilot courses that include world religions, sports, exercise and health sciences, dance, and a transdisciplinary pilot course, text and performance.

All subjects (with the exception of CAS) are assessed using both internal and external assessors. The externally assessed examinations are given worldwide in May (usually for Northern Hemisphere schools) and in November (usually for Southern Hemisphere schools). Each exam usually consists of two or three papers, generally written on the same or successive weekdays. The different papers may have different forms of questions, or they may focus on different areas of the subject syllabus. For example, in Chemistry SL, paper 1 has multiple choice questions, paper 2 has extended response questions, and paper 3 focuses on the “Option(s)” selected by the teacher. The grading of all external assessments is done by independent examiners appointed by the IB.


The nature of the internal assessment (IA) varies by subject. There may be oral presentations (used in languages), practical work (in experimental sciences and performing arts), or written works. Internal assessment accounts for 20 to 50 percent of the mark awarded for each subject and is marked by a teacher in the school. A sample of at least five per subject at each level will also be graded by a moderator appointed by the IB, in a process called external moderation of internal assessment.

Points are awarded from 1 to 7. Up to three additional points are awarded depending on the grades achieved in the extended essay and theory of knowledge, so the maximum possible point total in the IBDP is 45.

The global pass rate for the IB diploma is approximately 80%.[48] In order to receive an IB diploma, candidates must receive a minimum of 24 points or an average of four out of a possible seven points for six subjects. They must also complete all of the requirements for the EE, CAS and TOK. There are a number of failing conditions which will prevent a student from being awarded a diploma regardless of the points they received, such as non-completion of CAS, more than three grades of 3 or below, or plagiarism.

Candidates who successfully complete all the requirements of the IB Diploma Programme and one or more of the following combinations are eligible to receive a bilingual diploma: two languages A1, a language A1 taken with a language A2, a group 3 or 4 subject taken in a language other than the candidate’s language A1, or an extended essay in a group 3 or group 4 subject written in a language other than the candidate’s language A1.

An IB certificate reflecting the grade earned (1-7) is issued to students upon completion of each diploma course and exam.

Special needs
Where standard assessment conditions could put a student with special educational needs at a disadvantage, special arrangements may be authorized. The Candidates with Special Assessment Needs publication contains information regarding procedures and arrangements for students with special needs.
Application and authorization
Schools interested in applying to offer the IBDP engage in a two-year application process. During the application process, the IB requires training for the staff of candidate schools.At the end of the application process, IB conducts an authorization visit.Once a school is authorized to offer the IBDP, an annual fee guarantees the school ongoing support from the IB, the ability to display the IB logo and access to the Online Curriculum Centre (OCC) and the IB Information System (IBIS).The OCC provides information, resources and support for IB teachers and coordinators. IBIS is a database used by IB coordinators.

Other IB fees also include student registration and individual Diploma subject examination fees.

University recognition
According to the IB, the IB diploma is recognized in 75 countries at over two thousand universities, and the IB has a search directory on their website, although they advise students to check directly with each university for the recognition policy.The IB also maintains a list of universities offering scholarships to IBDP graduates under conditions specified by each higher education institution.The following is an overview of university recognition policies in various countries.

For the purposes of university admissions in Austria, the IB diploma is considered a foreign secondary school leaving certificate, even if the IB school issuing the diploma is located in the country. The admission decisions are at the discretion of the higher education institutions.In France, the IBDP is one of the foreign diplomas which allow students access into French universities.Germany sets certain conditions for the IB diploma to be validated (a foreign language at minimum A2 Standard Level, Mathematics standard level minimum, and at least one Science or Mathematics at Higher Level).[62] German International Baccalaureate students in some schools are able to earn a ‘bilingual diploma’ which gains them access to German universities; half of the classes in this programme are held in German.[63] The Italian Ministry of Education (Miur) recognises the IB diploma as academically equivalent to the national diploma, provided the curriculum includes the Italian language and the particular IB programme is recognized for H.E.D. marticulation in Italy.[64] Spain recognizes the IB diploma as academically equivalent to “Titulo de bachillerato español”. Starting June 1, 2008, IB Diploma holders no longer need to pass the University Entrance Examination to be admitted to Spanish Universities.[65] Turkish universities recognize the IB diploma but all applicants are required by law to take the university entrance examinations.According to the IB, there are two universities in Russia that officially recognise the IB diploma subject to certain guidelines. The Russian Ministry of Education considers the IB diploma issued by state-accredited IB schools in Russia equivalent to the certificate of secondary (complete) general education (attestat).In the United Kingdom, UCAS publishes a University entrance tariff table that converts IB and other qualifications into standardised “Tariff points”[68] but this tariff is not binding,so institutions are free to set minimum entry requirements for IB candidates that are not the same as those for A level.

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Although every university in Australia recognizes the IB diploma, entry criteria differ between universities. Some universities accept students on their IB point count, while others require the points to be converted and in most states this is based on the Equivalent National Tertiary Entry Rank (ENTER).In addition, IBDP scores are converted to a QTAC scale to determine selection rank.

In the United States, institutions of higher education set their own admission and credit policies for IB diploma recognition.However, Colorado and Texas passed legislation requiring universities to adopt and implement policy which awards college credit to students who have successfully completed the IBDP.In Canada, IB North America publishes a IB Recognition Policy Summary for Canadian Universities.Peruvian universities do not officially recognize the IB Diploma. However, Ministry of Education may grant partial equivalence to national diploma to students who have satisfactorily completed the 4th year of high school in the country.

In Hong Kong, IB diploma students may apply to universities as non-JUPAS (Joint University Programmes Admissions System.Currently the People’s Republic of China does not formally recognize the IB diploma for university qualification.In the 2008-2009 prospectus in Singapore, the National University of Singapore (NUS) recognises the IBDP as a high school qualification for Singapore universities. University requirements are as follows: 3 HL subjects with scores of 5 or better, 2 SL subjects with scores of 4 or better, and a grade of 4 or better in English A, Standard Level.In India, Association of Indian Universities recognises the IBDP as an entry qualification to all universities in India provided that the applicants include a document from the IB detailing percentage equivalency and specific course requirements for admission to medical and engineering programs are satisfied.
The IBDP was described as “a rigorous, off-the-shelf curriculum recognized by universities around the world” when it was featured in the December 10, 2006 edition of Time magazine titled How to bring our schools out of the 20th Century.The IBDP was also featured in the summer 2002 edition of American Educator, where Robert Rothman described it as “a good example of an effective, instructionally sound, exam-based system.” Howard Gardner, a professor of educational psychology at Harvard University, said that the IBDP curriculum is “less parochial than most American efforts” and helps students “think critically, synthesize knowledge, reflect on their own thought processes and get their feet wet in interdisciplinary thinking.”

In 2006, as part of the American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI),President George W. Bush and Education Secretary Margaret Spellings presented a plan for the expansion of Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate mathematics and science courses, with the goal of increasing the number of AP and IB teachers and the number of students taking AP and IB exams, as well as tripling the number of students passing those exams.Reporter Diana Jean Schemo of the New York Times stated that the IB “offers a special diploma recognizing a more rigorous course of study” when compared to “the larger and better known Advanced Placement program.”

In the United Kingdom, the IBDP is “regarded as more academically challenging and broader than three or four A-levels.” In 2006, government ministers provided funding so that “every local authority in England could have at least one centre offering sixth-formers the chance to do the IB.” In 2008, due to the devaluing of the A-Levels and an increase in the number of students taking the IB exams, Children’s Secretary Ed Balls abandoned a “flagship Tony Blair pledge to allow children in all areas to study IB.” Fears of a “two-tier” education system further dividing education between the rich and the poor emerged as the growth in IB is driven by private schools and sixth-form colleges.

Political objections to the IBDP in the United States have resulted in attempts to eliminate it from public schools.In Utah, funding for the IB was reduced after Senator Margaret Dayton objected to the program which she considered anti-American by promoting values of the United Nations.

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