Is sixteen an appropriate age to choose your subject stream or is it alright to postpone this decision? Development psychologists argue that schools should adopt a cross-disciplinary approach. For example, you acquire a holistic view of psychology only when you study it along with insights from linguistics, sociology, biology and mathematics. Educators recommend that children combine sciences, liberal arts and languages in one programme. The answer to this probably lies in the two-year International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) available after class 10.
Educators say that the shift is happening. And there are tangible reasons to believe this. Out of the 2443 schools offering the IBDP in 140 countries, 89 are in India. China is catching up fast with 61 schools. This is because, say academicians, IBDP prepares students holistically and gives them a strong grounding to face challenges of higher education.
A dynamic syllabus, up-to-date teachers, small class size and a formalised approach to community service, creativity and sports is what allures parents to opt for IB. Seema Singh, who chose IB for her daughter Radhika after Grade 10, says, “We are seeking life skills development and self-management for our children.” Radhika feels that the course offers subjects which interest her and is application based.
Indian parents have begun to see merit in the ‘core’ of the IBDP. Community Service, research (extended essay) and ‘theory of knowledge’ (ToK) are unique to this programme. Aspects like promotion of intercultural understanding and cross-disciplinary science project, which do not have a place in the national curricula, also fascinate people. ToK encourages students to question acceptable forms of knowledge and forms the ‘temperament’ of the IB student who learns by questioning, verifying, comparing and accepting. An effective teacher helps ToK to also double up as a value education programme.
Dr Rohini Vijaygopal, a senior lecturer at leading UK Universities, says, “A firm research base gives a clear competitive advantage to IB students over others for admission into research intensive ‘red brick’ universities such as Oxford.”
Teaching the IB Diploma entails facilitating a class with a spirit of enquiry. Pritha Mukherjee, an IB teacher, says, “Teachers need to explore diverse perspectives with students and embed the philosophy behind the programme into a class.” While gifted students from any curriculum can drive their own learning, Mukherjee feels that the difference in approaches to learning is visible much more even in average-good students who bloom here in a unique way.
Educators say common worries like “what if my child stays back in India after the IB” or “what if s/he wishes to transfer to another IB school mid-way through the programme” are misplaced. The IB regional office works closely with regional/national universities and schools to ensure that such transfers are smooth. Most IB schools have strong counselling cells to facilitate college placements.
Hrilina Lock of UK’s London School of Economics says, “IB students are multifaceted, multi-skilled. They score higher than students in other national systems.” The IB score has the same measure worldwide.
Rigorous evaluation of IB schools against prescribed standards and practices compels schools to deliver an effective programme. IB’s Quality Assurance Framework reviews staff, professional development, planning, teaching, learning and assessment processes and most importantly, practice of the IB philosophy at schools. It is mandatory for schools to entrench key skills like critical thinking, creativity, research etc, in classroom learning and assessment tasks.
Though costs are rising, parents are opting for an IB education. Increasing disposable incomes and educational loans have led to a ‘study abroad’ approach for Indian middle class. In the thinly-dispersed international school network that currently exists in India, it may well be that IB schools will be perceived as being ‘more pragmatic’ or ‘more ideological’, according to strategic positions that school policy-makers take up.
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(Supriya Atal is an alumna of IIMA)