What is the International Baccalaureate Program?
The International Baccalaureate (IB) is a worldwide network of 5,500 “world” schools that provide an enhanced curriculum to nearly 2 million students in 160 countries.
The organization was founded in 1968, and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
The original goals of IB were to address students’ needs in a global, mobile world, where understanding international differences between countries and the people therein would help them to create a better world.
IB provides a complete holistic learning environment that is much more than simply taking individual courses.
It frames its teaching philosophy within several key concepts. First is the “Learner Profile” for participating students, containing ten attributes that IB students are encouraged to become: inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced, reflective.
The Learner Profile was created to help to fulfill a key aim of the IB: to develop “internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world”.
These attributes can help individuals and groups become responsible members of local, national and global communities.
Another key concept is the Approaches to Learning (ATL), where five skills (communication, social, self-management, research, thinking) provide a solid foundation for learning independently and with others. ATL skills help students prepare for, and demonstrate learning through, meaningful assessment.
The philosophy behind the International Baccalaureate is that it provides students with more than just content or knowledge. It also teaches them how to learn and how to think.
Learning is based on real-world situations which not only makes it more interesting but also helps students to understand the relevance of what they are learning.
The programs develop international-mindedness and encourage students to play a positive role in society. The global nature of the IB also eases the transition from school to school for students who move frequently.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does the IB Diploma Program prepare students for university?
Students enrolled in the IB Diploma Program develop specific skills that support their transition to university, including research, essay writing, speaking, critical analysis, data analysis, time management and reflection.
Where are IB schools near me?
See our detailed article on International Baccalaureate IB schools.
The IB curriculum is divided into four groups:
- the IB Primary Years program, for grades K-5
- the IB Middle Years program, for grades 6-10
- the IB Diploma program, for grades 11-12
- the IB Career-related program, for grades 11-12
Primary Years Program (PYP)
The PYP curriculum framework begins with the premise that students are agents of their own learning and partners in the learning process, even at a very young age.
It prioritizes young children and their relationships to build a strong learning community.
Middle Years Program (MYP)
The Middle Years Programme (MYP) helps students develop both subject-specific and interdisciplinary understanding. The MYP curriculum framework includes:
- Approaches to learning (ATL), helping students learn how to learn by developing skills for research, critical and creative thinking, communication, collaboration, and self-management
- Key and related concepts, helping students explore big ideas that matter
- Global contexts, helping students understand the relevance and importance of their study for understanding their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet.
The MYP culminates in an independent learning project. Students complete a significant piece of work over an extended period of time, encouraging them to consolidate their learning and reflect on the outcomes of their work.
Diploma Program (DP)
The DP was established to provide high school students with a balanced education, to facilitate geographic and cultural mobility, and to promote international understanding. It was the first IB program, both internationally, as well as in Canada, and today it remains the most popular offering.
The DP program was created by teachers at the International School of Geneva, with assistance from several other international schools. It is a two year program for students in grades 11 and 12.
Career-related Program (CP)
The CP is somewhat of an alternative to the Diploma Program. It is the most recent addition to the IB curriculum, and it focuses on career-related education topics.
The CP is also a two year program for students in grades 11 and 12. It has three interconnected elements:
- at least two Diploma Program courses
- a CP core unit that includes Approaches to Learning, Community and Service, Language Development, and a Reflective Project
- an approved career-related study
The International Baccalaureate Diploma
Grade 11 and 12 students participating in the Diploma Program (DP) are required to complete the full IB curriculum to receive the IB Diploma.
There are two main components of the IB Curriculum: the Class requirements, and the “Core”.
To earn an IB Diploma, students are required to take classes from six subject categories. The course categories are Language and Literature, Language Acquisition, Individuals and Societies, Sciences, Mathematics, and Fine Arts.
Courses are rated at two levels of difficulty: Standard Level (SL), and Higher Level (HL). Students must take at least three of the classes at the Higher Level.
Each class culminates in an exam, which is graded on a scale of 1-7, with a 4 considered passing and a 7 being the highest score possible. For more information on scoring, check out the IB website.
To receive an IB Diploma, students will also need to complete what is known as “the Core.” The Core consists of three components:
- A class known as Theory of Knowledge
- An essay known as the Extended Essay
- A project known as Creativity, Activity, Service
Here’s what each of these components entails.
#1: Theory of Knowledge (TOK)
Theory of Knowledge, or TOK, is a class that addresses the philosophy of learning. According to the IB, TOK “asks students to reflect on the nature of knowledge, and on how we know what we claim to know.” Simply put, students are encouraged to think about not only what is important to them but also big world issues.
Note that there’s no exam for this class. Instead, students are required to write a 1,600-word essay and give an oral presentation.
#2: Extended Essay (EE)
The Extended Essay is not a class but a 4,000-word mini-thesis. Each student chooses a topic that needs to be approved by the IB. They are then assigned an advisor, usually an IB teacher at the high school.
The extended essay can be a useful exercise that helps students decide what major they want to pursue in college, especially if they pick a topic they are passionate about. The Extended Essay can also help the authoring student to get certain scholarships.
#3: Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) Project
CAS is a three-part project that requires students to engage in specific kinds of extracurriculars:
- Creativity: Getting involved in something creative, such as learning an instrument, acting in a play, writing a short story, etc. As long as the participating student can argue that the activity is creative (you’ll have to do a report on it), they can use it to fulfill the “creativity” requirement.
- Activity: This is generally a sports-related experience that could be anything outdoorsy like rock-climbing or hiking. If athletics isn’t your strong suit, even something like marching band will count. You could play on your school’s tennis team, participate in a walk-a-thon, or take yoga classes to fulfill your activity hours requirement.
- Service: Think of this component as traditional community service. You could volunteer to feed people experiencing homelessness, host a fundraiser for brain cancer research, organize a drive to raise money for a pet shelter, and so on.
Are These All the Requirements to Get Your IB Diploma?
- Not quite. You also need to hit certain score markers on your exams in order to get the IB Diploma. Specifically, you must score 24 points or more between all your IB exams. If you do this, you will receive your diploma. Note* there are certain other conditions that also need to be met.
How Difficult Is It to Meet These IB Diploma Standards?
The international IB Diploma rate (the percentage of students who receive IB Diplomas out of those who were Diploma candidates) is about 80%. This means that around 20% of students who complete the IB curriculum above do not receive an IB Diploma.
Furthermore, the IB Diploma rate can vary widely between schools. Some schools have 95% Diploma rates, while others have less than 5% Diploma rates, so we recommend contacting the IB school you’re considering to find out its specific Diploma rate.
How are IB Classes and Exams Administered?
The Diploma Program uses both internal and external methods to measure student performance.
For most courses, written examinations at the end of the term form the basis of the assessment. Exams are marked by IB examiners, who could be located anywhere in the world.
Externally assessed coursework, completed by students over an extended period under authenticated teacher supervision, forms part of the assessment for several program areas, including the theory of knowledge (TOK) essay and the extended essay (EE).
In most subjects, students also complete in-school assessment tasks. These are either externally assessed or marked by teachers and then moderated by the IB.
Benefits of Taking IB
Students at International Baccalaureate (IB) World Schools are given a unique, challenging and diverse education.
IB learners are:
- encouraged to think critically and solve complex problems
- drive their own learning
- a core part in educational programs that can lead them to some of the highest-ranking universities around the world
- more culturally aware through the development of a second language
- able to engage with people in an increasingly globalized, rapidly changing world.
IB students often perform better
IB students develop strong academic, social and emotional characteristics. They are also likely to perform well academically – often better than students on other curricula.
Admission to University is Easier
Universities and colleges benefit from recruiting and admitting students from IB programs. They know that IB high school graduates will have the knowledge, skills and disposition needed to be successful throughout their university careers.
Universities know that IB students are more likely than their peers to complete their undergraduate degrees and pursue graduate work; and that they are more likely to be engaged in various aspects of university life.
According to the research, IB students are strong on:
- student leadership activities
- working with university faculty on research projects
- finding opportunities to study in other countries
- tutoring other students
- taking part in voluntary and community service
- completing internships.
In order to maximise the opportunities for IB students at their institutions, many universities and colleges develop recognition policies making it clear how IB students gain places on their courses.
Pros and Cons of International Baccalaureate Program
1) Focus on Social Responsibility
The IB believes in developing students who will help create a better world. The IB curriculum has an extensive focus on social responsibility from a young age.
It promotes students to engage their understanding and empathy and alongside their use of theoretical or practical knowledge. This allows them to use what they are learning not just to better themselves in life but better the lives of those around them.
2) Well rounded and organized
The IB curriculum is well-equipped for the development of skills like communication skills, both verbal and written, which is not found in other programs.
The compulsory units allow you to take part in debates, research and analysis, and creative writing with verbal reasoning. These skills are significant for university and the job market, it can make you stand out in front of employers.
3) IB Network
Most people understand the importance of networking in this world. Networking is very crucial for jobs and business apart from personal life. The IB program offers membership in a valuable Alumni network which graduates can join and be part of.
The IB Alumni are all over the world, Due to the global qualification, you will build up knowledge of different cultures, societies, and sectors as part of the compulsory section of your IB which can be really useful in future job prospects.
4) Global recognition
This is one of the biggest advantages of the IB program – the global recognition it offers. The IB Program is recognised in almost every country and by all leading universities, so application to any university becomes easier with an IB Program.
5) University Preparation
The IB Diploma program helps you with university preparation as it enhances your skills with a holistic approach that includes academic and personality development skills. The IB Program has units like TOK and CAS which help you to improve your writing and research skills.
IB is known for the pressure it has on its students. There is no doubt that IB has a number of subjects that are dynamic and relevant to future careers, but this comes with immense workload and pressure.
2) Lack of flexibility
Although there are some options available, the IB curriculum does pose a lack of flexibility due to the compulsory nature of study it requires.
3) Length of study
The IB Program requires a fulltime commitment for two years. There are no shortcuts to successfully graduating with an IB Diploma.
There are some costs for participating in the International Baccalaureate, which, while not too onerous, nevertheless need to be considered.
Which is Best? IB, AP, or Dual Credits?
International Baccalaureate (IB), Advanced Placement (AP), and Dual Credits courses are three completely different approaches to providing an enhanced curriculum.
The IB Program is generally recognized as top tier and in a category of its own. It involves a complete comprehensive curriculum for registrants, and is governed by an international body.
The Advanced Placement (AP) program provides specific special classes within a regular high school agenda. AP marks are based only on a single big (mostly multiple choice) exam in May.
AP gets excellent reviews within a local context, and is generally seen to have an advantage over Dual Credit enrollment. AP students’ exam results are assessed by college faculty and AP certified teachers.
Dual Credit enrollment, on the other hand, offer courses provided by local colleges, and these are seen by some admissions officers as more uneven and depend on the institution offering them.
Dual Credit courses nevertheless have a valid place within the Ontario school system. They can impact a student’s high school education by broadening their choices. Dual Credit courses through a local college can help expand course offerings in languages, math and science (among others) to a local school district.
Further reading: List of School Programs available in Halton and Peel Regions
International Baccalaureate Schools in Canada
The International Baccalaureate first expanded into Canada in 1974. Today, there are approximately 381 IB World Schools across Canada, including both elementary and secondary schools.
For the purposes of this article we will look at secondary schools offering the Diploma Program.
IB in Halton Region and Peel Region
High school students taking the IB Diploma Program will be assessed first on the standard Ontario Curriculum. The IB curriculum is then evaluated as an additional enhancement.
Where is the International Baccalaureate Program Available?
Halton District School Board
The following secondary schools currently offer the Diploma Program:
- Burlington Central High School – Burlington
- Craig Kielburger Secondary School – Milton
- Georgetown District High School – Georgetown
- White Oaks Secondary School – Oakville
Halton Catholic District School Board
- Assumption Catholic Secondary School – Burlington
- Bishop P.F. Reding Catholic Secondary School – Milton
- Christ the King Catholic Secondary School – Georgetown
- St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School – Oakville
Conseil Scolaire Viamonde School Board
- Gaétan Gervais Secondary School – Oakville
Peel District School Board
- Central Peel Secondary School – Brampton and Caledon
- Erindale Secondary School – Mississauga
- Glenforest Secondary School – Mississauga
- Harold M. Braithwaite Secondary School – Brampton
- Turner Fenton Secondary School – Brampton
Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board
- St. Edmund Campion S.S. – Brampton and Caledon
- St. Francis Xavier Secondary School – Mississauga
MonAvenir Catholic School Board
- Sainte Trinité Catholic Secondary School – Oakville
- École secondaire catholique Sainte-Famille – Mississauga
Private Schools in Halton & Peel offering International Baccalaureate
There are a number of private schools in both Halton and Peel regions which offer the International Baccalaureate program, including
- Appleby College – Oakville
- MacLachlan College – Oakville
- Blythe Academy – Mississauga
- Bronte College – Mississauga
- Carrey International Education – Mississauga
- Holy Name of Mary Mississauga – (girls only school)
- Mentor College – Mississauga
- Newton’s Grove School – Mississauga
- Sherwood Heights School – Mississauga
- St. Jude’s Academy – Mississauga
Schools offer a variety of course offerings and/or support for International Baccalaureate. Please visit the individual school websites for more information.
IB (International Baccalaureate) provides rich opportunities for motivated students to experience a very special holistic, international, multicultural mindset throughout their education journey.
The IB offers an international curriculum with a global perspective that has external accountability regarding assessment, and a well developed curriculum review framework.
Graduates of the International Baccalaureate Program will have an outlook that is international, tolerant, and holistic. The IB will serve graduates well into adulthood. The program is very highly recommended.