Debating IB and Global Citizenship
Post submitted by Whole Child Blogger Ashley Magnifico
Although there are countless methods of teaching global citizenship, the International Baccalaureate (IB) is the most well-known educational model, especially for secondary education. According to the IB website, over 2,000 schools worldwide offer the IB Diploma Program, which is designed to prepare students age 16–19 "for success at university and life beyond."
Providing tools for curriculum development, student assessment, and training and evaluation in schools, the IB is designed to instill skills in
- critical thinking,
- independent learning,
- intercultural understanding,
- evaluating and constructing arguments, and
- solving problems creatively
All of these are essential to the democratic education model. (For a more comprehensive look at IB and examples of its programs in the United States, see "How IB Prepares Students" from the May 2008 issue of Educational Leadership magazine.)
The United States hosts about one-third of these schools—and some of the program's most outspoken critics. Leading the opposition is Lisa McLoughlin of Long Island, N.Y., founder of Truth About IB. Among the objections cited by this group are "values that conflict with traditional Judeo-Christian values," as well as "Marxist ideology," high costs to schools, and "the forfeiture of local control of school curriculum and culture."
McLoughlin is not alone in her criticism. In May, a group of Idaho parents took to the streets to protest a local elementary school's adoption of the IB Primary Years Program. Back in 2008, during an IB debate in nearby Utah, state Sen. Margaret Dayton blogged on senatesite.com that "the IB program teaches a skeptical unattached philosophy of world citizenship. It does not try to instill cultural identity ... I don't want to create 'world citizens' nearly as much as I want to help cultivate American citizens who function well in the world."
Many stakeholders in American education are unsure of how to deal with IB and the objections from its critics. One key issue is how IB compares to the College Board's Advanced Placement (AP) programs, which TAIB and other American IB critics greatly prefer. In a July 15 blog post, Jay Mathews of the Washington Post applauds both AP and IB for offering "the most challenging courses in U.S. high schools today." In fact, Mathews argues that "IB is slightly better" in assessing students, and laments that "college academic departments do not usually treat AP and IB equally" in assigning course credit. A New York Times article from July 2 makes a similar note but adds that IB is widely respected by colleges, several of which "give students with an IB diploma sophomore standing, and some offer special scholarships."
As for the charge from critics that IB is overly expensive, Mathews calculates that the cost to a Fairfax County, Va., high school is "about the amount that school paid for its baseball and softball programs." Funding for sports programs is an investment in healthy and well-rounded students; programs like IB should be evaluated on their merits as well. There are very few—if any—other programs that provide such a comprehensive support system and curriculum for teaching citizenship in today's "global village." Schools should judge IB on its benefits to students, not on the fears of outside interest groups.