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What’s an IB School? Your Questions Answered

You may have heard the term. Here we unpack what makes a International Baccalaureate school worth it.

You probably know what P.E., ISD and SAT mean—but other education acronyms you may have heard are less familiar. Take IB schools, for example. What is it and should you pursue an IB education for your child? For expert insight on International Baccalaureate programs, we turned to Karen Phillips, executive director of Texas IB Schools (TIBS).

Karen Phillips, executive director of Texas IB Schools, photo courtesy of Rogy Productions, San Antonio

DFWChild: What’s an IB school, and how common are they in Dallas-Fort Worth?

Karen Phillips: An International Baccalaureate (IB) school has earned the right to provide an IB education. The four IB programs serve students from age 3 through high school. Each program incorporates skills and opportunities to think at a high level, solve critical problems, make connections between disciplines, focus on 10 character traits—called the Learner Profile—and serve their community.

There are 181 IB World Schools in Texas, with a high concentration in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The schools are public, private and charter schools, and they provide one or more IB program: Primary Years Programme, Middle Years Programme, Diploma Programme and Career-Related Programme.

DFWChild: Tell us more about the different programs.

KP: Originally designed in 1968 for children of military attachés and diplomats serving at embassies around the world, the Diploma Programme (DP) is viewed as the gold standard program for students in grades 11 and 12. The six required courses incorporate university content, and students earning an IB diploma quality for 24 hours of credit at any public university in Texas.

The Career-Related Programme (CP) provides access in grade 11 or 12 to IB Diploma Programme individual courses for students in career-related education. The Middle Years Programme serves students in grades 6–10 through curriculum framework across eight subject groups, providing a broad and balanced education.

The Primary Years Programme (PYP) runs from pre-K to 5th grade, incorporating the best practices of early childhood education and elementary education to create a comprehensive program, based on connected curriculum taught through inquiry and concept-driven instruction. For Texas public and private schools, the curriculum content for the Primary Years Programme and Middle Years Programme is the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).

“The capacity for higher level thinking instilled in children from pre-K forward is unlike any other schooling experience.”

DFWChild: Do all students at an IB school participate in IB programs?

KP: On Primary Years Programme and Middle Years Programme campuses, all students participate in the IB program. At comprehensive high schools, the Diploma Programme and Career-Related Programme provide pathways for academically advanced students. Those programs are selected by the student as a high school pathway to meet the student’s academic needs and educational goals.

DFWChild: You mentioned the ability for high school IB students to earn college credit. What’s the difference between IB and AP, or Advanced Placement, classes?

KP: The IB is a complete program with school standards and required professional development for teachers. IB is internationally recognized, and many universities seek out IB students, as they know they are required to complete an extensive program that incorporates skills like time management, public speaking, metacognition, project development and research woven throughout the program. IB students can and do sit for AP exams. Alternately, DP exams and the benefits of an IB diploma are reserved for students who have successfully completed the DP.

DFWChild: What’s the value of enrolling your child in an IB school?

KP: There is truly no program quite like IB. Students are challenged on a personal and academic level to be their best while being provided the support and tools to do so.

Many people see this as an opportunity for college credits while in high school. While that is true, the capacity for higher level thinking instilled in children from pre-K forward is unlike any other schooling experience. Students easily inquire about the world around them, but also IB also provides the tools for them to seek and find answers to their inquiries.

DFWChild: How do parents find an IB school or verify their school’s IB programs?

KP: The International Baccalaureate Organization provides parents with a search tool to locate IB schools. Parents can search using “find a school” on the IB website at ibo.org.

RELATED: How to Decide if Charter Schools are Right for Your Family


Top image: iStock
Second image courtesy of Rogy Productions, San Antonio