To IB or not
By Aparna Datta
Parents today increasingly face a dilemma in choosing an
appropriate educational system for their school-going children.
Currently, India has one of the most diverse markets in secondary
education in the entire world, with a veritable smorgasbord
of examinations and certificates. In addition to the SSLC,
CBSE, ICSE, over the last decade the advent of new, high-end
international schools across India has resulted in further
options in obtaining a school-leaving certificate. These include
the International Baccalaureate, popularly known as IB, the
International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE),
other options from Cambridge International Examinations (CIE)
and the Advanced Placement Program (AP) offered by the US-based
The fee structure of the international schools sets a threshold;
therefore, these schools are not for everyone. For those who
can afford the fees, there are still a number of issues to
unravel. The transfer to an international school, more specifically
the IB programme, represents a paradigm shift, for the student
as well as the parents, so it’s worth assessing whether
the move would actually translate into improved prospects
for the child.
There are indeed some fundamental differences in approach
between the IB programme and Indian school certificate courses.
According to Dr Gideon Arulmani, Director of The Promise Foundation,
a Bangalore-based organization that specializes in education
and career counseling, “the IB takes a more skills oriented
approach to the teaching of a subject; a greater range of
skills oriented courses are offered; the methodology is more
student-centered than teacher-led and the curriculum content
is more up-to-date.”
The IB diploma adheres to an international curriculum prescribed
by the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO), a non-profit
educational foundation established in Geneva, Switzerland
in 1968. It was set up to facilitate students preparing for
universities abroad, the core proposition and the key advantage
being that the diploma is recognized by universities around
the world. It proved so successful, that apart from the two-year
diploma programme, curricula have been formulated for the
primary and middle years (refer www.ibo.org).
The recent trend to cash in on the international school craze
has led to some schools simply tagging on “international”
to their identity. It is advisable to ascertain the affiliations
and credentials of the international schools: for instance,
true blue international schools are supposed to maintain a
healthy constituent of international students (foreign students
and NRIs) ranging 40 to 60 percent. Parents need to do their
homework and take time out to understand the ethos of schools
on their short-list.
“Offering the IB programme is simply the starting point…what
really matters is how the school interprets and implements
the programme,” says Zai Whitaker who taught for many
years at the Kodai International School, and is currently
associated with Outreach School, Wilson Garden, Bangalore.
Credible international schools stand out not only on the
basis of impressive campuses or physical infrastructure, but
also on account of the mission and vision of the school management,
the experience of the teaching staff, and the application
of best practices.
International schools promise a global orientation, so it’s
important that the parents share and subscribe to this outlook,
allowing the child to adjust easily to a new multi-cultural
environment. The selection of an international school is often
a question of socio-cultural compatibility, a personal judgment
that co-relates to the values and lifestyle of the parents.
“The key to extracting the most from the IB,”
says Dr Arulmani, “is that the family recognises and
accepts that memorising something is not equal to learning
that concept. The IB lays a significantly lower emphasis on
committing things to memory and then reproducing it in the
exams. Parents sometimes get anxious when their IB child is
not required by the system to memorise. Further, a considerable
amount of work is required of the student. This includes project
work, research and exploration of a concept with the teacher
as a guide, not as the leader.”
For a child making a transition from a teacher-focussed methodology
to the IB system, a good deal of re-orientation may be necessary.
“There is of course the real risk of the child coasting
along, without really working hard and acquiring skills and
knowledge,” says Dr Arulmani.
A reputed international school is essentially a microcosm
of the world, in whichever city the school may operate in.
The better international schools play a crucial role in graduating
students with specific life skills and orientation, who have
what it takes to successfully navigate a borderless world.
As attributes such as creativity and innovation gain currency
across all professional spheres, opting for the IB programme
could result in a fresh trajectory in the child’s development,
a catalyst to finding a unique place under the sun.
Reference list of schools in Bangalore offering the IB
programme: Canadian International School; Indus International
School; The International School Bangalore
© Aparna Datta, 2005
Published in Deccan Herald
References and visits to international schools:
Hebron School, Ooty; Canadian International School, Bangalore;
Indus International School, Bangalore; United World College,
Singapore; El Camino Real High School, Los Angeles Unified