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April/May 2008

A Global Education
International Baccalaureate
by Meredith Pruden

Students in the Middle Years IB Programme at Atlanta International School
investigate the difficulties of water transportation faced by regions around
the world.

Relocating is a source of anxiety for dutiful parents. Researching schools can be an exhausting task fraught with stress and uncertainty, especially when moving to a major metropolitan area with numerous school systems and private institutions. One option parents certainly may want to look into is the International Baccalaureate (IB). There are 2,218 IB World Schools scattered among 126 countries. Thirty-five of these exceptional public and private schools are in Georgia—and more than 20 are located in Metro Atlanta.

The International Baccalaureate (212-696-4464,, founded in 1968, is a nonprofit organization that offers a rigorous academic program for students aged 3 to 19 based on a traditional liberal arts education. The IB is separated into three programs: Primary Years (PYP), Middle Years (MYP) and Diploma (DP). Although other schools may include international education in their curricula, an IB school’s main focus is on a global education. IB students are encouraged to ask challenging questions, develop a strong sense of their own identity and culture, and learn to communicate with people from other countries and cultures. Although 90 percent of North American IB World Schools are public schools, according to Ralph Cline, IB North America acting regional director, these programs operate in both private and public (including magnet and charter) schools.

IB is used as a magnet program at Cobb County’s only IB school Campbell High School (678-842-6856, There are possible plans to expand the program to include an elementary and middle school as well. Students in Campbell High’s competitive IB program are recruited from all of the county’s 24 middle schools and are privy to the school’s 99 percent pass rate. “IB has served us well in introducing high academic goals into the school,” says Campbell’s IB magnet director Judy Romanchuk. “IB pushes students to perform even in weak areas. We don’t expect all students to be A students in all areas.”

Because of the IB’s heavy focus on international education, foreign language is an element of the curricula shared by all IB schools and age groups. “A feature of all three programs is learning a second language, starting
in primary years,” says Cline. The languages taught vary by school and are dictated largely by the number of IB students and availability of native-speaking teachers, but the IB’s global curriculum is about more than encouraging bilingualism.

Each IB World School develops its own curriculum within the IB framework—curriculum, student assessment, teacher development and school support, authorization and evaluation—prior to authorization. “Schools study our paperwork, course requirements and philosophy. They then plan their own curriculum based on what they have money to do and what their governance requires,” says Cline. “The authorization process takes about two years. We then evaluate them every five years.”

The most widely available of the three programs is the Diploma Programme for high school juniors and seniors. During this two-year program, every course a student takes is IB, and each student is assessed multiple times rather than only once at the end. Beyond the classroom, students are required to direct an involved creative service project and write an independent thesis paper by graduation. “IB requires that students form a project and demonstrate its need in a rigorous way,” says Cline. “They reflect on what they learned and how it was an educational experience. IB also has a course called Theory of Knowledge that encourages kids to look at the claims to truth made in other courses in the curriculum.”

This introspective analysis and well-rounded education attracts both international and local students and has recruiters on notice that IB Diploma graduates are some of the most desirable college candidates. “The IB Programme was created to help kids succeed in college, not necessarily to give them entry into fancy colleges,” says Cline. “It’s a mistaken goal to worry about where a child is going to go rather than how well that child is going to do.”

Atlanta International School is one local private school offering IB and the only school in the Southeast where all students from kindergarten through 12th grade follow the IB curriculum. According to AIS media and communications manager Gordana Goudie, AIS aims for a balanced mix of international and American students, which aids in achieving Headmaster Robert Brindley’s goal of “preparing students for college and the world with a global perspective.”

Another local private school offering the Primary Years Programme is High Meadows School. “The curriculum framework of the IB PYP has helped our school focus on international perspectives of learning and teaching while still allowing students to fully explore their home culture and language,” says High Meadows PYP curriculum and staff development coordinator Stephanie Dempsey. “IB has given our curriculum a depth that doesn’t exist at all schools and has attracted a more diverse community, which makes the world a little more manageable for young children.”

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