Are All International Baccalaureate (IB) Schools The Same?

Education Editor, The Maples Academy

The International Baccalaureate, simply known as ‘IB,’ is a highly integrated program that is designed to mold the whole student. The IB program is founded on principles of morality, intercultural understanding, creativity and diversity. Students are active participants in their education, as they build self-confidence and independence and gain a breadth of knowledge in athletics, arts and academics. The IB is globally recognized by  renowned universities and provides a continuum of education from the primary years, starting in Junior Kindergarten at age 3, and ending in the senior years of high school at age 19. In the Orangeville area, the IB is offered by public schools, independent and private schools alike. So the question arises: does it matter whether you choose the IB program offered in a public school versus a private school? Is there a difference in the quality of the program between different schools?

Essentially, yes.

Not every IB program is created equal.

All schools, whether private, independent or public, have their own defining culture, values and mission. No two schools are ever the same, so it’s only natural that no two IB programs are ever the same.

For example, some IB schools cater to the academically elite, while others, like St. Jude’s Academy, make their IB program more accessible to all. According to Ann Harvey, Director, Admissions and Strategic Marketing Communications at St. Jude’s Academy, “Extremely talented students will be challenged and rewarded in our program, while good and average students may also earn an IB Diploma and be very well prepared in all regards for success in university and beyond.” Every student is unique in their level of abilities, and not all IB programs intend to teach students who are not deemed ‘gifted.’

However, likely the biggest variation in IB programs comes from whether or not the program is public or private.

What are the differences between public school and private school IB programs?

1. Student population.

It’s a known fact that public schools tend to have larger classes and a larger student body than most private schools. While every IB program provides an enriched education, in a public school, the IB student is outnumbered. This results in far less opportunity available to the student — whereas at a private school, that student is one of 15 trying out for the soccer team, and not one of 50. The private IB student has endless opportunities to shine, in any discipline they choose to pursue. In fact, private school students come out of their shell more and are more likely to try out something new or put themselves out there for something that might otherwise be intimidating and nerve-wracking in front of a much larger student body.

Moreover, a smaller student population makes for a close family of students, teachers and faculty, which is something difficult to achieve in an overwhelmingly large school.

2. Student support.

Private IB programs provide more comprehensive support for students. Public schools treat IB students as a minority within a large population of students in need of support, while private schools can focus their attention on IB specifically and the unique challenges and opportunities that come with being in an academically rigorous program. Students are nurtured and encouraged by a strong faculty and staff, all of whom dedicate themselves to inspiring IB students to achieve their greatest potential in an intensive program.

3. Student culture.

In public school, IB students are surrounded by non-IB students. The danger lies in the fact that non-IB students simply do not have the same amount and same level of difficulty of schoolwork as IB students do. This can easily lead IB students to become demotivated as they watch their peers study less advanced material, and, likely have more off-time than they do. Young, impressionable students could feel alienated amongst their peers and grow a leisurely attitude about school.

In private school, where IB students are only amongst other IB students, there is naturally a culture amongst students of taking school seriously, as all of them face the same enriched expectations. They can lean on one another for support and motivate each other. If most, if not all, of a student’s peers are working their hardest in school, the student will feel inclined by a majority culture of good work ethic to follow suit. Public school does not allow for IB students to be part of this same conducive environment, because they are always part of a melting pot of students, some of which are high-achievers and others not.

We asked Melissa Chin, Head of  St. Jude’s  Academy and IBO Canadian Chair, what should a parent/guardian look for in an IB School?

The IB program should offer your child challenging academics while developing a humanistic worldview and encouraging productive involvement in the community. Their education should be more than just studying and achieving high marks. IB students should be encouraged to play on a team, lead a club, be in a band, act on the stage or sing in the choir and just be an adolescent.

When choosing an IB program, remember that a student belongs in the school where they feel most inspired, supported, included, and known.

To learn more about St. Jude’s Academy, the first continuum IB school in Mississauga, please visit www.stjudesacademy.com  or arrange for a tour by calling 905-814-0277. To learn more about the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) visit ibo.org.

The Maples Academy (JK-Grade 8) is the leading private IB School (PYP) in the communities of Orangeville, Caledon, Shelburne, Grand Valley and surrounding areas. The Maples Academy is a part of a family of schools: St. Jude’s Academy, The Maples Academy and Oakwood Academy. Our faculty are world leaders in IB education, providing fundamental skills. Phys. Ed, Arts and language specialists nurture the whole student, which ensures our graduates are accepted into their chosen high school. Supported by faculty and parents, our students are inspired to confidently make their mark in the world. Visit us at themaplesschool.com.