International Baccalaureate programs aren’t just about learning languages. The internationally recognized system, offered in 146 countries, is an academically rigorous curriculum centered on critical thinking with a strong worldview. Students are encouraged to question everything and form valid arguments; one component is European-style oral exams. With seventy-one IB schools, Georgia ranks sixth in the nation for number of IB programs. You can find IB programs in private schools such as the Atlanta International School, High Meadows, and Notre Dame Academy, and within several local public school systems, such as Gwinnett County’s Norcross High School.
“There’s so much pressure and tension around this globalized, interconnected world,” says Atlanta International School headmaster Kevin Glass. “Parents want their children to be successful. I just don’t think the old ‘one size fits all’ works anymore for our society.”
There are four levels of IB programs for students ages three to nineteen:
Primary Years Programme (PYP) For ages three to twelve, this program harnesses the natural curiosity of children, says Glass. At High Meadows, students create a “unit of inquiry” in which they identify a real-life problem, investigate it, and look for answers. Then they share what they learned with the school community. At AIS, younger students take all of their classes in two languages through grade five.
Middle Years Programme (MYP) Designed for middle schoolers and freshmen/sophomores, this curriculum adds the study of at least one foreign language. Students study humanities, sciences, mathematics, arts, physical education, and technology. All tests are open-ended, critical-thinking assessments (no “fill-in-the-bubble” standardized exams), and students learn research skills, culminating in an in-depth research project at the end of grade ten.
Diploma Programme (DP) Juniors and seniors must pass exams in six subject areas, write an extended essay, and take part in community service. IB classes are considered on par with Advanced Placement classes. Like AP exams, most colleges will accept high scores on IB exams for college credit.
Career-related Certificate (IBCC) This newer program is tailored to juniors and seniors who plan to enter career technology or vocational programs.The IB program is in place at four schools within the Marietta City Schools system, including Marietta High School and Marietta Middle School. The students who receive their IB diplomas are more than prepared for college, says Debbie Woolard, Marietta’s International Baccalaureate coordinator. “You see students who are confident, competent, and accomplished when they get to college, and college is not such a giant step for them.”
This article originally appeared in our November 2013 issue.