Mark Beverley, director of curriculum at Sevenoaks, defends the IB diploma. He argues that an international qualification is as relevant now as it ever has been.
Last year, the UK voted in favour of Brexit. It shocked many people in the UK, Europe and across the world.
The current climate of uncertainty leads me to believe that qualifications like the International Baccalaureate are essential for young people facing an increasingly globalised working life. Its mission: to develop inter-cultural understanding and respect, as well as the versatility to work in and contribute to a changing world.
The ethos at Sevenoaks, which has been an IB school since 1978, is to provide an education with a strong global dimension. We also aim to deliver this in an open-minded, cosmopolitan environment. Our students come from over 40 countries and our cultural diversity encourages awareness, understanding and healthy debate.
A quick glance at the ongoing headlines from around the world confirms our view that we are sorely in need of ideas that will bring people, countries and cultures together. We think that the IB diploma programme provides the best possible education for the young people tasked with coming up with these solutions.
What is the purpose of the IB Diploma?
The International Baccalaureate has a mission to develop intercultural understanding. Pupils studying it know that they have a responsibility to work toward a better world. We believe that the root cause of global crises is a failure to communicate, to understand and to empathise. That is why we celebrate unity in diversity.
The European Union’s aims of establishing citizenship, protecting fundamental human rights, ensuring freedom,
security and justice require communication, understanding and empathy. So, just how relevant is the IB now to a British education after we voted to leave?
Dr Siva Kumari, the director general of the IB, said recently,
‘The enemies of international-mindedness are themselves a global phenomenon and are making full use of globalisation’s technologies. Such developments demonstrate how necessary international mindedness is to manage a world becoming ever more global without growing closer together.’
In any period of political and economic uncertainty, the value of a broad education increases. Not only does it enhance individual breadth of knowledge, but it widens opportunity and changes mindsets. It also potentially increases ambition, as pupils desire to become compassionate, responsible global citizens.
The IB diploma programme caters to this desire very well. Unaffiliated to any government agenda, it has remained relatively stable and aspirational. Especially when competing qualification systems have been undermined by compromise and the caprice of successive governments. It is an internationally understood and valued qualification. With a mix of nationalities and cultures naturally gravitating toward it, an IB school or classroom is a melting pot of viewpoints, hotly debated in a safe environment.
IB Diploma advantages
Academic freedom is actively supported and encouraged in the IB, which is known for providing opportunities in interdisciplinary teaching and learning. At Sevenoaks we do not find rigid demarcation between different subject areas particularly helpful. In fact it is often in the interstices between subjects where we find the most interesting ideas. Similarly, across the school and curriculum we find an approach of ‘both/and’ more productive than one of ‘either/or’. This inclusive attitude prepares students well for undergraduate studies.
Universities understand and trust the IB Diploma. When our students leave Sevenoaks they join top universities in the UK, the US and around the world, taking with them an internationally recognised and valued qualification. This is of particular importance, not only because of Brexit, but also because the UK national education system is undergoing seismic change at every level.
The IB remains a gold standard of education that opens doors internationally as easily as it does at home. With the UK potentially standing on its own in the European landscape, a qualification such as the IB could become the common educational currency. This will make international higher education more accessible to those with the IB Diploma than those with A-levels.
It is too soon to assess the political and cultural impact of Brexit. However it is heartening to note that three-quarters of 18 to 24-year-olds voted to remain. This demonstrates their commitment and desire to be part of a bigger international set-up.
In light of Brexit, our view is that education in the UK needs to become even more European in its outlook in order for our teenagers to prosper in an increasingly global community. The young people who study the IB will share this desire, and with the IB’s focus on global citizenship, we can rest assured that they will inevitably make for model Europeans.