Over 150 countries around the world offer their school students the opportunity to earn an International Baccalaureate (IB) rather than a qualification from their own educational system.
The IB is a series of educational programs for students aged 3 to 19. It was originally created to serve traveling international clients, such as the children of diplomats who needed a sort of academic passport when traveling from one country to another. To serve this temporary population, IB was primarily taught in private international schools around the world.
Things have changed since the early days when IB was a niche product for elite schools. Today, IB programs serve different needs in different countries. More than half of the 5,500 qualifying schools worldwide are state-funded.
In such cases, the IB forms part of the local education system and is funded with public funds. In the UK, the most common route is to take the IB Diploma instead of the A Levels.
Over the past 50 years, the IB has built a reputation as a high-status qualification. The official explanation is that the IB does more than any other educational option, provides students with the best possible preparation for university and employment, and is overall superior to the UK national curriculum. increase.
As a global product, IB takes great care to promote a consistent brand image, with an emphasis on its reliability and consistently high standards. Testimonials on the IB website praise this unified product concept.
But what is lost in these descriptions is that each country’s situation is unique. When the IB canceled exams during the pandemic, the IB came up with a ‘bespoke equation’ for every school because every school is different.
My research has looked at global media representations of IB over 50 years as a way to explore the everyday language used to talk about IB. I used the world press as a window to public opinion. I analyzed 29,491 articles, including letters to the editor, obituaries and editorials, from 916 newspapers in 55 countries. I have found that national education is often compared negatively with IB.
For example, comparing the IB and the American education system, the IB offers a “strong equivalent of breakfast, lunch and dinner,” in contrast to the “cafeteria-style” curriculum of state education, which lacks focus, rigor, and academic content. It is explained that it is “education to do”. .
When comparing the IB to other educational systems, words like ‘prestigious’ and ‘rigorous’ are often used in connection with the IB. These repeated positive references to the IB make other curricula look inferior or lacking.
I also noticed the repeated emphasis on the “international” aspect of the IB. This makes the IB’s scope look more global and allows us to hold our students, schools and teachers to international standards. In contrast, national curricula appear closed and narrow.
The international dimension of the IB was further emphasized with frequent references to Switzerland, such as describing Switzerland as the ‘Swiss-based’ or ‘Geneva-based’ International Baccalaureate. These are usually found in statements related to IB originating in Geneva. The description of the IB as a non-profit organization based in Switzerland conveys the image of a UN-type institution, founded on the presence of the main UN office in Switzerland.
The focus on Switzerland masks the fact that half of the IB World Schools offering IB are in North America. This is important as it helps contribute to a unified IB brand idea.
We also found that “IB” was used repeatedly as a label to refer to curriculum (IB programs), institutions (IB organizations), awards (IB certificates), and people (IB students). This formulaic way of talking about the various aspects of the IB is repeated across countries to build a unified ‘IB world’. The positive values and attitudes that have come to be associated with the IB label ensure that everyone speaks the same way, amplifying its reputation on the global stage.
There are many reasons why students choose IB. One reason may be that the country’s education system continues to be portrayed in negative terms in the media. It highlights the declining standards and crisis of education. These representations are enhanced compared to IB.