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We are all aware of the need for a good education for our children, but for many families this notion is merely a pipe dream. Whether for reasons of finance, geography, resources or status, there remain many young people who will never benefit from formal teaching. Access is an important issue for the IB and was the subject of an IB council retreat a few weeks ago. Access can be interpreted in a number of ways, but each way leads to the same goal: enabling more students to experience the benefit of an IB education regardless of personal circumstances. Over the next few pages we look at the theme of access and discover how IB teachers around the world have interpreted this theme and implemented it in their school. To start the section off, the President of the Council of Foundation, Monique Seefried, shares her thoughts with Ann Oliver on access and an expanding IB community.

Ever since it was founded in 1968, the International Baccalaureate has done its utmost to transcend frontiers in its mission to create a better world through education. The strategic plan adopted by the IB in 2004 made greater access to an IB education a central theme.

To find out more about the organization’s plans for access, IB World spoke to the President of the Council of Foundation, Monique Seefried, as she prepared for an IB retreat on the subject.

Monique, a language specialist, academic and archaeologist by training, says she doesn’t see the IB’s emphasis on increasing  access as a radical departure for the organization.

“I don’t think we have changed in our desire to create a better world,” she says. “The IB is an organization whose message encompasses such richness that it would be a shame to reserve this sense of international-mindedness and those shared values for the few. The world needs people educated with those values.”

Even for an organization with 38 years’ experience of providing international education, it’s a colossal undertaking, one that
will require time, as well as new methods of implementation and management. As Monique explains, a Council of Foundation retreat held this summer evaluated just what some of those methods might be.

“We are trying to make sure we create a shared vision of how the IB community should look. Our aim in 2004 was that by 2014 there should be a million students in IB programmes. But we need to agree how we make this vision for the IB community work.”

An important duty for the council was to analyse and define the terms under which the IB’s access strategy will operate. “The term ‘access’ has many different meanings for different people,” says Monique. “We needed to make sure we agree, and are well understood by the people in the regions who are working on authorizing schools.”

The IB’s methods of promotion are also expected to evolve to meet these new needs. “Until now, the IB has grown by word of mouth and by schools knocking at our door,” says Monique. “In order to have the impact we want, we need to take steps to promote our programmes to those who need them most.”

Current models actively demonstrate different ways to create wider access to IB programmes and show how many different paths there might be to achieving the organization’s target.

In Quito, Ecuador, the Colegio Municipal Experimental Sebastian de Benalcázar is a state school, authorized to teach the Diploma Programme since 2003. The small-scale introduction, funded by the municipality, has had huge beneficial consequences for the school as a whole.

Learning and teaching methods have been transformed and as the Diploma Programme’s trickle-down effects have been felt, the Middle Years Programme is about to be introduced. Agreement has also been reached between the IB and the Ecuadorian Ministry of Education whereby Benalcázar will serve as a model school for promoting IB programmes throughout the country. The government will fund the authorization process in full for the public high schools selected, and provide the improved resources needed to meet IB requirements.

Another potential model can be found in Cambodia. Here, the IB’s three-year project is based at the Kandal provincial teacher-training college and sponsored by UNESCO and the IB Asia-Pacific regional office. It uses Primary Years Programme educators from the region to deliver teacher- training workshops. In the 2005-2006 school year, 25 teacher-trainers, 72 mentor teachers and some 220 student teachers have been delivering and learning modern, interactive teaching methods, making a big difference to the future of the country’s ruined education system.

A third model exists at Broadgreen High School, in Liverpool, UK, a state school where more than half of the 1,300 students are deemed to come from socially deprived inner-city backgrounds. Broadgreen became the first IB World School in Liverpool in 1992, and has no entry restrictions or requirements for the Diploma Programme. Here, another aspect of access, that of students with disabilities, is being explored, with the local education authority funding everything from lifts and ramps to a resource centre for deaf students.

These are just three prototypes for improving access and, says Monique, there will be many more. However, the above examples apart, finding the resources to make this happen on the scale envisioned by the IB will be a major challenge.

© Photo: Geoff Young
Monique Seefried“There are two sides to the question,” says Monique. “One is financial. The council is working on a plan to strengthen our fundraising and development arm. However, if someone comes along who has an interest in one specific area, is willing to support it financially, and it is in accordance with our mission and our strategy, then we will be adaptable.

“The other side involves our evolving reliance on partnership. If there are others ready and willing to partner with us because they share our values, they will be welcome. The IB is still a movement that operates on that sense of faith and of mission.”

The United World Colleges organization is the IB’s best-known and most long-standing partner, and although the UWC link will always remain a special one, Monique affirms that we will see more like this in the future.

“We have been in discussion and have already started working with the Aga Khan Academies ( But also, in our effort to offer IB programmes online we will be forming partnerships with specific companies, because this is one area where we cannot do everything in-house.”

Monique also points out that there are opportunities to improve access within existing IB World Schools. Today, we know that 48% of IB World Schools offer the Diploma Programme to less than half of their students.

“While I know that schools have varying populations with differing needs, there appears to be plenty of scope to reach more students within our existing schools,” suggests Monique.

And while nearly 50% of IB World Schools are state-funded, there are also numerous private schools that use innovative bursary and scholarship schemes to ensure students are admitted on merit, not just their ability to pay. “Our problem is that people confuse high standards with elitism,” argues Monique. “We need to show that we have high standards that are accessible to those with the motivation and commitment to try.”

She is excited by the potential of building a critical mass of schools in more countries. “We know that when we reach 50 or more IB World Schools in a country, interesting things start to happen. We find that networks of schools become stronger and provide local support to each other. It’s easier to negotiate for good university access and we even get consulted on national curriculum changes.”

Monique believes it is the undiluted quality of the IB World Schools’ achievements that will attract further interest, and will improve access by raising standards in a given area. “Because we are independent, it’s much easier for us to think through those issues, but at the same time we have a responsibility to our existing
IB World Schools and to the schools who have recently come into our programmes,” she says. “IB programmes are rigorous,  and of high quality and are the first contributing factor to the access project. If students are motivated by their teachers, they can take IB exams and succeed: it’s a question of motivation above anything else.”

In fact, the students themselves are the second vital contributing factor to the access project. As Monique says in this year’s IB Annual Review, students themselves will become ambassadors-at-large for IB education.

“We foresee the creation of an IB Association, made up of students, teachers and parents because many parents, once they have seen what an IB education can do for their children, also become ambassadors for the programmes.

“This is true in my case, and true of many council members. I have three children who are IB graduates, and having an IB Association you can call on for support and advocacy all round the world, can channel that enormous goodwill.

“I think we are in a very good position to be visionary about what we want to achieve, instead of just going along with the IB’s general growth,” Monique concludes. “We have to be models for the Learner Profile and take risks. We need to lead the organization with the right vision, and focus on a main road to get us there. There will be diversions left and right, but if the main road is broad and well-defined we can choose where we want to go.”

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Monique Seefried

Monique Seefried
© Photo: Geoff Young

1950 Born Carthage, Tunisia

1969 Intern in the Presidential campaign of Georges Pompidou

1967-1978 Attended the Sorbonne, Paris. Gained a BA, MA and PhD in History

1970-1972 History and geography teacher, Paris

1982-1987 Adjunct Professor, Art History Department, Emory University, (Survey course on Islamic Art and Architecture);

1982-2002 Curator of Near Eastern Art, Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University,

2000-2004 Executive Director, Center for the Advancement and Study of International Education (CASIE)