A reflection: 50 years in the UK and a growing need for the IB

In the IB’s 50th anniversary year, John Claughton, Development Officer at International Baccalaureate Schools and Colleges Association (IBSCA) of the UK and Ireland, reflects on the history of the IB programmes in the UK.

Claughton notes that the IB has seen a steady growth globally in the past 50 years. However, he points out that development has been less linear in the UK over the years and differences can be seen within the state and independent sectors. State schools that have fully committed to the IB have generally prospered, whereas state schools that offer both A-levels and the IB have often struggled to bear costs in hard financial times.

A notable development, however, has been the growth of the Career-related Programme (CP) among state schools. “There are 25 schools in Kent offering the CP, with nearly as many in the pipeline, and independent schools, Ryde, Warminster, Sidcot and Stonyhurst, are taking it up, too, because of its quality and flexibility”, Claughton writes.

Looking at the independent sector, Claughton notes that some schools also find that students rather choose A-levels instead of the IB, but in the majority of independent schools the IB has seen steady and continuous growth. Sam Thater, Head of IB at Whitgift School, summarizes a few of the reasons why the IB has been growing: “There is a growing awareness of just how excellent (and well-respected) a qualification IB is among students, parents and universities alike”, he says. “The myth that it is solely for an academic élite, or that it doesn’t provide adequate depth, has largely been de-bunked too.” 

Claughton concludes by stating that after 50 years, the IB’s time may finally have come as more voices are calling for an end to the specialization that has characterized A-levels in British education for decades. President of the Royal Society, Venki Ramakrishnan, is perhaps one of the most significant voices calling for an overhaul of the A-level curriculum: “Our narrow education system, which encourages early specialisation, is no longer fit for purpose in an increasingly interdisciplinary world”, he says.


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