The 'IB Learner Profile' was introduced during the early years of this century and is detailed in a booklet first published by the IB in 2006. It aims to bring a shared set of values to all three of the IB programmes, the Primary Years (PYP), Middle Years (MYP) and Diploma (DP). In the words of the IB,
"The aim of all IB programmes is to develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world."
Essentially it sets the scene to prepare IB students to be life-long learners and this should apply to IB teachers too. Many people in education question how unique this set of values is to the IB.
If you were to ask many teachers and other people involved in education what should be the aims of a good education then the answers are likely to be similar to those set out in the IB learner profile. Many non-IB schools have similar values contained in their mission statements. For example, the Nazarbeyev Intellectual Schools in Kazakhstan include the words tenacious and adaptable in their list. Similarly the British National Curriculum QCA Key Stages 3-4 has Personal, learning and thinking skills. These six skills, which were implemented in 2007, are listed as Independent enquirers, Creative thinkers, Reflective learners, Team workers, Self-managers and Effective participants. Another example is the Nurorda International Schools based on the Turkish system which has eight key attributes (see left). Many teachers have questioned the value of listing such skills and see it as 'off the shelf learning'. They feel that schools should be free to develop their own student profiles. In an article quoted in The learning and teaching update e-bulletin Professor Guy Claxton goes so far as to claim that, for him, frameworks such as the QCA example ‘seem more like potential paving slabs for the road to hell than well worked out guidelines for a revitalised education.’
Where the IB does go further than other schools and curricula is that it incorporates the philosophy of the learner profile into its specific programme guides. In the 2014 chemistry guide (for first exams in 2016) it appears even before the contents page. However, currently the guide then contains no further references as to how the content and aims of the course fit in with the learner profile. This contrasts starkly with the references as to how particular parts of the programme address the stated aims (such as on pages 187 and 188 where it discusses how the Group 4 Project addresses aims 7 and 8 and the international dimension). Some of the other guides, such as the Extended Essay guide, do include specific reference to the learner profile. For example in the Extended Essay guide it states,
"The learning involved in researching and writing the extended essay is closely aligned with the development of many of the characteristics described in the IB learner profile. Students are, to a large extent, responsible for their own independent learning, through which they acquire and communicate in-depth knowledge and understanding. The research process necessarily involves intellectual risk-taking and extensive reflection; open-mindedness, balance and fairness are key prerequisites for a good extended essay."
The ten key words of the learner profile
The IB learner profile is summed up in ten key words: Inquirers, Knowledgeable, Thinkers, Communicators, Principled, Open-minded, Caring, Risk-takers, Balanced and Reflective. The IB hopes that the learner profile will permeate the whole culture of all IB-approved schools so that the whole curriculum (not just the formally taught curriculum) is focused on educating the whole person for a life of active, responsible citizenship.
The IB has produced a short video "IB Learner Profile" which you can either watch or download and show to other people if you wish.
In May 2014 the IB produced a paper entitled Reflections and projections on the
IB learner profile written by Dr George Walker, Professor Wing-On Lee and Dr Farid Panjwani. This is worth reading.
I've reproduced the actual IB Learner Profile at the foot of the page (IB learners strive to be ...). This is copyright IB but as it is available in almost all of their publications and online and since it is hardly unique I hope they will not mind me reproducing it in full here as it exemplifies what they are trying to promote and achieve. Before that, as a bit of light relief, you might also like to read the poem by Robert Fulghum which essentially encapsulates the spirit of the learner profile and was written quite some time before the IB Learner Profile came into existence.
All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten
ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not
at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:
Don't hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don't take things that aren't yours.
Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
Be aware of wonder.
Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.
© Robert Fulghum, 1990
The actual learner profile
Below is the actual Learner Profile. In fact there is a relatively recent change which was published in the September 2013 Global Newsletter. Schools may if they wish change the heading 'Risk takers' to Courageous. They can also use the word 'spiritual' under the heading of balanced as in "We understand the importance of balancing different aspects of our lives - intellectual, physical, spiritual and emotional - to achieve well-being for ourselves and others.
IB learners strive to be:
They develop their natural curiosity. They acquire the skills necessary to conduct inquiry and research and show independence in learning. They actively enjoy learning and this love of learning will be sustained throughout their lives.
They explore concepts, ideas and issues that have local and global significance.In so doing, they acquire in-depth knowledge and develop understanding across a broad and balanced range of disciplines.
They exercise initiative in applying thinking skills critically and creatively to recognize and approach complex problems, and make reasoned, ethical decisions.
They understand and express ideas and information confidently and creatively in more than one language and in a variety of modes of communication. They work effectively and willingly in collaboration with others.
They act with integrity and honesty, with a strong sense of fairness, justice and respect for the dignity of the individual, groups and communities. They take responsibility for their own actions and the consequences that accompany them.
They understand and appreciate their own cultures and personal histories, and are open to the perspectives, values and traditions of other individuals and communities. They are accustomed to seeking and evaluating a range of points of view, and are willing to grow from the experience.
They show empathy, compassion and respect towards the needs and feelings of others. They have a personal commitment to service, and act to make a positive difference to the lives of others and to the environment.
They approach unfamiliar situations and uncertainty with courage and forethought, and have the independence of spirit to explore new roles, ideas and strategies. They are brave and articulate in defending their beliefs.
They understand the importance of intellectual, physical and emotional balance to achieve personal well-being for themselves and others.
They give thoughtful consideration to their own learning and experience. They are able to assess and understand their strengths and limitations in order to support their learning and personal development.