What is the IB about?

Monday 16 October 2017

How do you introduce the IB to new audiences?

I have just returned from leading an Administrators workshop in Dubai. This is the opening speech I was asked to give to all of the 500 workshop participants. In it I tried to go to the heart of what makes the IB distinctive.

Teachers make a difference

As a headteacher of schools I have always asked teachers applying for jobs what brought them into teaching. One of the most often heard responses was that they ‘wanted to make a difference’: to the life chances of children, to their aspirations and potential and as a consequence to the world at large.

At teachers we are, in our hearts, driven by a moral purpose – to make that difference. It is for this reason that Winston Churchill, said that they have “powers at their disposal with which Prime Ministers have never yet been invested.”

The IB is mission focused - making the world a better place

One of the most distinctive aspects of an IB education is its moral purpose. The IB’s stray line is “Education for a better world.” What unites us here is a burning desire to make this world better through what we are doing in education. The IB represent this in the following diagram.

  • Person at the heart:– with the characteristics to be able to make the world better
  • With specific attributes and skills – described as the Learner Profile
  • A pedagogical approach which is centred on bi ideas (concepts), inquiry and reflection – critical thinking
  • A clear context - global and local context – no small mindedness here
  • And then the knowledge and skills through our various disciplines to make the differen

IB provides tools to shape the quality of thinking

In this year of post – truth and protest in which more than ever it is important to provide students with the skills to assess and weigh up what is true and what is fake the IB approaches to teaching and learning are especially important. Developing students' (and teachers) critical thinking skills is essential. This has always been an essential element of the Theory of Knowledge course. The following video highlights why it is important to teach students how to think and how to apply their thinking to real life situations.

An article from the US publication, Education Week, recently caught my attention. It was titled:  Stop Teaching Students What to Think. Teach Them How to Think

For more than a century, we've been creating an industrial workforce of human automatons, built for the purpose of performing routine labor … Now that machines can perform a large number of the tasks humans once did what happens to the humans who were programmed to operate the machines?

Human-automaton creation must end. To succeed in a world of automation will require being as un-machinelike as possible. The entire education system will need to be retooled around no longer teaching kids what to think but how to think. The challenge is not information storage but information processing.

The teaching of creativity, curiosity, critical thinking, analytical thinking, problem-solving, and a love of learning itself will be critical to transitioning from the industrial age to the automated age. Learning how to collaborate and empathize with others will be key.

To succeed in the future will require rediscovering what it means to be truly human. Mark Twain once said the two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. In the decades ahead, our jobs as humans will be finding our ways to our "whys." And education must be reoriented accordingly.

And that brings us back to where we start – the IB Mission.

I often ask workshop participants to bring along an artefact that says something about what they think is important. Here's mine. It is a poster found on a grocery product.

My call to you over the next three days is: go and change the world together. One of the things I love about the IB is that we are a global community. This conference is a superb opportunity to collaborate and network and together change the world and make it a better place.


Tags: IB, Mission


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