IB and ‘Character’ education

Saturday 15 September 2018

How does the IB develop the character of students?

At the heart of IB visuals is an image of the child and student.  IB programmes are about developing the whole person - heart, mind and soul. But how does it do this?

I have been faced by this question from two events in my life this week. (1) I have been running an in-school workshop in one of the first IB Continuum World Schools. The week culminated in being asked to speak to an audience of parents and staff about the BIG IB picture – of how we do nurture young people passion and determination, mindset, knowledge and skills to go out and make the world a better place. (2) I have been taking part in a global workshop on the IB approaches for teaching and learning, where we were asked to consider the role and impact of the ATLs in the whole life of the school.I believe the answer to this second question is through the formation of character traits that will last our students a lifetime.

My answer to how the IB develops the whole person is by nurturing their character through developing a broad range of strengths. These can be considered as a three-part taxonomy of strengths.

  • Strengths of mind: inquiry and curiosity, creativity and higher-order thinking skills, open-mindedness, international mindedness, metacognition and reflection: all of these strengths that allow you to have a free and fertile life of the mind.
  • Strengths of heart: empathy and compassion, kindness, generosity, gratitude, service: all these strengths which allow you to reach out in meaningful relationships and service to others.
  • Strengths of will: self-motivation, resilience, self-management, self-control, team-working and collaboration

When parents enrol their children into our schools they are doing so because they believe we can help them thrive and flourish so that they can make a positive difference in the world. Academic success is an important part of this, but so also is development of what used to be called ‘the good life’, a life built on character and virtue. The way we work with our students develops what is sometimes called these ‘soft skills’ that I have referred to as the three-part taxonomy of strengths. They are the skills we develop daily in our approach to teaching and learning.


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