IB Learner Profile

What is the IB Learner Profile?

The IB Learner Profile is a set of ten attributes which all members of the IB community - students, teachers and leaders - should be encouraged to develop. They represent a broad range of human capacities and responsibilities that go beyond intellectual development and academic success.The IB Learner Profile is based on a holistic understanding of education, where the whole child/student is the whole point.

What the IB says

"The aim of all IB programmes is for students to develop and demonstrate international-mindedness. It is a multifaceted concept that captures a way of thinking, being and acting. Internationally minded students are open to others and to the world, and are cognizant of our deep interconnectedness." (IB 2017).

"The IB learner profile represents a broad range of human capacities and responsibilities that encompass intellectual, personal, emotional and social growth. • Developing and demonstrating the attributes of the learner profile provides an important foundation for international-mindedness. • The learner profile supports students in taking action for positive change."(PYP: From Principles into Practice, The Learner (2018))

"The learner profile presents us with a bold statement. We are not only promising our school communities that students will come to know and understand certain content, and develop certain skills - we are promising that students will be engaged in a process that will make them a certain type of person; a specific type if inquirer; a specific type of communicator; a specific type of knowledgeable learner etc. This is a promise that guides educational practices in IB schools and carries with it a significant responsibility, much heavier than if we saw ourselves as mere deliverers of content. This process of education associated with the learner profile and the development of international mindedness involves all members of the community exemplifying and developing these attributes, so the whole school community develops as this type of learner. This impacts not only who we are as individuals but also who we are as communities. This module examines what the future may hold and explores the potential impact that this type of learner, exemplified in the learner profile attributes, will have on our rapidly shifting present and on the uncertain future that constantly approaches." (IB Learner Profile Category 3 online workshop, module 2)

The learner profile and international mindedness

"The learner profile now describes the learning outcomes the IB envisions for students and defines our long-term vision of education. And although the learner profile itself does not mention internationalism, it is cast as the means through which we express our objectives and strategies for creating authentic international perspectives in our students and our schools. The learner profile describes what it means to be, and how to become, more internationally minded.

Ian Hill, former Deputy Director General of the IB, is credited with the introduction of "international-mindedness" as the concept that keeps the "I" in the "IB." As the world continues to shrink thanks to powerful forces of globalization, the responsibility to develop internationally-minded people is no longer the exclusive domain of international schools and the IB. Specific curricula and competencies are being developed in response to the new "flat world." (Thomas Friedman, T. 2005. The World is Flat: A Short History of the 21st Century.) Yong Zhao, for example, identifies five crucial requirements for global villagers in our era: understanding global interdependence, understanding global economics, understanding global problems, understanding human conflicts, and understanding other cultures (Zhao, Y. September 2009. "Needed: Global Villagers". Educational Leadership).

Interestingly, this move towards international frameworks, perspectives and competencies is not without its critics. Minority groups in the United States, for example, are highly critical of the IB's perspective and its influence on US public education. In 2008, the state of Utah temporarily withdrew funding for IB World Schools in its public system based on concerns voiced by several conservative state senators. (You can read about the controversy from the perspective of those concerned in a blog on the Senate Site blog (a blog about the Utah Senate Majority).

“At Hanoi International School (HIS) the IB Learner Profile attributes are written in the different languages HIS represents. The students made these posters. The value that language diversity brings to a community is rich. It allows many cultures to be seen and appreciated, it articulates many forms expressions and so many others. In HIS, we have what we call "Mother Tongues Night", where students perform many acts in their mother tongues and the community gets to see and celebrate it. The artefact I have chosen articulates that beauty when students get to use and appreciate their language. It is more meaningful when these different languages are spoken in the language of the IB Learner Profile attributes. It showcases a celebration of diversity.” (Jeffrey Joseph Araula, MYP Coordinator at Hanoi International School, Vietnam)

The IB Learner Profile: Our shared responsibility for the planet

The IB mission states that we work "to create a better world", confronting us with the question, 'what are our responsibilities on a planetary scale?' How do the attributes of the IB learner profile help us confront some of the 'big global issues'?

“We are already living in a globalized, interconnected, and interdependent world. Our current generation is facing major global issues that we will need to solve in the coming 20 years. Our current students will be on the front line to work on these challenges. The work they will have to do will require a high level of cooperation and collaboration between all people from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. Students who will be able to navigate this complex world because they understand what connects us as humans will be well prepared to be the active contributors to make the world a better place.  Movies or documentaries that are about global warming and climate change are usually showing the terrible fate of a doomed planet. Cyril Dion, poet, actor, and filmmaker took a different approach to the subject. He has chosen to make a documentary “Tomorrow” about people who have found creative, concrete solutions to environmental and social challenges in various areas: agriculture, energy, habitat, economy, education, democracy…His movie is a story about what’s possible to do now. Cyril Dion exemplifies the characteristics of the learner profile: he is inquisitive, curious, reflective, creative, and is a great communicator. (Sochenda Samreth)


What's the connection between the IB Mission and IB Learner Profile?

The IB says that the Learner Profile is the IB mission in action. The IB strap line is 'Educating for a better world'.  This goes to the heart of the IB Mission of "creating a better world through education". But how do IB World Schools do this? The IB would say that they do this by nurturing and living out the attributes of the IB Learner Profile.

The IB describes the Learner Profile as “the IB mission statement translated into a set of learning outcomes" for the 21st century. The attributes and accompanying descriptors define the type of learner the IB hopes to develop through its programmes. The IB provides the rationale for this selection of attributes when it says  "The attributes describe the kind of people - parents, students, educators - who will be needed to help make a better and more peaceful world" (IB, 2012, The IB learner profile in review, available to IB authorized schools on the IB OCC).

The IB Learner Profile is for all members of an IB World School community: students, teachers, leaders, governors and parents. Note how each attribute starts with the word 'WE' signalling the importance the IB gives to the fact that these attributes are not just for students but for all members of the school community: administrators, pedagogical leaders, teaching staff, counsellor's etc. When she was Chair of the IB Council of Foundation Monique Seefried explained it thus: " It is called a learner profile rather than a student profile since the best method of teaching is by example and we therefore expect IB teachers as well as administrators to model it to students and their parents, thereby representing our mission statement in action. (Seefried, M., The IB, educating hearts and minds to meet the challenges of today's world, IBO, 2008)

The Learner Profile is a helpful tool for whole school reflection and analysis. Reflection on the Learner Profile can be used as part of the preparation for authorization, or as part of a schools’ self-study leading to the five year evaluation. School governors, school leaders and administrators, pedagogical leaders and individual teachers can use the Learner Profile as a framework to review how the school philosophy, culture, structures, systems and curriculum enable students, and the adults who implement the programmes, to develop into the learner described in the profile.

Professional Inquiry

In the following pages we will inquire into the following questions:

  • How do we make the IB Learner Profile our own? Can we add attributes?
  • How do we embed these attributes in all that we do? How have other schools done this?
  • Where is the IB Learner Profile lived out in our school?
  • How relevant are the IB Learner Profile attributes in 'the real world'? How are the attributes of the Learner Profile exemplified in the lives of others in the world?
  • How does the IB Learner Profile link to our approach to learning?
  • What would a staff and a school leader profile look like and how can we use these when recruiting staff?
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