Is an International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma a good choice?

By Rajkamal Rao  

Many US school districts are offering high school students in the 11th and 12th grades a choice to graduate with an International Baccalaureate® (IB) diploma.  The IB program is not new.  It has been around since 1968.  It is only in the last ten years or so that US school districts have begun to recognize that this could be an additional path for gifted and talented students.
An IB curriculum aims to do more than other curricula by developing inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who are motivated to succeed.  According to IBO, the non-profit educational foundation which oversees the IB program, more than 4,000 schools so far have chosen to teach this curriculum with its "unique academic rigor and their emphasis on students’ personal development."  More than one million students worldwide are studying for their IB diplomas.

In all states, students must also complete graduation requirements for each state over and above the IB diploma.  For example, in Texas, IB students must fulfill TEA elective requirements – so some TEA required courses (like Health, Technology, Communications) may have to be taken in the 9th and 10th grades, or in accelerated summer sessions, or online, or at external institutions, before entering the IB program.

Students who pursue the IB diploma must take six subjects: one each from Groups 1–5 and either one from Group 6 or a permitted substitute from one of the other groups. Three or four subjects must be taken at Higher level (HL) and the rest at Standard level (SL).  The IB recommends a minimum of 240 hours of instructional time for HL courses and 150 hours for SL courses.

The reputation of the program shows.  Even for the Ivy Leagues, IB acceptance rates are marginally higher than traditional HS degrees.  For many in the Top 40, IB acceptance rates are significantly higher – see Carnegie Mellon University example below.  Of course, the quality of the IB coursework matters (6/7 or 7/7).

Texas law requires that every IB diploma holder whose IB test scores are 4 and above will be granted a minimum of 24 college credit hours at public colleges in Texas (equivalent to 8 AP classes).  This is another big plus of the IB program.

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