Is the IB worth it: A perspective from one who is both IB teacher and mom of two IB students.

Is the IB worth it: A perspective from one who is both IB teacher and mom of two IB students.

I currently have two children who are in their final year of the IB program.  We are 3 months away from the IB exams.  They are actively working on Internal Assessments (IA) for History, English, Science, as well as their Extended Essays and Theory of Knowledge essays.  The math IA is, thankfully, complete.  There has been so much stress and anxiety in my house for the last five months that it has become almost unbearable.  And, it leads me to actively question, “Is the IB worth it?”

I currently am an IB Biology teacher and an advocate of the IB program.  I believe in and endeavor to guide my students in the IB learner profile (IB learners strive to be inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced, reflective).  I think it is a globally minded, well rounded, and balanced curriculum.  It is also rigorous and truly prepares students for academic university life.  I have had countless students return to tell me how grateful they are for their IB education and how prepared they were for college.  As a teacher I’ve never really questioned the IB program.

However, now I stand in different shoes and am reflecting on what the IB means to our family:

The IB program dictates family vacations or rather, NOT taking family vacations.

The IB program directs social events and weekend activities or rather NOT having social events or fun activities on the weekend.

If your children are relatively intelligent and willing to work hard, they’ll still struggle in the IB program causing stress that reverberates throughout the family structure.

If your children decide to “have a life” – or “be balanced”, as heralded important in the IB learner profile – by joining a sports team, they will become unmanageably swamped by juggling the sports schedule and the work load generated by the IB program. 

Because the workload is so intense, there will be times when they simply must choose to miss a deadline or two resulting in concerned teachers and the building up of the workload.

They spend hours and hours each on homework, limiting themselves to about 5 hours (sometimes less) of sleep a night, including weekends as well.  As a parent I straggle into bed late at night fully aware that my children are toiling away on a math assignment in one room and a history assignment in another room.

I feel guilty about the Biology work they have been assigned by me; however, I know there is no other way.

They show me their progress with blood-shot eyes and carry on.

Then starts the cycle of teachers constantly being on their case about deadlines.   The teachers begin to question your children’s dedication to schoolwork; unaware of how much time the students are actually putting in.  I know, because I’m one of those teachers!

Oh, and then there are the meaningful service hours they need to complete, document, and reflect on.

Then, ultimate deadlines with threats of "no diploma" appear and loom overhead.  Teachers have no choice, I know, because IAs must be mailed in to the IB by certain deadlines and teachers need time to assess them first.  I’m currently worried I won’t have enough time with the Biology IAs to fairly assess them before the mailing date.

More sleep deprivation.

High stress levels.

Tears.  Anger. Fear of failure.

Is it worth it?  I’m not sure.  I’ll have to see this through and revaluate next fall when it is behind us and my children are fully immersed in college life with the anxieties and stresses of IB in the distant past.