Is the IB Worth it?

A parent's perspective

A follow up to a previous post in which I, as a parent, seriously questioned the value of the IB education: Click here for the first blog post

Working hard while others are still enjoying the care-free life of a summer break.

Glorious, sunny, cool, fall weather has settled in on the Netherlands.  Students officially return to school in a week and many are squeezing in the last summer activities before facing the routine of classes and homework.  However, one student arrives in my classroom every day this week at 11:30, working steadily until 3:30, 4:00, or even 4:30 p.m.  He is working on his extended essay for IB biology.

He has built his on electrophorese apparatus to compare genomic DNA of specific regional plants.


His project to me, as his teacher, is thrilling and his dedication to it impresses me.  The quiet one-on-one time he has with me in between my meetings and pre-school duties is a pleasure as he is a genuinely interested and curious student who has taken full ownership of his project. 

His gel - I love the use of legos to make the wells.

As a teacher I am a strong advocate of the IB, its curriculum, and its ability to prepare students for the university.

However, as a mother, I wonder what the mother of this IB student thinks.  Is she concerned about all of his responsibilities?  Of course, the real crunch hasn’t arrived.  I remember back on my own amazement at the time and energy required of IB students, from a mom’s perspective.  I remember my own questioning of whether the value of an IB education offsets the sacrifice required to obtain the IB diploma.

It is now behind us, as a family.  Our two teenagers have completed and earned their IB diplomas.  They are happy with the results and I’m grateful the hard work paid off.  However, the question remains, is the IB worth it? 

From a mom’s perspective, I now have arrived at the conclusion that it IS worth it.  Not only is the curriculum rigorous and preparatory for college, but the process of learning how to manage time, prioritize, and yes, deal with long nights and challenges are also preparations for the life to come.  So many of my students have returned to me to report how well the IB prepared them for college.  My own children have already dealt with facing the real world post-high school experience with a mature and capable attitude partly due to their IB training.

There are some other things I advocate more strongly for now that I have both teacher and mom perspective.  One is that students (and parents) consider what the ideal IB student is.  The IB guide states that “IB learners strive to be inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced, and reflective”.  The first day of class my new IB students review these and actually write a paragraph on what it means to be an IB learner. This is part of my plan because the idea of a complete and well-rounded learner is so important to me.

A student who approaches learning with the IB learner attributes will enjoy most fully the benefits of an IB diploma.  My daughter took IB Dutch despite not having the proper background for this journey.  To compensate, she attended a Dutch camp and really worked hard to learn the language.  As a risk-taker she discovered her ability to stretch herself beyond her limits and in the end, learned what she was ultimately capable of.  Both of my children continued to play sports through their second year of IB, a choice I now fully advocate as it provided them with much needed balance. The Theory of Knowledge (TOK) and Extended Essay (EE) provided them with an in-depth opportunity to be inquirers, thinkers, and communicators. CAS fostered caring.  IB teachers and the program overall encouraged them to be knowledgeable, principled, reflective, and open-minded.  Additionally, my children have had a globally minded education that enables them to embark on life's journey as world citizens prepared to collaborate with and work with a multitude of cultures.  Finally, they have the satisfaction of having extended themselves and achieved something worthwhile.

Yes, the IB is worth it.