A representative of Harvard University once told me that the IB is ‘The Business.’ The Diploma Programme (DP) is rapidly becoming the foremost pre-University educational experience. Top universities from around the world recognise its rigour and versatility, its stringent examination standards and its holistic ideals of independent thought, ethical guidance and international-mindedness. One only need look at the IB Learner Profile to understand the organisation’s dedication to creating a community of life-long learners well-versed in the values of citizenship and moral practice. These are self-evident statements: now you’ve chosen to undertake the programme, how best to make the most of it?
The strength of the DP is in its depth and breadth. Students are immersed in a range of subjects (from six groups) and to levels of inquiry traditionally associated with programmes that have fewer subject requirements, e.g. A-Levels. The sheer amount of material covered can seem at first overwhelming, but a structured timetable both at school and at home will ensure success. Equally, the core components of the DP – Theory of Knowledge (TOK), Extended Essay (EE) and C.A.S – will bolster the traditional subjects and consolidate learning, knowledge and, perhaps most importantly, thinking skills and their application. Making the right choices in TOK and EE is a key factor in the DP experience. Yes, it is always valuable to explore new avenues of study. However, when choosing your subjects for the TOK and EE essays, maintaining a balance is essential. Look to subject areas you know are well-resourced in your school and local libraries; perhaps work on an area that you will cover in the main subject syllabus but aim to go further, to use the classroom as a basis for your own research; start early: identify teachers you wish to work with and approach them considerately. There is nothing a teacher likes more than a student who wishes to pursue his studies above and beyond what is done in the classroom.
Your relationships with your teachers will be changed on entry into the DP. Many colleagues of mine talk of the collaborative process of the programme, of ‘working with’ the students. Above all the DP develops the mind and the person: IB students are knowledgeable, sure, but more than that they are discerning and articulate, adept at solving problems and working both independently and in groups. An IB student gains immediate respect from the elite admissions officers and, later, serious employers. But it is more than a stepping-stone. Choose subjects you enjoy: you will live with them for two rewarding years. As the Harvard colleague told a group of my students: ‘Foster your interests and be yourself. The IB takes care of the rest.’
Joe Thomas, Elite IB Tutor & Educational Consultant