Marymount International Director of Communications Kirsten Crossland on why the International Baccalaureate (IB) is so successful in helping students build future skills and find their best path

At a recent open day, one of our students stood up in front of an audience of prospective parents and spoke about how she was inspired to enter the world of biomedicine and molecular genetics. She told them that she had moved from GCSE to the IB, and that this had helped her find her calling and opened her mind to the possibilities for higher education and beyond.

With recent news surrounding curricula adjusting to a more baccalaureate-style of education, the IB Diploma seems to be gaining the attention it deserves. Students select six subjects, two of which are language subjects, and one a mathematics stream. Performing arts is an optional stream, and the sciences and humanity subjects are compulsory. This exciting, broad curriculum surrounds three core requirements: a research piece and dissertation of 4,000 words known as the Extended Essay; involvement in a form of creativity, activity and service; and study of a philosophical subject, the Theory of Knowledge.

Equipped with the skills learned from their vast choice of subjects, students complete the Diploma with an education that has prepared them for life beyond senior school years. Gone is the need to learn how to critically analyse subjects only at tertiary level; Theory of Knowledge prepared them for that. IB graduates are not fazed by writing sizeable pieces of work either; they are experienced in planning, researching, evaluating, drafting and editing as a result of their work with their Extended Essay. What about being involved in the community, you might ask? IB students are willing and able to find ways to better serve their fellow man, keep themselves healthy, and ultimately, maintain their journey as compassionate citizens.

“Students complete the IB Diploma with an education that has prepared them for life beyond their senior school years”

Today’s senior school students will probably be retiring around the year 2080, and it is likely that they will have had three different careers. Some of their jobs have not yet been conceptualised, never mind created. The adaptability they will require to be successful is incredibly important. By allowing them to question the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of their world, we are encouraging them to take ownership of their education and future life.

Studying six subjects also allows for more options and opportunities at tertiary level. Some teenagers may not realise that, brilliant as they are at visual arts, mathematics is the underlying pathway for them – or vice versa. As individuals, we go into education to make these choices and ultimately end up making our own way and travelling our own individual path. By not limiting learning to a small number of subjects, doors remain open to students, and previously unimagined routes can suddenly become option.

We have seen many students come through our halls over the last 45 years of IB teaching. The young women who make up our alumnae often come back to share their achievements, and their stories only support our decision to use the International Baccalaureate as our curriculum. Our students have gone on to contribute meaningfully to their chosen careers. From sustainability consultants and human rights lawyers to working for education in conflict zones, they represent the richness an IB education is able to provide.

Marymount International School London

Further reading: Education 2:0 – how schools are adapting sixth form education