IB is the buzzword of the next-gen education and most parents are clueless about it as it is new to India. Let's understand what it is all about in this insightful interview with Mr. Neil McWilliam, Head of School, Oberoi International School.
What is IB?
The International Baccalaureate curriculum has three main programs: the primary years program (PYP- nursery to grade 5), middle year program (MYP - grade 6 to grade 10) and the diploma program (Grade 11 and 12). While the primary years and the middle years programs are curriculum frameworks, the diploma program consists of the actual IB curriculum. These frameworks determine the method of teaching in IB schools.
What does the curriculum offer to its students?
The curriculum works out themes that help determine the units of inquiry for a particular grade. These frameworks are built around activities for children. So while going through the units they correlate different concepts in a fun manner. For example, children may connect math and physical education by drawing graphs of recovery rates after exercise or learn percentage while selling goods in a Christmas market. We find these connections because kids learn best this way.
How is the IB different from the other education systems?
The biggest differentiator for the IB is that it is built around the learner profile. There are 10 attributes that we want every student to have. One of these attributes is being a risk taker, that means being able to look for answers without hesitation using even non-traditional methods. Research shows that children learn from each other, that's why in an IB school, classrooms are collaborative environments. They learn better when something is important to them and they learn best when they are seeking answers to a question they have come up with. The IB curriculum is built around this learning philosophy.
Is IB compatible with the higher education system in India?
Not particularly. Most IB diploma students are looking overseas to further their education. IB is not geared towards higher education system in India, rather prepares children for universities in the rest of the world. The association of Indian universities has rules in place currently that do not fit into the IB education system.
What is the criteria for admission in Oberoi International School?
We do not look at the child as an individual but the family as a whole. Not all schools are right for all families. Some families are still very examination and percentage focused. That's not what we do and families that are looking for a competitive of teaching are not going to be happy here. Families who are interested in the sort of person their child is going to become are the kind of families that might find our school a better fit. Our school works with these families to help their child discover a love or passion in life and that is our biggest goal for every child.
How do IB schools work on a child's growth and development?
The IB schools don't act independently; we are subject to accreditation and inspection every few years. All of our programs are examined and judged by external accreditors against international benchmarks. Maintaining the standard is not enough, the IBO demands that you continually improve. The key to this continual improvement is remaining focused on the IB learner profile. We look at the sort of person we want to produce and we work backwards from there. We evaluate children all the time, although tests and examinations are only a very small part of it, what we tend to look at is how we can help a particular child reach his/her full potential.
What are some of the advantages that OIS offers to its students?
The IB is divided into 3 regions, the Europe Africa Middle East, the Americas and the Asia Pacific. We are in IB Asia Pacific. The IB Asia Pacific office in Singapore, took the strategic decision to form a special relationship with a flagship school in each country last year. The chosen school would become the go-to school for professional development and also the heads of those schools would form the advisory council for the IB Asia Pacific. In India, of the 121 IB schools Oberoi International is that flagship school. We have a very strong link with the IB office and hence we are able to offer a depth of understanding in the form of learning tools to students that will help them reach their educational and life goals.
What is the admission criteria at Oberoi International School?
This school is best suited for kids capable of completing the IB diploma, and statistically that's the top 15-20% students. The IB diploma is a very rigorous pre-university qualification and there are certain academic requirements to be met. There is not really an entrance test but we try to avoid enrolling kids who are not really going to benefit from our program. So like I mentioned earlier it's more about getting the match between the child's ability and the family's expectation with what the program can deliver.
What does the IB diploma program entail?
When it comes to the IB diploma program (grade 11 & 12), there are six mandatory subjects students need to elect. Students have to elect three subjects at a high level, 3 at a standard level and also have to do a research project of 4000 words. Apart from this, students are also expected to participate in CAT – creativity, action and service. The curriculum as a whole is not focused on an examination; rather it's a holistic approach to teaching and learning that is focused on producing good people and leaders who will make a difference.
About Mr. Neil McWilliam
An Australian, Mr. McWilliam has been in the education field for 36 years now out of which he has held the position as Head of School for over 20 years. Having been a part of international schools in Switzerland, Vietnam and Germany, Mr. McWilliam's latest assignment at Oberoi International School brought him to India, which in his own words is a "small bit challenging and a big bit exciting!"
To also read about the difference between IB and IGCSE, read here.