Some argue that the International Baccalaureate is a Western rather than an international curriculum. How international do you feel it is? Whose values and culture does it support?

Topics: International Baccalaureate, Culture, Education Pages: 7 (1851 words) Published: April 2, 2014
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Question 2. - Some argue that the International Baccalaureate is a Western rather than an international curriculum. How international do you feel it is? Whose values and culture does it support?

We live in a world that is shrinking. Transport and communications revolutions have brought us closer together (Teasdale, 1999, p. 81). The field of international education is one which has grown rapidly over the past few decades. With increasing global mobility of professionals, and associated growth in the numbers of families being based for periods of time in countries away from their home environment. The International Baccalaureate (IB) is an internationally accepted pre-university qualification which, since its origins in the 1960s, has increased in popularity to the point where it is now offered in 141 countries worldwide. Providing international schools with a pre-university curriculum recognised by universities around the world. The educational programmes offered by the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) claim to foster international understanding and an appreciation of the variety of cultures.

This paper will address the long-standing debate that the International Baccalaureate (IB) although overtly international at the content level it is thoroughly western at the epistemological level.

The International Baccalaureate (IB) was developed in the late 1960s with the purpose of providing the growing number of international schools with a pre-university curriculum recognised by universities around the world. Those involved in the development of the IB set out to create an educational programme that would provide students with a sense of international understanding and citizenship (Peterson, 2003). This Diploma Programme was initiated at the International School of Geneva with other international schools stepping on board during the developmental stage. The first trial examinations took place in 1967; the first official diplomas were awarded four years later (Hill, 2004). The IBO launched the Middle Years Programme in 1994. Three years later, the Primary Years Programme followed. From then onwards, the IBO was able to offer ‘a continuous international educational experience from early childhood to school graduation’ (IBO, 2002, p. 3).

While the number of schools offering the Primary Years and Middle Years Programmes is growing every year, the Diploma Programme remains the most popular. In 2005, over 30,000 candidates from 1335 schools in some 120 countries wrote the Diploma Programme examination, making the Diploma Programme the leading international pre-university curriculum (IBO, 2006). The biggest growth takes place, surprisingly, among national schools in Europe and the US who wish to offer their students an international education within or in addition to their national systems. It is therefore claimed that the Diploma Programme has developed ‘from a programme for international schools, to an international programme for schools’ (Hagoort, 1994, p. 11).

So successful has the IBO become in the realm of international education today that few would disagree with the claim that its programmes provide the most appropriate pre-university bridge for the pursuit of intercultural awareness. However scholars continue to question the degree to which ‘the curriculum either is genuinely international or remains Eurocentric and western biased’ (Heyward, 2002:24). The IBO acknowledges that the Diploma Programme grew from a ‘western humanist’ tradition with its promotion of ‘individual talents’, ‘responsible citizenship’, ‘critical thinking’ and ‘informed participation’ but also states that the ‘increasing influence of non-western cultures on all three programmes is not only being acknowledged, but is becoming increasingly significant’ (IBO, 2002, p. 4). However, Elizabeth Fox (1985) states that, despite its best intentions, the IB curriculum was prone to perpetuating cultural imperialism....

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