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23 in-depth interviews explore the lasting impact of IB programmes

Longer Term Outcomes
Jessie completed two Diploma Programme (DP) courses in her public high school in Canada. More than twenty years later she explains the impact the International Baccalaureate (IB) had on her personal development:

It gave me a perspective that I never would have had otherwise, and I would not be the person that I am today… there’s nothing that was more important and more influencing on me than that two year period.

The above quote illustrates one of the many perspectives of IB alumni from a new study on the long-term impacts of the IB on the lives of graduates.  Katie Wright of the University of Melbourne conducted 23 in-depth interviews with IB graduates from around the world, between the ages of 20 and 63, on the ways in which the IB may have influenced their professional pathways, attitudes toward learning as well as personal beliefs and overall worldview.  The alumni in this study came from 14 different countries and participated in IB programmes from 1968 to the early 2010s.

Although the influence of the IB on alumni in this study was varied and multifaceted, a common thread that emerged from participant life stories was that the IB has the potential to powerfully shape the lives of students who participate in its programmes.  Alumni suggested that one of the key impacts of the IB was helping them to develop dispositions and skills that have served them well both in further education and in life beyond.

Among these skills and dispositions, IB graduates cited the development of international-mindedness, love of learning, analytical and writing skills, and notably, critical thinking skills.  A number of students suggested that it was not until many years later that they were able to see the full benefit of courses such as theory of knowledge (TOK). As one student commented on his DP experience in the mid- 1970s:

You know, I benefited more from [TOK] after I did it than when I was doing it … I think I was a bit immature from the academic perspective, I mean that was a very interesting subject, and I probably now get more out of thinking about the things that were presented at that time than I did when I was a student there.

In addition to developing key skills and attributes, many alumni highlighted the academic rigor and deep engagement with learning that they experienced in IB programmes. A number of graduates expressed that they have retained a love of learning and curiosity throughout their lives.  Several of the more recent graduates in particular noted how the rigor of IB programmes prepared them for tertiary studies, easing their transition to university life and sometimes shortening the duration of study due to the credits earned from IB coursework.

A summary of this study as well as the full research report are available in the research section of the IB public website.

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  • Anon

    So there was purposeful selection of people who reported that the IB had had a significant impact on their lives in order to write this article, but at no point in this article is it mentioned that these people are a specific sub-set of IB graduates – not only have they bothered to join this IB alumni network (which is in itself unusual), but within that they also rated high levels of impact from the IB on their lives. Personally I think that information is needed to contextualise these responses – these are not (necessarily) the opinions of your normal IB student.

  • Jennifer S. Fry

    Having taught IB English for the past twenty-five years, in two different states (Arizona and Kansas), I can firmly attest to the fact that IB graduates are resoundingly happy about engaging in the rigors of IB. The numbers of students who feel very well prepared for success in college and in finding meaningful life paths beyond college are nothing short of overwhelming. I feel most confident in making this assertion because so many of them take the time to correspond and share feedback about the virtues of IB. The opinions of “normal” IB students clearly affirm the fact that IB is the best educational program available in private or public spheres, and I am thankful to have enjoyed my long-time association with such an outstanding program.

  • Sky

    Hi Anon – To add some context to the specific individuals interviewed for this study, be sure to look at the appendix within the full study, it includes a really nice description of who these graduates are and where they come from. There is also a detailed methodology and anecdotes about their individual perspectives, including some of the challenges and limitations these graduates faced. As always, this study is just one piece of a much larger set of research and discussion around the IB. There are also many previous related research studies focusing on DP graduates available at

  • Sky

    Hi Jennifer – Thank you for sharing your insights and perspective as an educator!

  • Eternity

    The IB is a sect of its own. We follow the pillars for two years, we are slightly ‘brain washed’ and then in the real world we realise that we have been in an illusion for two years, and now we have to aim to make this illusion a reality outside of school. IB is great in terms of prepping for uni, no doubt. For sure it is the one of the most ideal systems in the world currently that does indeed prepare for somekind of better coping with the future. Preparation is great, but the aspect of pressuring the students into believing that there is only one right truth is just not the way life works once you are out of the IB. Personally, as an IB alumni, I think the IB is a good system compared to the other ones that exist today, but there is definite room for large improvement- with all these IB pillars always hanging over your head, teachers repeating them like a prayer, your IB coordinator always wrapping things up to the IB pillars, in my opinion destroys the whole purpose of this system, its becomes to much of a one sided view, but the system is sold to students and parents as a global perspective. If its global, then give us teachers with global views, or have a better selection of teachers.

    just to wrap up, if it makes up a global citizen of the world, why is it that only the upper class can afford paying for it, meaning that others are not as equal, don’t everybody have to have a right for equal education.. or is it just the small margin who can pay around 30 thousand USD at least for tuition per year.

    Again, IB is indeed probably the best system out there right now, just feel like these questions have to be addressed.

  • Courtney

    I’ve just taken on a year one teaching position, in Melbourne at an IB school and find myself agreeing with the some of the above comment. It’s important for students to know and become familiar with the pillars, key conepts and learner profile, but, surely it would be more beneficial for students to be engaged in learning activities that have them, actually, using these skills.

  • Anon

    It’s fine to stick it in the appendix of the actual document itself, although it took me some time to find that information in order to write my original reply, but any casual reader of THIS article (and to be honest a casual reader of the document) might assume they were randomly selected. I actually did to begin with, which is what prompted me to search for the method of selection. I know many more than just 23 people who are IB ‘alumni’ and the people interviewed here are, based purely on my own acquaintances, fairly unique individuals. There is nothing wrong with such a study, but I think it should be made more transparent in the above article who these people are, not just the appendix of a document most will probably not read.

  • Henry Menzies

    I can speak as an actual graduate of the program. I received my IB diploma in 2012. My IB experience was without a doubt brutal. It was a seven period day format, with most classes having homework every day. I can honestly say that those two years ruined my academic life. The intensity of the program at my school was overboard. I have kept in touch with classmates and they agree with me. The program at our school had lasting negative effects on all of us. I have struggled in college ever since. The IB put me through so much stress that I haven’t been able to do homework effectively since then. Its not that I don’t try. Im not saying that all of the program is bad, just that the one at my school was. If done right, I believe the IB can be beneficial. However when done wrong it can be extremely damaging. Just my two cents on the subject. I think the study failed to see this side of it.

  • IBDiplomaGraduate2014

    It’s nice to know I’m not the only one with negative feelings and results about/from IB.

  • Silke

    IB is offered in several public schools in Denmark, free of tuition fees! So your argument of being an upper class program may be right in the US, but not so in other countries.

  • DE

    IB is a brand first and foremost and it is sold as “the best” to make money. just like any other product. With all the required teacher training , it is tremendous amount of money for a school to implement it. What is astounding is the number of educators who get involved with teaching it and soon begin to buy into the marketing. Teachers, especially of upper secondary students, should be demonstrating how to question the status quo, not being shills for a corporation.

  • Anthony

    Hi DE

    I agree totally that it’s right to question the status quo, but I also I think that the IB teaches students to do so. You can argue about levels of success, but it is certainly the IB’s aim to foster independent thinking and to encourage students along that path.

    Also, the IB is a non-profit, so the aim isn’t to make money, but to achieve a mission (education for a better world). The IB doesn’t have to answer to profit-focused shareholders.

    The way the IB works is through its community of schools and teachers. That’s why so many schools and teachers are proud and committed of the work they do.

    The fact that the IB is growing shows that more and more teachers and schools believe that their programmes are effective and beneficial.

  • DE

    If what you say is true, why is it that the costs of implementing and maintaining the program is out of the reach of most schools in the world? Only the highest tuition international schools and state funded schools in the most developed countries tend to be able to afford it, for example.

  • Anthony Simmonds

    The costs of education are high in any system, public and private.

    Private schools can make the choice for themselves, whether they think that cost is a good investment. Long term, that depends on parents and students seeing the benefits and being happy to make that investment so that the school survives and thrives.

    State schools depend on their governments. As far as the IB is concerned, this means that different countries will have different proportions of state and private IB schools.

    Just two examples:
    There are more IB state schools in the USA than private schools. And in Ecuador the government is investing in huge numbers of state schools to get them approved to teach the IB.

    So your second question relates more to the governmental policies of individual countries than the cost of the IB.

  • Anthony Simmonds

    You ask “why is it that only the upper class can afford paying for it?”

    The IB is not just for the rich. As I mentioned above, the IB has more state schools in the USA than private schools. Increasingly, governments are discovering that to invest in the IB pays off. This is happening in Japan, Jordan and Ecuador, so it is by no means a purely American development.

    The truth is that all education costs money. Private schools can charge parents, but state schools depend on taxpayer money, so they ultimately depend on their governments or local authorities.

  • DE

    But you are acknowledging it is huge investment for a school. If it is about education, why must the trainings be so expensive? It is simply put , a way to make education exclusive, not inclusive.

  • Kate Taverner

    Hi De, thanks for this engaged exchange. I asked a colleague in the IB’s Professional Development team about your last comment and he advised that the IB, just like any organization offering professional
    development, has costs which are reflected in the workshop fees: amongst these
    are development, venue, leader, travel, food&beverage. IB teachers do have
    the option to attend our online workshops which are significantly more
    affordable than the face-to-face option due to lower set up and running costs.
    As pointed out by another contributor earlier in this thread, the IB is a
    non-for–profit organization and therefore all income goes back to improving the
    quality of our products – be it curriculum, assessment or professional
    development. I hope that helps?

  • DE

    Why was it that up until a few years ago, training was virtually impossible for teachers who were not already employed in IB schools? Even if they were willing to pay for their own training?

  • Jonathan

    >Only the highest tuition international schools and state funded schools in the most developed countries tend to be able to afford it, for example

    This isn’t true. I’m an IB teacher in Ecuador at a mid tier private school that doesn’t take government funding at all. Our students are middle class and the tuition is obviously within reach for them.

  • DEG

    A mid tier international school has tuition rates within reach of the middle class of a country with a GDP per capita of 6000 dollars?