This week, the United States celebrates its 16th annual International Education Week. In observation of this initiative, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated, “Providing a high-quality education to all students is necessary to bridge the gap between those who have been traditionally underserved and their peers. That’s why, this year, we celebrate the theme of ‘International Education: Advancing Access for All.’”
In continuing the goal of “advancing access for all,” the International Baccalaureate issued a press release highlighting new research demonstrating that low-income students enrolled in the IB attend and graduate from US universities at higher rates than their non-IB peers. Promoting access and equity in education are goals of the IB, according to Drew Deutsch, Regional Director for the IB Americas. “This research provides tangible evidence of the value of an IB education and demonstrates that providing a rigorous academic programme helps students of all economic backgrounds to succeed at the highest levels.”
In addition to research relating to this year’s themes of equity and access, the IB promotes international education by other means, too. For example, the IB Diploma Programme (DP) fosters the growth of international-mindedness and offers the option of earning a bilingual diploma.
Research conducted in 2014 titled A comparative study of international-mindedness in the Diploma Programme in Australia, China and India found that DP students from these regions exhibited high levels of international-mindedness. Factors of this included multilingualism, global interconnectedness, and hypermobility. Hypermobility largely refers to students’ global travel. In particular, Indian and Chinese DP students aspired to study abroad in the US and UK. Students cited the prestige of western institutions, flexibility of the US curriculum, and family connections overseas as some of the main reasons for wanting to study abroad.
In addition to international-mindedness, the IB also offers students the option to earn a bilingual diploma (BD). In the 2014 study, “Factors influencing students to earn a bilingual diploma,” researchers from the George Washington University Center for Equity and Excellence in Education found that students whose native language was not English, or who were already bilingual, were more likely to pursue the BD. Students also noted that future professional or career goals were a contributing factor to pursuing the BD. Worldwide, the percentage of students who earn the BD varies. Between 2007-2012, all DP students in Nicaragua, Paraguay, and Georgia were bilingual diploma candidates. However, only 3% of US students and 20% of UK students in the DP chose the bilingual diploma as compared to the standard diploma.
Beyond International Education Week, international-mindedness and global competencies will likely continue receiving significant attention in the coming years. In 2018, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) will for the first time include an assessment of global competency for 15 year-olds in participating countries. For students enrolled in IB programmes, the emphasis on intercultural awareness and international-mindedness may contribute to these global competencies.
Contributing author Kari Lorentson is writing about the experience of IB graduates at universities around the world. Lorentson studies at American University and previously attended Fishers High School. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.