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There’s a lot more to education than being smart and working hard

Maya Grodman is the IB’s University Relations Administrator at the IB Global Centre in Bethesda, MD, USA.  She also an IB graduate of Collège du Léman International School in Geneva, Switzerland.


It’s time to ask the difficult questions. Why is there such a big achievement gap in education? Who are the higher-achieving students, and who are the lower-achieving students? What do we even mean by “achieving?”

Monday’s New York Times article asks these questions, and provides some very interesting data. Many view the American education system as a machine that graduates students from high school, leads them right into college, and four years later, out comes a whole new batch of college graduates. However, “more than 40 percent of American students who start at four-year colleges haven’t earned a degree after six years. If you include community-college students in the tabulation, the dropout rate is more than half, worse than any other country except Hungary.” After explaining these shocking statistics, the article goes on to explore the exciting things that David Laude, a professor at the University of Texas, is doing to identify and support the underachieving students.

“Achieving” means something different for each student. For some, it is earning top grades at a top university. For others, it is graduating from high school and going straight into a career. But it’s important that the support systems around each student – including counselors, coordinators and admissions officers – take the time to really understand each student’s goals, and do what can be done to support them in their pursuits of their own success.

The IB is working to engage with the issue of access to education. At the upcoming Conference of the Americas in Washington, DC this July, there will be a session entitled “Supporting Underserved Students.” A panel of Admissions Officers and IB Coordinators will be addressing how the IB and higher education can support traditionally underserved students, often including low-income, first generation and undocumented students. This session will be filmed, and we will post it here in July! Following the conference, we will be hosting the IB Higher Education Summit on Access – Supporting Underrepresented, Low Income and Undocumented IB Students. This will be a chance for leaders in education to come together and really address these issues head on.

Access to education is a global issue, and the IB is working with countries worldwide to provide education available to everyone. We would love to learn about what the conversation looks like where you are! How does your school engage with underrepresented students? Are access and achievement being discussed? Does your university have support systems in place for underachieving students? Please comment below with your ideas, suggestions, questions, and anything else you’d like to share!

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