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Could IB history help prepare students for global challenges?

We invited IB Diploma graduates to reflect on post-IB life and offer perspectives on topics of their choosing. Irene Sánchez Brualla is one of this year’s cohort of alumni contributing authors.

By Irene Sánchez Brualla

I believe it is important to know as much as possible about your own cultural and historical roots. Our society is complex enough that, to live responsibly in it, we need to know about international problems and be able to approach them with a global vision. This very likely applies to all societies in the world.

I live in Spain and we are facing many social issues in and around Europe that require a global view to be understood at even the most basic level. In recent months our region has faced the arrival of refugees fleeing from wars in the Middle East, tensions between European countries regarding economic crises, growing income inequality, and the threat of terrorism.

Irene Sánchez Brualla received her IB Diploma from I.E.S. Santa Clara in Santander, Spain.

How do we develop the knowledge and context needed to face these challenges? Moreover, could the IB Diploma Programme (DP) play a role in this effort?

To prepare for this article, I looked through the IB’s research archives and two studies caught my attention. Both focused on curriculum alignment between the IB Diploma Programme (DP) and two national systems, Germany and Switzerland. Each compared the content, the cognitive demand and the philosophical implications of the national curriculum to that of the DP. I had never read a study comparing two educational systems before. As an IB alumnus – I am convinced of the quality of the DP, but I also believe that the educational systems in both Germany and Switzerland are good as well. So I thought it would be interesting to look more closely at how they compare to each other.

In general terms, the study showed that the alignment between the DP and the curricula in these regions was very high in biology and mathematics, with similar content, almost the same level of cognitive demand on each subject and some difference in the philosophical underpinnings that the students were expected to develop after taking these subjects. However, stronger contrast emerged around social sciences and history.

In social science there are some suggested links to the influence of liberal or conservative governments on national curricula – but what stood out to me, was how the DP History curricula provides a strong global perspective and focus on international mindedness. The national curricula compared in these studies center the subject of history on the study of 19th-20th century, with an emphasis in the development of a national identity.  DP History, in contrast, allows for the study of many historical periods and emphasizes the development of a global view on human history.

There have always been migrations, and these movements, by themselves, cannot be seen as a menace to a supposed “pure identity” that has to be preserved. Homo sapiens appeared in Africa. Arab culture has had great influence in most Western European countries and in the Iberian Peninsula since the Middle Ages (do you remember the Water Gardens of Dorne in Game of Thrones? The real place is in Europe). Most modern countries are a mixture of peoples whose origins are varied. It is important to have a proper frame to counteract the culture of fear, which is rising in many places and is not to be taken lightly: it was the reason why, only 60 years ago, thousands of Europeans were leaving their home countries because of a war between so-called modern, civilized states. I believe that the development of a national identity is important, but I also consider it as relevant as the development of a global view to analyze and overcome the complex international problems we face today.

After reading the study and considering my life in Europe, I think this international dimension within DP History is an advantage. I write about European society because it’s the one I know best, but I believe having more students, worldwide, developing the citizenship values and the global vision that the IB encourages would be a positive step in finding peaceful resolutions to the growing challenges that we face today.

Irene Sánchez Brualla graduated from the Diploma Programme in 2009 from I.E.S. Santa Clara in Santander, Spain. She completed her undergraduate degree in Biomedical Sciences at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (Spain), and she is currently pursuing a PhD in a joint degree program between the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and Université d’Aix-Marseille (France). When she is not working or blogging about science or politics, she enjoys learning more about the complex world we live in, studying languages (currently Russian), watching adventure movies, swimming and running.