Top Nav Breadcrumb

50 years of IB? It began earlier for me

First IB exams 1971

Peter Stoyle has been involved with the IB since its very beginning. He was the Director General of a school in Montevideo when it was chosen in 1968 to be one of the first pilot schools to trial exams for what became the IB Diploma Programme (DP). But he might say that the most challenging job he ever had in the IB was as a theory of knowledge (TOK) teacher. We got in touch with Peter to take a trip down memory lane and get his thoughts on the future of education.

How did your career start with the IB?

The IB first came to my attention in 1965 when I was head of school at the British School in Montevideo, Uruguay, but the seed was sown a few years earlier.

When I studied for my Diploma in Education at Oxford, I was particularly impressed by the lectures given by their Director of the Department of Education at the time, Alec Peterson. I was intrigued by his ideas on sixth form education—moving away from the stereotype of a fixed division between the arts and the sciences. Little was I to know that I would be in contact again with Alec years later.

Fast-forward to 1965 and Dr Eduardo Albertal, the UNESCO director in Montevideo at the time and a parent at our school, sent us information about the developments which ultimately led to the introduction of the Diploma Programme. The British GCE O and A level system wasn’t working particularly well for us, so we were immediately interested. In January 1969, Alec Peterson was the first IB Director General and visited us to invite our school to take part in the IB “trial exams” that year. Our staff was very keen, and the Board of Governors fully endorsed the move towards IB. In May 1971, 20 candidates took the IB diploma exams, 16 passed, one obtaining 40 points.

Alec was an incredible person, a very impressive and charismatic man with an interesting career history within government as well as the secret service during the war.

We hear that the beginnings of the IB in Latin American were very modest but had an incredible impact on the region, please tell us about it.

I was so personally encouraged by the results we achieved in Montevideo that I wanted to share this with the region, convincing them of the value of this broad international approach, which had not existed before. For the first 12 years, we had an IB ‘office’ that operated from our home on the beautiful campus of St George’s College, Buenos Aires. The office was a small room of about six square metres, the reception area was the living room, the photocopier was housed in the utility room, and there were filing cabinets in the master bedroom! Methods of communication were primitive by today´s standards: the only country outside Argentina which could be dialled directly was Uruguay, messages were sent by telex relayed by telephone to a helpful office in downtown Buenos Aires, and a heavy green IBM typewriter completed the office inventory.

Three things that allowed us to grow our presence in Latin America happened in conjunction: the opening of the office, the introduction of a November exam session, and finally, having exams in Spanish. The first Mexican conference was also a significant milestone in 1982. It was convened by the Minister of Education and Robert Blackburn from the IB also attended. This conference led to the first state school in Latin America, in Tijuana, adopting an IB programme.

What aspect of IB growth in Latin America is the most interesting to you?

A critical area of interest for me has been the adoption of IB programmes in state schools. While in some countries the IB has been viewed as an elitist education by those with a preference for a more nationalistic approach, our projects are winning through—this has happened in countries such as Ecuador, where there are 199 state schools teaching an IB programme. In Argentina, we have projects with 11 state schools, and in Costa Rica our work has resulted in 18 state schools teaching an IB programme. One of our most successful projects has been with the government in Peru, who have supported the Magnet schools project. The recognition of the IB by universities across Latin America has also grown significantly,

What or who has inspired you most in your work in international education?

Alec Peterson has undoubtedly been one of my biggest inspirations. I remember attending the IB North America Regional Conference in Montreal in 2005 with other pioneers of the IB and everyone referred to Alec as their main inspiration. Another inspiration is Ian Gourlay, the Director General of United World College (UWC) and ex-commander of the British Marines. I did a lot of work with Ian, touring to help promote the UWC schools. And finally, Roger Peel the previous Director of the IB. His general philosophy and application of the IB—he turned the IB around at a time when it needed strong fiscal consolidation.

There is no other genuinely international education like it, not on this scale.

How do you see the IB education evolving in the next 50 years?

Today it’s fantastic to see that more than 1.25 million students are being taught in IB World Schools in more than 150 countries. There is no other genuinely international education like it, not on this scale. I am so concerned to see the resurgence of nationalism in many countries across the world, and an education such as the IB, with the mission to create peace and international understanding across the world, is so needed today and in the future. The IB is so important in forming people who are strongly against such narrow-minded thinking.

Peter Stoyle is now Executive Director of the IB Schools Association of the River Plate, based mainly in Argentina.


Related links:

  • Peter Stoyle will be on a panel called ‘Pioneers: Reflection on 50 years’ at the 2018 IB Global Conference in San Diego, USA (26-29 July). The panel takes place on Saturday 28 July at 14:00-15:25 in Sapphire 410, Level 4.