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Insights from the DP in Latin American public schools

Despite its origin in private international schools, the IB Diploma Programme (DP) has continued to expand across a growing number of public (state sector) schools internationally. Latin America has seen particularly robust growth of the DP in public schools, with countries introducing the programme through a variety of unique approaches. Mia Jankosky and Emily VanderKamp report on these findings from a recent study conducted by researchers at the Universidad de San Andrés-CONICET.

By Mia Jankosky and Emily VanderKamp

We recently published a study conducted by Jason Beech, Jennifer Guevara and Pablo del Monte at the Universidad de San Andrés-CONICET. These researchers analyzed the impact and implementation of the DP in Costa Rica, Buenos Aires, Argentina and Peru, and discussed lessons to be learned from each.

Implementation Models

The model for DP implementation in public schools in Costa Rica represents a public-private partnership between the local IB association and the Ministry of Public Education. In Costa Rica, within each participating public school, some students follow the DP while the rests follow the national curriculum. All DP schools in Costa Rica offer the same DP subjects, allowing for efficiencies.

In Buenos Aries, the initiative to introduce the DP in public schools was initially led by the city’s Ministry of Education. As in Costa Rica, in public schools that offer DP, the DP is an option for select students and teachers that decide to participate. Today the initiative is primarily sustained by DP teachers and coordinators.

In Peru, the Ministry of Education launched new public boarding schools (one per region). Unlike in Costa Rica and Buenos Aries, all students in these schools participate in the DP. In order to access these prestigious public schools, students must participate in a competitive selection process.

Researchers were also interested in how the DP impacts students, teachers and schools in these contexts. While implementation varied greatly across countries, many common trends were found regarding the DP’s influence on educators and students.

Here are some highlights from the study

Students’ views on the DP

Students in all three countries reported highly positive views of the DP overall. In particular, students cited the programme as helpful in developing research, critical thinking and other key skills. See the charts below that detail the perception of Peruvian students on DP preparedness for various subjects.

[rrj_bar_chart title=”Student perceptions of the degree to which the DP prepares students (Peru) ” labels=”Research; Critical thinking; Teamwork; Understanding the world” datasets=”%5B%7B%22title%22%3A%22To%20a%20large%20extent%22%2C%22tooltips_format%22%3A%22%7Bd%7D%3A%20%7By%7D%22%2C%22values%22%3A%2289%25%3B%2083%25%3B%2074%25%3B%2073%25%22%2C%22color%22%3A%22%230056ce%22%2C%22bar_bg%22%3A%22plain%22%7D%2C%7B%22title%22%3A%22Barely%22%2C%22tooltips_format%22%3A%22%7Bd%7D%3A%20%7By%7D%22%2C%22values%22%3A%2210%3B%2016%3B%2024%3B%2025%22%2C%22color%22%3A%22%2300ba12%22%2C%22bar_bg%22%3A%22plain%22%7D%2C%7B%22title%22%3A%22Not%20at%20all%22%2C%22tooltips_format%22%3A%22%7Bd%7D%3A%20%7By%7D%22%2C%22values%22%3A%221%3B%201%3B%202%3B%201%22%2C%22color%22%3A%22%23f26400%22%2C%22bar_bg%22%3A%22plain%22%7D%5D” cat_per=”90″ axis_suffix=”%” jsoptions=”ewogIHNjYWxlczogewogICAgICAgICAgICB5QXhlczogW3sKICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgIHRpY2tzOiB7CiAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgbWluOiAwLAogICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICBtYXg6IDEwMAogICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgfQogICAgICAgICAgICB9XSwKICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgeEF4ZXM6IFt7CiAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICB0aWNrczogeyAgICAKICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgIHBhZGRpbmc6IDEwLAogICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgbWluUm90YXRpb246IDMyCiAgICAgICAgICAgIH0KICAgICAgICAgICAgfV0KICAgICAgICB9Cn0K”]
[rrj_bar_chart title=”” labels=”Communication; Life; Scientific thought; University” datasets=”%5B%7B%22title%22%3A%22To%20a%20large%20extent%22%2C%22tooltips_format%22%3A%22%7Bd%7D%3A%20%7By%7D%22%2C%22values%22%3A%2271%3B%2069%3B%2067%3B%2059%22%2C%22color%22%3A%22%230056ce%22%2C%22bar_bg%22%3A%22plain%22%7D%2C%7B%22title%22%3A%22Barely%22%2C%22tooltips_format%22%3A%22%7Bd%7D%3A%20%7By%7D%22%2C%22values%22%3A%222%3B%2029%3B%2031%3B%2026%22%2C%22color%22%3A%22%2300ba12%22%2C%22bar_bg%22%3A%22plain%22%7D%2C%7B%22title%22%3A%22Not%20at%20all%22%2C%22tooltips_format%22%3A%22%7Bd%7D%3A%20%7By%7D%22%2C%22values%22%3A%221%3B%202%3B%202%3B%205%22%2C%22color%22%3A%22%23f26400%22%2C%22bar_bg%22%3A%22plain%22%7D%5D” cat_per=”90″ axis_suffix=”%” jsoptions=”ewogIHNjYWxlczogewogICAgICAgICAgICB5QXhlczogW3sKICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgIHRpY2tzOiB7CiAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgbWluOiAwLAogICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICBtYXg6IDEwMAogICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgfQogICAgICAgICAgICB9XSwKICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgeEF4ZXM6IFt7CiAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICB0aWNrczogeyAgICAKICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgIHBhZGRpbmc6IDEwLAogICAgICAgICAgICAgICAgbWluUm90YXRpb246IDUwCiAgICAgICAgICAgIH0KICAgICAgICAgICAgfV0KICAgICAgICB9Cn0K”]

Student stress, however, was highlighted as a challenge by students, teachers and state officials. While the DP is a rigorous programme that may require adaptation of learning approaches, the majority of students appreciated the learning style promoted in the DP along with closer relationships to teachers.

Teachers’ views on the DP

Across all three countries, teachers were highly motivated and committed to being a part of the DP. This motivation was mainly due to characteristics of the programme as well as opportunities to work with engaged students.

Most teachers expressed that the DP had reinvigorated their passion for teaching. In particular, teachers emphasized features of the DP such as curricular style, promotion of thinking skills, openness to learning, and meticulous feedback from IB examiners. While many teachers perceived the DP as more demanding than the national education programme, they noted feeling energized by the drive to continually hone their teaching practices. For example, as a member of the IB association in Costa Rica remarked: 

“The IB is a space where one, as a teacher, has freedom; in spite of the rules there is a space of freedom, of flexibility, there is recognition, an academic challenge, there is a process of becoming a professional again. A professional that studies, that updates, that does research, that positions himself, that can transcend his country and support an international organization.” 

Want to learn more? Read about the implementation of the DP in Costa Rica, Buenos Aires, Argentina and Peru along with recommendations for each country in the research summary or the full report by the researchers.  

To learn more about this study, please read the study summary or the full report. Research reports on international education are available on the IB Global Research website. You can also contact us [email protected] for more information.