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There is more to success than just graduating and getting a diploma

Rachelle Bernadel is the IB’s University Relations Administrator at the IB Global Centre in Bethesda, MD, USA. She is also an IB graduate of Parkdale High School in Riverdale, Maryland.

As we delve into the season of graduations and commencement ceremonies, students all over the Americas anxiously await that coveted diploma as a culmination of years of hard work and persistence. A secondary school and university diploma are indeed milestones and achievements that should be celebrated when the moment arrives. However, it is during these seasons when I begin to think what value do we really place on not only getting students to persist through school and university, but also being equipped with the skills that are necessary to be successful in a rapidly evolving world.  Being able to problem solve and engage thoughtfully with complex issues are among the many skills that current and future generations must have in order to contribute to a thriving society. With the rise of complex education reforms, demands for increased graduation rates and the real pressure to just improve education systems by any means necessary, it is easy to lose sight of the students.

When I brainstormed about writing this post, I wondered to what extent systems are simply pushing students out and shifting the emphasis to meeting quotas instead of fostering practices that provide sustainable education. After reading a report produced by the Educational Testing Service using data from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), it seems like progress to achieve a more balanced and well educated society is falling short.

The report studied the literacy, numeracy and problem solving skills of millennial in 22 countries, workers who were 16-to 34-year-olds when the survey was taken. The findings overwhelmingly suggested that US millennials ranked the lowest in all three competencies and the gap between the scores of the US and the other 21 countries was exceedingly high. One of the most compelling quotes from ETS’ Irwin Kirsch’s preface to the report that validates this important conversation states, “While it is true that, on average, the more years of schooling one completes, the more skills one acquires, this report suggests that far too many are graduating high school and completing postsecondary educational programs without receiving adequate skills. If we expect to have a better educated population and a more competitive workforce, policy makers and other stakeholders will need to shift the conversation from one of educational attainment to one that acknowledges the growing importance of skills and examines these more critically.”

One way to acknowledge the importance of these skills is to introduce students to them during the early stages of learning and foster them throughout secondary years and beyond. This is what we at the IB call the continuum which includes the Primary Years Programme (PYP), Middle Years Programne (MYP), Diploma Programme (DP) and the latest Career Related Programme (CP).  Together, these programs help students develop the skills that not only make them successful in the classroom, but ready them to tackle the challenges of a diverse society. Those are the kind of students we need to keep us on par with the rest of the world, nothing less.


Interested in our programs to help develop the skills our students so desperately need? Visit to learn more!

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