Any parent wanting their child to take the International Baccalaureate should be warned: the workload is going to be heavy. Prepare to hear your child whine about extended essays, and how their friends doing A-levels have it much easier.
The International Baccalaureate, or IB, requires pupils to take six main subjects alongside a mandatory course in Theory of Knowledge (basic epistemology), as well as a number of hours of creativity, action and service classes, and an interdisciplinary extended essay. Diploma candidates must take mathematics, a science, a first language as well as a second language (English can be either), a humanities subject and an arts subject. Three of the six are taken to a higher level. Some schools will allow pupils more than six subjects, but that’s showing off.
Some of the qualification’s detractors say that its sheer breadth produces superficial generalists with a transatlantic twang. IB graduates, they argue, are burdened by subjects they don’t need in later life. It distracts them from the essentials.
My own experience suggests otherwise. Ten years after passing my IB, I can still remember how the Krebs cycle works from my IB standard-level biology class, and the philosopher kings of Plato’s Republic are as almost as fresh in my memory as they were when I sat my philosophy higher-level exams. Both have stood me in good stead, and not just in pub quizzes.
In recent years, I have watched my siblings thrive under the challenges of the IB. I have seen them develop analytical skills and apply them to the world literature course, and relish the mandatory, interdisciplinary extended essay through which they can focus on one of a wide range of subjects from bioethics to the economics of urban planning.