The Foreign Service Journal, December 2006

D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 6 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 85 here is simply no way to earn an IB diploma without learning to write, and more importantly, to think on one’s feet.” Those words, spoken by Cambridge University student Aaron Curtis, sum up the strength and rigor of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, a special, worldwide school curriculum that was started in the 1960s by a group of educators who wanted to provide children of internationally mobile families with an uninterrupted, quality education. The organization that sprang out of this learning pro- gram is now officially called the International Baccalaure- ate Organization, based in Geneva with offices and repre- sentatives around the world. The IBO offers three acade- mic programs for three different age-groups (elementary school, middle school and high school). It is the high school program, also called the Diploma Program, which will be discussed in this article. (For more information about the primary and middle school programs, go to .) The International Baccalaureate Organization is proud of the fact that students “learn more than a collection of facts.” Independent research and writing are a key com- ponent of the program. The IB diploma is awarded once students successfully complete a rigorous two-year program. Students are usu- ally 16- to 19-year-olds in 11th and 12th grade, although some students start courses in 10th grade, and some finish in the 13th grade. The program aims to encourage stu- dents to love learning and develop critical thinking and writing skills, and to promote a lifelong commitment to public service. Writing an extended essay is required, and students must pass comprehensive exams before earning the diploma. This demanding program is not for everyone. Roughly 20 percent of students in the diploma program worldwide fail one or more of the IB diploma exams every year. But it is possible for high-schoolers to take certain IB courses, just as American students take AP (Advanced Placement) courses, without taking part in the full diploma program. When people refer to “the IB,” or “full IB,” they’re almost always referring to the complete IB Diploma Program, as opposed to individual IB-level courses. Individual courses are often referred to as “IB classes,” or “IB certificate classes,” because a certificate is earned for each IB class successfully completed by those students not enrolled in the full program. The IB diploma has traditionally been thought of as a European program geared for students attending the top world universities, and that is probably still its main focus. However, its presence is growing around the world — par- ticularly in the United States, where institutions of higher learning are increasingly recognizing the IB’s merits when evaluating college applicants. S CHOOLS S UPPLEMENT T HE I NTERNATIONAL B ACCALAUREATE P ROGRAM : A P RIMER T HE IB IS A CHALLENGING ACADEMIC PROGRAM WITH MANY PERKS — FOR THE RIGHT TYPE OF STUDENT . B Y F RANCESCA H UEMER K ELLY Francesca Huemer Kelly, a Foreign Service spouse present- ly based in Brussels, is a professional freelance writer whose work is published regularly in American and international magazines. A founder of Tales from a Small Planet (tales ), she was the Web site’s editor-in-chief from 1999 to 2003, and currently serves in an advisory capacity. Ms. Kelly, a trained concert singer, has lived in Milan, Lenin- grad, Moscow, Belgrade, Vienna, Ankara and Rome. She is the mother of four children. “ T