Pros and Cons of International Baccalaureate Program

Pros and Cons of International Baccalaureate Program

The International Baccalaureate (IB) Program has been in existence since 1968. Many educators are not aware of the program. Others feel the program is not suitable for urban American schools. Recently the number of U.S. school offering at least one IB program has increased. Find out why and draw your own conclusions about the program.

What is the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program?

The IB program was founded in 1968 and is currently adopted in approximately 1,876 schools in 124 countries. There are 683 IB World Schools in the United States. The first school was established in 1971.

There are three programs/grade levels to the IB – the PYP (Primary Years Program), the MYP (Middle Years Program), and the IB (International Baccalaureate program).

Schools may offer one, two or all three of the programs. Teachers and administrators are highly trained in the programs in order to deliver the curriculum in accordance with set standards and quality. Librarians and Media Specialists are often on the “periphery” of delivery and involvement, but invariably are proactive in integrating and coordinating with teachers. They are always involved in aspects relating to research at the MYP and IB levels, and work with teachers on the Units of Inquiry (multi disciplinary units) at the PYP levels.

There are established criteria and benchmarks at all levels of the IB program that must be achieved. It is an integrated program, and that is increasingly being adopted by international schools globally for a variety of reasons including a standardized international curriculum for students who are “global nomads.”   The program is integrated at the “subject” and “skills” level, but also stresses the “global” citizen with respect to values, attitudes, contributions and community service, etc.

An approximate definition of international schools may include ones that are using English as the medium of instruction for 5-18 year old students, teaching a curriculum other than the national curriculum of a particular country where the actual physical school is located, with predominately ex-patriate teachers and administrators. Examples may include a school teaching a British curriculum in Singapore, a school teaching an American curriculum in China, a school teaching an IB curriculum in Bangladesh.

Four Pros of the IB Program

#1 – The IB program is aligned with the recommendations of the Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce.

Recent statistics portraying the U.S. educational system as losing its position as a world leader recently motivated the Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce – a bipartisan group of business, government and education leaders – to call for a complete restructuring of everything from preschool to higher education. The IB program seems to fall in line with the Commission’s suggestions on how to revamp the U.S. educational system to better prepare youth for the rigors of a post secondary education.

#2 – Districts can use Title 1 funds to implement IB program.

While “we get the label of being elitist,” Mr. Beard (IB director general) said, about 30 percent of IB’s U.S. schools receive federal Title 1 anti-poverty money. The organization would like to dramatically increase the overall proportion of IB students who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunches.

Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate: Do They Deserve Gold Star Status?

#3 – IB program has an international and global focus.

The IBO is widely known for creating intercultural and challenging programs centered on international education with rigorous assessment standards, sometimes labeled as “a high school program geared to the university-bound elite. The IB program helps students understand their own culture and national identity and then encourages them to explore other cultures.

#4 – IB program present in urban city schools.

In the past 35 years, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program has spread to 483 schools across the United States, with an ever-growing share of these schools located in the inner city. These American school sites comprise vastly different contexts than those in which the IB program began-the international schools of Europe.

Four Cons of the IB Program

#1 – The IB program is expensive to implement.

It costs about $10,000 in application fees to get a school considered for IB authorization, and that doesn’t include the travel and other costs of sending the school’s teachers and coordinators to specialized three-day professional-development courses, which cost $1,000 per person. Even after being authorized, IB high schools must pay $8,850 a year in fees. Middle and primary schools must pay $5,220 annually, though schools with more than one IB program get a 10 percent overall fee discount. Schools must also pay additional fees per student and per subject, and those costs don’t cover mailing expenses-all exams are physically mailed to graders, many of whom are overseas.

#2 – US schools have a larger AP program in place that is more flexible.

About 14,000 U.S. high schools offer AP classes, and about 500 offer IB.

Good Marks for AP and IB Experts Endorse College-Level Study Programs

Individual IB courses cannot be offered in schools that don’t adopt the entire diploma programme. This restriction prevents more U.S. students from taking advantage of IB courses. Contrast this to the AP program, which makes its courses available to any school with teachers game to undertake them.

#3 – Many IB schools are not centrally located.

There have been recent complaints that many IB programs in the United States are placed in areas of less affluence, which by the location of IB programs in the southeastern United States seems to be true. The complaints are mainly based on the number of students which have to travel across other high school lines to attend these highly competitive and challenging magnet programs. Due to the number of students traveling from distant locations, many have argued for central placement of IB programs, though the result of this has yet to be seen.

International_Baccalaureate Program

#4 – Critics state the IB program is Anti-American and Anti-Christian.

President Bush has called for Advanced Placement and IB programs to be expanded.  Critics, however, have argued that IB’s multicultural themes promote values that conflict with traditional Judeo-Christian values. Some opponents have called it Marxist because the International Baccalaureate Organization is a signatory to the Earth Charter, a collection of global principles created in France in 2000.

School Education Resources

12 Benefits of International Baccalaureate Diploma Program
Measuring IB Program Benefits for US Schools


  1. IB schools in mumbai says

    The educational program such as IBO International Baccalaureate Organization provides great foundation towards the career of the children from the very early stage of life and most IB schools in Mumbai are adopting it.

  2. ingrid metz says

    I fear that our community and Board of Education has been “bamboozled” by an IB program that has been implemented in one elementary, one middle, and one high school. I believe it is not truly the IB program, but a modified version that has not been truly explained to the parents or school board. Some feel that if an IB child in this program will be able to go to any college in the USA or in Europe. However, they are ignorant of the strenuous curriculum and costs. They have been told by our IB coordinator that the elementary and middle school programs cost $8,500 for each and will cost the high school only $50,000. The Board decided to not fund the high school cost due to budget costs, but one board member feels since we have started the program, we should not stop now and get this group who has started through to the end and begin to phase out the loswer levels. Here is the dilema at the high school–it is on 4×4 block schedule which is not conducive to the IB program.
    Please give me advice on how I can educate the school board members and parents of the community. I was a Latin teacher at this high school for 29 years and was told in 2009 that Latin was not an IB language and therefore, was replaced with Chinese and now the C hinese teacher has left after 2 years and will not be replaced. Only Spanish and French remain and with budget cuts teachers have been let go. How can an IB school survive with limited courses and teachers and overcrowded classrooms? Only 12 AP couirses are offered. The principal believes in opportunity, not achievement.

  3. Dr. Patricia Fioriello says


    You bring up some very good points. Regardless of whether it is the IB program or another program, many times a school community either takes a program literally to the point of not understanding the particular needs of their students or loosely follows the program and does not incorporate the essentials of the program.

    Program implementation is one of the most important aspect of school development and student achievement.

    With that being said, your school district appears to have jumped into the IB program without establishing implementation guidelines and ways to monitor progress. You mention – “how can I educate the school board and parents of the community”. The answer is one person alone cannot tackle this enormous task.

    When implementing any program, it is critical that a district establish a task force (or committee ) to oversee the development and progress of the program. Many times when random individuals start getting involved, it can create a chaotic situation. Although many people have good intentions, they do not have the knowledge base or background information to advise correctly. Guidelines designed for this particular community must be in place to monitor progress.

    The best you can do at this stage is to suggest a committee that would research progress and share their findings with the board and community. Also see if the district would be willing to offer a few workshops for administrators, parents and teachers to learn about the IB program. Don’t forget to invite other members of the school community to participate in the workshops such as students, board members and community organizations that work with the schools. This effort can be spearheaded by the committee. Lastly, the committee should be in charge of reviewing outcomes and results of the program to date.

    After the school community is educated about the program – the intention and progress, it would then be appropriate to develop next steps especially since the district is faced with budget cuts. In fact, this may be a selling point that NOW is the time to review the program. Times have changed and districts today are dealing with how to creatively solve budget issues and save or alter programs.

    Although this process may seem time consuming, in the long run it will prove far more effective than “everyone doing their own thing.” Also, make sure the committee includes representatives from different groups especially the board.


    I am keen to know if my son can continue his studies of the MYP 10 and MYP 11 and thereafter IBDipolma via home schooling. He is currently doing his MYP 8 and he has been in the IB program from PYP 4 to date. We are in Malaysia and my son goes to Fairview International School Penang , Malaysia.
    And there is the facility to do home schooling where do I register and how to go about his study material and assessments.

  5. rod ruger says

    The IB program is simply another educational gimmick foisted on teachers who must divert time from core courses to touchy-feely, jargon laden IB material. If you have been a teacher or business manager for 20 years or more, you have seen such consultant flavors of the year come and go. Each new “solution” is advertised as the greatest idea ever and sucks money from schools and businesses that do not know any better.

    Ask classroom teachers, especially in the lower grades, their opinion of IB and what studies they have to ignore in order to push IB ideas. I know many teachers who are fed up with gimmicks forced upon them by school boards and administrators. Boards decide, assign implementation to local administrators who are politically motivated (head-nodders), who force IB on teachers who have no say in the matter. We then judge teachers by how well they perform their jobs given whacky ideas imposed upon them from non-teachers. The more consultants become involved in the schools, the more pieces of paper teachers must fill out, taking time from preparing and teaching. Several teachers have told me that they are beyond caring any longer. Who can blame them?

    I have read and read about IB programs. Reports are replete with jargon, fluff, and high sounding ideas. There is no objective substance, however, to positive statements about IB. The author’s critique of IB is nothing more than a rehash of what others (who?) have said. That is what consultants do.

    Take any problematic area of education, business, government, society, defense, you name it and there will be flocks of consultant vultures telling us what to do. IB is just such a solution. There will be many more until we identify root causes and address problems employing the intimate knowledge of true, experienced educators.

  6. Mariel says

    My child’s experince with PYP has been an absolute disaster. No textbooks, homework, tests or grades and as a result his writing and math skills are terrifying. The teaching and administrative staff at this school are quite good which makes it all the more clear that it is the method/curriculum that is the problem with PYP and not how its implemented. The method is so rigid they will not give any remedial work to my child to help him practive basic math problems. As a result, I have to take a lot of time to tutor him. Then when he made progress, they told me “see our program is working”. The problem in education is there is a huge industry of people who must come up with “new and improved” curriculum to justify their existence. If the realization that the plain old system of textbooks and nightly homework and weekly tests was in fact the ideal program then there would be no need for Phd thesis etc. Comparing my own education and PYP and seeing first hand how my child learns, I think they actually went in the exact opposite direction. There should be more drills on basic skills than even what I had. IOf you havent nailed the basic skills, then the advanced skills become impossible because they depend on the basics. My dad went to a jesuit school in the 1950s. That was probably the pinacle of american education and it shows. 3 generations of reverse progress.

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