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From the Daily: Expand educational excellence

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published February 10, 2014

Recently, a Michigan public school district took a drastic turn with its curriculum when it decided to completely embrace the International Baccalaureate programme, applying the teaching style from preschool all the way up to high school. IB is very different from the traditional education system because it avoids simply memorizing information to spit out on exams. With an emphasis on languages and global awareness, as well as problem solving and critical thinking, this unique educational system seems to successfully prepare students for college and the real world. The state should provide funding to allow more schools to adopt the program.

Oxford Community Schools, a school district in Oakland County, has been pleased with the results of switching to IB. Though IB standards are more rigorous than Common Core State Standards — the educational curriculum of the majority of Michigan public schools — Oxford Superintendent William C. Skilling said the Common Core does not prepare students for “a global world that’s changing 24-7.” Students are just as happy with IB, claiming that they feel that they are learning more and having fun doing it.

With a program so unique and radically different from our current educational regimen, many teachers, parents and schools may be hesitant to switch. Although IB is more liberal and less structured than a traditional curriculum, the Common Core system fails to teach students any of the skills that IB does. The Common Core curriculum relies focuses solely on preparation for standardized tests, often requiring no thought beyond textbook memorization.

Students’ ability to memorize information is not an effective indicator of their potential or intelligence. Students who just know how to do well on multiple choice standardized tests are not coming into college prepared. The IB programme is necessary to teach students useful lifelong skills during their formative learning years.

The IB programme is divided up into four parts, each emphasizing different aspects of development. Starting from age three, children are told to “take responsibility for their own learning,” with teachers only helping to guide students toward establishing a firm set of personal values. As the students mature, they are encouraged to stay aware of current world events and undertake projects that help them develop a skill set. Because the IB programme serves students from a variety of cultures, each student is required to take at least two languages to facilitate teaching others and learning about all cultures. With most colleges — especially the University — emphasizing diversity and employers looking for potential employees who can communicate with a diverse set of people, the fostering of these skills seems highly appropriate. In addition, with an IB diploma students can more easily study outside of the United States if they want to.

However, there are some concerns with IB. Many students won't stay in the same school district from preschool to high school, and some feel that it is hard for students who transfer into an IB program to catch up with the IB curriculum. A sudden switch into an IB program may also create a difficult learning curve for both teachers and students. In order for Michigan IB schools to be effective, policies must be put in place to ease the transition and ensure the cooperation of all parties.

Fortunately, because the IB programme focuses on teaching skills rather than facts and materials, students should be able to adjust. In addition, the program caters to students with special needs, so any student is able to thrive in the program.

In the IB programme, students learn skills that they can use in the real world, and students who go through this program will improve their chances of performing better in college. In addition, the global aspect of this program makes students more desirable for colleges and employers. Unfortunately, the full IB Diploma Programme costs about $600 per student. Since Republican Gov. Rick Snyder is planning on increasing funding for schools, he needs to set aside money to help expand the IB system to other schools in Michigan.


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