The IB Disaster – Confessions of a naive IB fan who learned the hard way
I put our son into the IB diploma program because I liked the idea of a rigorous “internationally” oriented education. But as it turned out, it was not the sort of rigor anyone needs. I see him under severe stress, doing all nighters, and having a hard time keeping his GPA high to get into college, while also trying to study for his SAT and ACT. The first half of his senior year has been like a death march, just when he needs to be getting ready for college.
Now I understand why 3/4 of those who start the diploma program at his school drop out. It just is not worth it.
A couple people had advised me that AP is just as good, less stress, and better recognized by colleges in the USA. Unfortunately, I didn’t listen because I was tuned to the IB siren song. My son confirms that he really enjoyed his AP courses, did well in them without much difficulty, and we put his scores on his college application. His IB exams aren’t until the end of the senior year, so they won’t help. Not that US colleges put much stock in the IB anyway. Useless like the whole program.
He explained that the problem with the IB essays is they are extremely formulaic. They have to be done according to the IB ideology and format, and that is twice as much work, because even if you do a great essay, but it’s not in line with the norms of the gnomes in Geneva, it’s a fail. He’s being forced to learn nonsense that isn’t going to help him in college.
To be sure, IB is not alone in having an ideology. The standard US education has one too. But in conventional programs you can adapt to the particular school and teacher. In IB, the teacher’s hands are tied. The IBO in Geneva has the last word about your kid’s diploma.
This can be quite totalitarian. The ideology dictates down to the very structure of the schoolwork. I like the IB idea of being open to the value systems of other countries, but isn’t it a little weird to try to teach open-mindedness by being closed minded?
I can also confirm the criticisms made by others of some of the political tendencies. In English Lit, instead of getting a good grounding in respected classics they’ll be expected to know, he had to read some obscure, third-rate drivel by a lesbian author about her neuroses. Forced like that, it didn’t even have the desired effect of encouraging tolerance. He ended up roundly hating feminism.
Forcing kids to do useless things that steal hours from their lives, that’s the IB.
Theory of Knowledge sounds good on paper with its Socratic method, but my son notes that you would need to be a Socrates to apply it. Of course, few high school teachers even have a credential to teach philosophy. They would do better with a subject that they know and understand. But IB claims it isn’t about knowing things. Their theory of knowledge seems to be that there is no such thing, there are just a bunch of different opinions out there. So maybe anybody can teach it, since it’s just a load of rubbish.
IB has been a huge disappointment for us. Never again would I inflict it on one of my kids. They are only kids once, so let them enjoy life and not groan under the burden of a misguided pedagogy.
I can’t give my son the four years wasted on the IB back to him. All I can do to make some small amends is to write this mea culpa critique for letting him be their guinea pig, and hope it helps someone else avoid the trap.