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 A Look at the Current International Baccalaureate (IB) Program at ISB

At International School Bangkok (ISB), our High School students have the opportunity to choose the IB Diploma Programme as one possible route to graduation. But what exactly does that look like for a student at ISB?

What is the IB Diploma Programme? 

The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) develops inquiring, socially intelligent, knowledgeable, and caring students who help create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. The IB DP is a two-year program with a  wide array of subjects that allows students to explore their passions and interests deeply and obtain a diploma certification in the process. It is a rigorous pre-university curriculum that concludes with a final exam and consequent qualification that universities around the world recognize, many of which also award advanced standing or university credit for completed IB diplomas and courses.

Students in high school at ISB who decide to take the IB DP route, starting in grade 11, will select a broad range of academic subject areas to study throughout the program. During their studies, they will take Theory of Knowledge (TOK), a course which develops thinking skills and encourages lifelong learning. They will also complete an independent, self-directed research project and subsequent 4,000-word research paper known as the Extended Essay. Lastly, they will acquire life skills and perform community service as part of the IB’s CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service) core element.

The IB Diploma Programme at ISB offers students more than just a collection of facts. It encourages them to become active learners who ask challenging questions, have a strong sense of their own identity, and are globally-minded, able to understand and communicate with people from other countries and cultures. 

If your child started the IB elsewhere, can they transfer to ISB?

Absolutely! At ISB, we often have students join us here in Bangkok at various stages of the two-year program, some as late as mid-way through Grade 12 and some pursuing bilingual diplomas. As the IB is an international curriculum, it is easily transferable around the globe. An area where sometimes challenges can occur is if we don’t offer the same subjects the student studied at their previous high school or international school. However, we are fortunate at ISB to have an extensive subject offering as an IB school, so we rarely encounter a situation where a student cannot find the same subject of interest. Additionally, because we offer various languages and support for a self-taught language program within the IB, it is also possible to transfer to ISB with a bilingual IB diploma. Furthermore, our IB coordinator works very closely with the IB coordinators at the students’ previous school and our teachers at ISB to ensure that the transition goes as smoothly as possible.

How has the pandemic impacted the IB program?

International Schools in Thailand and around the world have been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the IB was swift in their response to the concerns they heard from schools worldwide. ISB spoke with the IB team regularly to discuss necessary changes to effectively prepare our students. The IB decided to remove certain assessment components from the final exam or remove selected curriculum components. In 2020, they created a dual-assessment model where some schools that could administer exams did so, and those who could not administer exams followed a non-exam assessment route. These shifts are meant to help mitigate some of the access issues schools have had with virtual learning and ease the burden on teachers to effectively prepare students for the IB exams.

Justyna McMillan, ISB’s High School Dean of Academics and IB Coordinator said, “The IB is a highly accessible program that really does suit a variety of different learners, and I think even despite the COVID pandemic and the fact that exams might not happen at the end of this two-year programme, this is a two-year programme where students get to explore their passions, subjects they’re really interested in, get to do lots of critical thinking through courses such as TOK and I still think it’s a great program and learning experience for them.”

This year, ISB is on the non-exam route as we are finishing the year in virtual school. This means students are assessed for the IB based on the components of the subjects in the curriculum they have already completed, their predicted grade given by the IB - which is calculated based on a 3-year database of subject outcomes - and their in-house assessment given by their teachers at ISB. Our teachers are currently in their third virtual school session and have become experts at effectively preparing students for the IB in a virtual environment. While our virtual curriculum standards and expectations remain the same as in-person learning, the methods and tools used differ. ISB’s teachers have utilized those tools and techniques both effectively and creatively. They have been adaptable, changing quickly to shifting curriculum timelines and adjusting teaching strategies to fit virtual learning versus in-person learning - in some cases even bringing in virtual reality to help replace some of those experiences students have missed out on. 

We are proud of our students and teachers who have shown great adaptability, responsibility, and commitment in continuing to pursue and complete the IB Programme throughout the pandemic. Despite challenges, uncertainty, and change, the IB continues to be a program at ISB that allows students to explore their passions, develop critical thinking skills, and apply their learning. A path worthy of consideration! 

For more about the IB, see our website here: International Baccalaureate at ISB   

Or watch the video below: 


Academics Student