IB Experiences IB Overview

What’s IB like in China?

Compared to the traditional Chinese education, where we were taught to think from one perspective, encouraged to follow whatever the teacher or the textbook said, and punished for disagreeing, IB was liberating for me.

Advantage #1: Traditional Chinese System vs IB

My love for English and History flourished under the IB system. I escaped the usual over glorification and “authors can do no wrong” narrative ingrained in the Chinese education system. In the traditional Chinese education system, students take the “gaokao,” which consists of mostly multiple choice questions and fill-in-the-blanks, with no subjects where you could voice your own opinions. The IB, while rigorous and demanding, does encourage one’s critical thinking abilities and helps students prepare for university with IAs and EEs. They ask students to challenge perspectives and come to conclusions of their own.

A Chinese student’s typical high school life only consists of revising and studying, with school often starting before 7 AM and ending after 10 PM on weekdays and revision classes on weekends. This can take a toll on a student’s mental health as breaks are seen as slacking off. The IB does value a student’s whole roundness and growth outside of the classroom with mandatory CAS activities.

Disadvantage #1: Lack of Resources

Limited access to the internet means most resources that are considered readily available aren’t there for Chinese students. IB student support communities on Reddit and Discord are entirely inaccessible, whereas journal databases such as Jstor and Arxiv are only available in their Chinese equivalent CNKIm which automatically censors most, if not all, western articles. 

Borderline copyright infringing free resource servers, including ibdocuments and examsnap do not appear in the results of Chinese search engines, making it possible for third parties to take advantage of the IB and charge for these materials when they are already available for free.

Disadvantage #2: Disregard in Equality & Nationalism

As there is still colorism and racism in China, my school had a predominantly white staff composition. White staff was allowed to say the n-word, for example, without receiving any backlash or punishment even when reported to human resources. This is due to the lack of diversity, and goes against IB’s goal to “learn diversity and inclusion.”

Students rarely receive mental health support from their institution, as there’s a general lack of awareness within Chinese society. People in minority groups are much more likely to be frowned upon among society and are often bullied or even receive racial or homophobic slurs. This too, receives little to no support from schools.

It is important to note that the circumstances of IB vary from school to school in China due to different cultures and variations in the local city’s economy. Despite the disadvantages I have personally experienced taking IB in my school, the IB itself has taught me to be a free thinker, question what I know and to stay curious, which I’ll always be grateful for.

You may also like…

• Aaryaa’s take on whether the IB was worth it
• Victor’s tips on how to choose an IB school for prospective students

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