The IB programme is renowned for imbedding a distinctive international approach in each of the subjects it offers. While it is often associated with the IB’s core campaign of nurturing global citizens, the depth of its internationalism goes far beyond simply mentioning countries around the world within the syllabi of subjects. In fact, IB subjects are designed to delve deep into global issues, thoroughly incorporating these within curricula to promote more profound educational experiences and critical understandings for all its students. Below are three specific ways that they use to accomplish this along with two particular benefits:
A hallmark of IB subjects, like Global Politics and Environmental Systems and Societies (ESS), is their ability to showcase and explore the interconnected nature of global issues, revealing how they not only intersect with each other but also interweave between different nations and ecosystems. These subjects go beyond surface-level discussions and delve deep into topics like the geopolitical effects of peace and conflict, and the intricate web of climate change. They not only discuss how issues impact individual nations but also emphasize their ripple effects on the world as a whole.
For instance, Global Politics does not just discuss diplomatic relations between countries; it examines the underlying causes of conflicts, the dynamics of international organizations like the United Nations, and the global implications of regional tensions. This can be seen, for example, in a discussion about the Yemen Civil War where, although it is grounded in regional tensions, foreign nations backing groups (Iran-backed Houthis and Saudi-Arabian-backed Yemen Government) has made it so that its political consequences stretch across the globe.
ESS, on the other hand, places significant emphasis on the interconnectedness of ecological systems and the global consequences of environmental challenges. For example, a student may give a presentation on the formation of the Montreal Protocol and its impact on global use of ozone-depleting substances.
All in all, these subjects equip students with a comprehensive understanding of the complexities of our globalized world.
Subjects like Language and Literature, Language Acquisition, and Theatre provide opportunities to explore diverse cultures and perspectives. Through the study of bodies of works from various countries, IB students can gain a deeper appreciation for different cultures and foster intercultural understanding.
In Language and Literature, students delve into literature written by authors of various nationalities, allowing them to gain a profound appreciation for different literary traditions and narrative voices. Additionally, exploring themes of both local and national significance allows students to understand the social, political and economic priorities of diverse communities.
Language Acquisition, with its focus on language fluency, not only teaches students how to communicate effectively but also exposes them to the cultural nuances embedded within languages. For instance, students learning French not only become proficient in the language, but also gain insights into French history, traditions (which vary depending on the French-speaking country) and societal values. These will be integrated into the language learning process to add a layer of authenticity to the use of the language.
Theatre, as a performative art, allows students to embody characters of different cultural significances. Through this, they are able to understand the ideas that a community valued so much that it had to be passed down from generation to generation. Thus, whether it’s staging a Shakespearean play or a contemporary piece from various cultures, Theatre offers a window into the diverse stories that shape our world. These experiences encourage IB students to become global citizens who appreciate and respect the richness of global cultures.
Application of Knowledge
In addition to discussing global issues, IB subjects often encourage students to apply their knowledge to real-world scenarios. Business Management and Economics explore international markets and trade, allowing students to understand the complexities of the global economy in a real-world context. Students could apply these learnings to their daily lives beyond the classroom. This could involve exploring the dynamics of entrepreneurship by starting their own business or applying for an internship for a multinational company. They could additionally link this knowledge with that from other subjects. One would be ESS wherein they could consider the environmental impacts of a business, and ensure their business aligns with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
One notable application of knowledge is the Global Politics Internal Assessment (IA), the Political Engagement Activity. This assignment asks students to explore a political topic of personal interest on a local level, and engage with it via interviews with relevant people of interest, research and hands-on involvement. By engaging with relevant global issues, especially those of importance to their immediate communities, students not only gain a practical understanding of political processes, but also contribute to meaningful discussions on the international stage.
From what we have seen, the IB truly does put effort in integrating “international-mindedness” into their curricula. This shows though the benefits that students readily experience. Some of these benefits are:
By recognizing the international dimension in every subject, IB students can develop a more holistic understanding of the world. They’ll be equipped to see how knowledge from different subjects intertwines and how global issues cannot be solved in isolation.
I personally experienced this within my Extended Essay. I wrote a Global Politics EE. However, through the process, I realized that my topic of environmental injustice required different areas of society to be addressed – such as the government, the economy, environmental science, town planning, and a myriad more. This allowed me to see the interconnectedness of societal issues, which is an attribute of major importance to benefit IB students outside of the classroom, and at the same time, how IB subjects intertwine.
Critical Thinking and Empathy
Understanding international perspectives fosters critical thinking as IB students learn to question assumptions and consider alternative viewpoints. This, in turn, nurtures empathy and open-mindedness, essential qualities for global citizens.
For instance, in Global Politics class, we regularly engaged in mock debates and discussions where we were assigned the role of representing different countries with vastly different perspectives on a global issue. This experience challenged me to step into the shoes of others, question my preconceived notions, and engage in rigorous debates to find common ground.
This heightened sense of critical thinking not only serves students well in academic endeavors but also in their broader lives. When faced with complex decisions, whether in their personal lives or future careers, they can draw upon their ability to analyze information from diverse angles and make informed choices. Moreover, by understanding and respecting differing perspectives, IB students are better equipped to navigate multicultural environments and engage in meaningful dialogue. This is an essential quality for global citizens, as it fosters collaboration, tolerance, and a commitment to creating a more inclusive and interconnected world.
The international dimension of IB subjects transcends superficial global references; it guides students on a journey into the heart of interconnected global issues, cultural appreciation, and practical application. By embracing this international-mindedness, IB students are not only better prepared for the complexities of our world but also empowered to contribute positively to its future.