The International Baccalaureate as a global community has been continuously expanding over the whole world, providing an international type of education to be carried out from primary to high school. Starting from its beginnings in Geneva, the IB has expanded to more than one hundred countries around the world. However, one region where the IB program has been slow to develop is Latin America. The first Latin American IB school only opened in 1982 in Tijuana, Mexico, and even then, a small amount of support for international education proved to be a setback at first. As of 2015, Latin America reported having approximately 391 schools with an IB program (Gaskell, R. 2015), a number smaller than that of some countries. However, the IBO, in recent years, has attempted to facilitate the growth of its education system in the region.
Step 1: An International Mind
Part of the IB’s mission is to allow students of all backgrounds to have open access to quality education through the implementation of their curriculum. To fulfill this, the IB has been expanding to new communities in both the public and private educational sectors. In this manner, diverse communities of students are able to know different ways of understanding the world through the teaching of global contexts and profiles that will help improve students’ knowledge, cognition, and general perception of the world.
As an added benefit, The students’ profile is vastly improved due to the worldwide recognition of this institution. This recognition stems from the unique method by which the IBO attempts to cultivate in its students the interconnectedness of different subjects and areas of study. By fostering this understanding as well as having a more world-aware approach as compared to how regular subjects are taught, the IB gives students an advantage and competitiveness that separates them from the rest.
On July 20th of this year, the IB closed a deal with the president of the National Administration of Public Education (ANEP), the Uruguayan governmental agency that looks over public schools. The agreement stated that schools will integrate their curriculums with the framework of the IB. According to Robert Silva, the president of the ANEP: “The educational transformation that Uruguay is developing coincides with the work developed by the IB and this collaboration will allow Uruguayan students to continue their education and training outside the country, either in international universities or institutions.” (IB, 2023). For some context, pre-agreement Uruguay had 9 schools that offered the diploma program, 4 that had MYP, and 3 with PYP, but through this agreement, this number will significantly increase nationwide.
This collaboration also provides the ANEP with professional and training opportunities for both students and staff. In conjunction with this statement, Olli-Pekka Heinonen, Director-General of the IB, expressed how institutions such as the IB have the responsibility of adapting and improving their own and other school’s curricula to the needs of the future. This, of course, considers the fact that the world is changing, which is why the IB tries to train its students to develop their own learning methods, maintain healthy habits, and collaborate with others to thrive in this ever-changing world. An example of this would be how the IB students’ learner profiles are presented in how they express themselves through their worldview, as well as the work ethic and commitment to attaining a globalized mind obtained over time.
Step 2: The Road to University
When students from different sectors of the population have access to quality education, their future university prospects improve. As an example, there are only three Uruguayan students at Harvard, according to their demographics with MIT proving to be worse with no current students. However, with the opportunity to learn in an IB setting, the number of students from developing countries like Uruguay able to enroll in foreign universities will grow. As proof, the U.S. Embassy in Uruguay counted 382 Uruguayan students studying in American universities in 2015. This can be compared to the 453 students at the end of 2019 recorded by the International Trade Administration, a growth attributed to an improvement in the quality of national educational standards.
To emphasize more on this, the process of looking for universities to attend is always difficult for foreigners due to incompatible educational standards, and a different teaching ideology, among others. One example is that: Although students from various countries can apply to universities abroad, many universities do not admit students with a diploma from local curriculums. This may be due to, as mentioned above, an inability to verify the quality of local educational standards, and how the student will do in an altered learning environment. As a result, the disadvantage Latin American students face due to a lack of IB education may manifest itself in admission rates. Latin American students, compared to students from North America, Europe, and some parts of Asia, have lower admission rates when applying to Western universities.
However, the IB can remedy this situation. Besides giving younger students more opportunities to adopt an international way of thinking, IB students are given high-quality education compared to some local curriculums. Not only is the IB curriculum of is of high quality but it is internationally regarded as one of the best, a consideration that is definitely factored in by universities. Additionally, the IB is able to teach skills that will prove useful in higher education, such as methodizing assignments and taking into account other opinions. Due to these characteristics, the IB makes those students stand out in front of other competitors. This is why, when the IB is implemented in other sectors, more people will be able to access these opportunities, especially since it is mostly restricted to private and not public schools.
No matter what background they may come from, every student deserves to have a quality education that can get them as far as they set themselves to. With Latin America holding limited educational prospects of studying abroad, the IB can enable a student, whether from a public or private school, to extend their research and access the opportunities that might just change their lives. Thus, the IBO’s collaboration with developing nations should not end with Uruguay. Instead, it should serve as an example of the opportunities the public education system of other Latin American countries such as Mexico, Colombia, and Argentina can offer their students.