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What’s IB like in a First Generation IB School?

Wangari is a November 2020 graduate from a First Generation IB school in South Africa. With this article, she hopes to give some insight into what her experience was like transitioning into the IB Diploma Programme.

I chose to do the IB program because I was excited by the depth of the syllabus offered through Higher Level coursework. However, coming from the background of quite a different curriculum and being part of the first IB cohort at my school made the decision slightly intimidating, as I am sure it can be for others. Here is some insight into my experience taking the program in a First Generation IB school, with some lessons I learned along the way.

Subject Choice Limitations

At my school, we entered IB having chosen both our HL and SL subjects, however, there was a requirement to have an average of 75% and above to be able to take a subject at HL. As a new IB school, there was a small range of subjects available, as well as timetabling limits on the subjects that could be taken together. We could only take French as our Group 2 Language, which we did online through Pamoja, and we couldn’t take History and Chemistry at the same time. Another new change was that we had ‘free periods’ in our timetable, and I’ll admit we didn’t always use these productively. 

Grading Mindset

In my previous curriculum, my mindset was quite geared towards ‘straight As’ which I likened to an IB Level 7. This mindset was soon challenged after our first few assessments, which affected my confidence in my subjects. However, I found that redirecting my goal towards improving my understanding and skills, rather than valuing my success on whether or not I achieved a Level 7, made me happier and more motivated.

Going into the IB program, I had heard of its rigour and I understood that I would need to work hard in order to do well. However, I soon found that while hard work was important, it didn’t necessarily guarantee a successful outcome—at least the first time around. I can recount that almost every one of my Internal Assessments and my Extended Essay were not up to standard for the first few drafts. While this did lead to many tears, I realised that it was okay because each attempt was a step of progress and that was something to be proud of, regardless of how big or small it was.


As an IB student, I really valued how I was able to grow in my independence, however, I can definitely say that I could not have achieved the results that I did without all the support along the way. I cannot stress how important it was that I had friends I could cry with, teachers who made time to meet me, peers who were willing to help me, and an internet full of others with advice and resources to share. If you do not have this support already, I would encourage seeking them out; and given that you’re reading this, you are actually already receiving support from our IB community!

Just remember that the IB is a two-year journey. While it does require persistence, you will leave the program having learnt a lot about yourself, as well as with advice that you can share with those who follow.

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