News

International Baccalaureate Prepares American Students for Globalization

Tracy Samilton

The International Baccalaureate school movement is growing in the United States. Supporters say the program's international focus and rigorous curriculum is one of the best ways to prepare students for globalization. "I.B. schools," as they're known, have long been popular in affluent areas of the country. But now, more school districts in poor, inner cities are experimenting with international baccalaureate programs. Tracy Samilton reports.

International baccalaureate schools began decades ago as a way to teach the globe-trotting children of the international diplomatic corps. Now, IB schools welcome all kinds of children. The program combines what are considered to be the best teaching techniques, a rigorous curriculum stressing writing and analysis, and an international perspective. The goal is to develop involved, articulate global citizens.

Bloomfield Hills is a wealthy suburb of Detroit, Michigan. The school district here has set up an International Baccalaureate program at Lone Pine Elementary. At IB elementary schools, subjects like math and reading are not taught separately. Subject areas are integrated, so lessons in "Mother Earth" class, for example, cover vocabulary, literature, history, and ecology. "We learned some words like environment, we learned how Indians, they didn't waste anything, and we learned about global warming," explains one ,5th-grader, flipping through his workbook. "I learned about Pangea, how, a long time ago the world was connected," adds another.

In addition to integrating subject areas, the program also breaks down the proverbial classroom wall. Teachers are required to compare notes and plan classes together. That's a "best practice" that IB schools adopted because it develops teachers' skills. Jean Ramseyer, head of programs at Lone Pine, says everything an IB school does should encourage children to think for themselves. There's still a place for rote learning of facts and figures. But she says children can develop sophisticated thinking skills at a surprisingly young age. "It's amazing. If we never ask kids to think, most of them don't."

Learning to think critically is rapidly becoming a crucial skill for people in the global economy, says school principal Mary McCuen. So is knowing how to work and play side by side with people who are not like yourself. "It's about helping children understand that where they are in place and time impacts their thinking and their viewpoint on the world," she explains. "And it does for everybody else in the world, too."

Most of the older international baccalaureate programs in the United States are in affluent areas like Bloomfield Hills. But more recently, troubled inner city schools are trying the approach to improve education for low-income children.

One of them is Whittier Academy, a middle school in Flint, Michigan, one of the poorest cities in the state. Principal Beverly Payne says many parents are taking their children out of the city school system because students are getting poor grades and test scores. She thinks her IB school will help stem the exodus of families from the district. "I believe if we have a program that's challenging with rigor and relevance, our parents are gonna stay in Flint."

Payne also thinks the international focus is the best model to prepare students for a shrinking world. Payne says she sees that in action everyday at her school. She recalls watching Flint students chatting on-line with students in other countries, "and someone was talking to someone in China and another to someone in Russia, and what we find out is they have similarities, and that's how we're going to make good leaders of tomorrow."

IB programs can and do succeed in economically distressed areas, according to Brad Richardson, with International Baccalaureate for North America. But he says educators need to understand that transforming a school into an international baccalaureate school is not an overnight fix. "Those success stories I could point out to you, you'd think wow, that's magic; no, no no, this has taken years for them to turn themselves around, but they've used the IB as a catalyst."

Other inner-city school districts across the country are considering adopting the IB program for one or more of their schools. Supporters say the International Baccalaureate program takes a big commitment from teachers, parents and administrators. But they say the program is one of the very best ways to prepare children for learning, living and working with people all over the world. For VOA News Now, I'm Tracy Samilton in Detroit.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs