Advice / Leadership / Op-Ed / Personal / Reflection

My IBO (International Baccalaureate Organization) Story: A Response to The Globe and Mail’s Article

This morning, I read an interesting article about the IBO (International Baccalaureate Organization) in the Globe and Mail. (From $3,000 to zero, fees vary wildly for prestigious high-school program) It reminded me of my personal experience with the organization and brought about a question:

To what extent should students be responsible to pay for their high school education? What should government’s role be? (I’m interested in your thoughts.)

As a graduate student of the IBO Diploma program (as opposed to the certificate program), I’ll admit that I was one of the fortunate ones to have all my fees covered. I was also accepted into university based on my “predicted grades” half a year before any one else. That said, teachers were asked to write “predicted” grades lower than actual, as the school did not want the program to be seen as an easy way for students to get into university.

Despite what some say in the article, the program provided me with several benefits. Based on my final grades, I received extra credit, entering university, saving over $1500 on tuition fees in my first year. Unlike the University of Calgary, I did not jump to my second year, but one course I did waive, was the mandatory first-year English course, required to enter the School of Business. Through the program, I “survived” (as many graduates of the program like to say) the Extended Essay (E.E.), piles of lab reports, an integrated science project, Theory of Knowledge class, and copious amounts of other essays.

Writing was a significant aspect of the program, and I sharpened my citation skills, reading and writing skills, and pushed the boundaries of my intellectual knowledge, learning to formulate my own opinions and often personally investigated new topics that intrigued my curiosity. One of my favorite classes was, perhaps, Theory of Knowledge. It was like a philosophy class, where students didn’t really know what to expect each time we met up. We’d watch a video or look at a comic, read a passage or be presented with a question. There was never really a right answer and it was a lot of, I guess you could call, “investigative thinking.” (For a lack of better words…) Another component I quite enjoyed was the CAS (Creative, Action, Service) Portfolio. Unlike in Hong Kong, where secondary students must complete a community service requirement, our Canadian education lets the student voluntarily decide. With CAS, it became mandatory, again! Tracking hours became fun, but after I realized I had doubled the required hours in all categories, I realized that maybe they weren’t asking for enough! (Or… maybe I was just doing a lot… haha!) Nevertheless, it was fun and I enjoyed it. Learning how to manage my time and balance my life was invaluable, and I am sure some of the activities I did assisted with scholarship applications.

Above all, it was cool to know that students all around the world were going through the exact same process I was. It made the “work” seem more “doable.” Funny thing is I haven’t written a single paper in university that has required almost 30 different sources, like I did for my E.E. One thing I would ask for (from my high school) is to offer a more diverse course selection. I felt that we were limited to the core academic studies: Biology, Physics, Chemistry, English, History, Mathematics, Mandarin, French. I guess it’s a trade off based on the resources our school could provide. I am most grateful to have had all program fees covered and can honestly say I had one of the most memorable times of my academic life.

Would I put my child through this program? That will depend on multiple factors… MUCH LATER in the future.

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