The International Baccalaureate – Parents’ Advice to Parents

It is that time of year again when many students must begin to choose their International Baccalaureate (IB) path so we asked some parents who have trod this path before to share their pearls of wisdom with other parents.

We asked the following questions and here is how they responded:

  1. What advice or tips would you offer to other parents about the IB? 
  • Go to the Options evenings and ask a lot of questions.
  • Talk to other parents as their experiences can prove invaluable.
  • Do not underestimate the amount of work time at home needed to get everything completed.  Although students need a break, do not overload the holidays especially the summer one at the end of Year 12 and the October half term at the beginning of Year 13.  There are many deadlines in the fall of Year 13 so it is important to try to stay ahead at these times.
  • As your children embark on the IB, think about the outcomes you want for your children and for the relationship with your children. Go beyond the children getting good grades or being admitted to a good university. Think about how you and they will behave during the process, think about building values consistent with the IB, like being a lifelong learner or developing resilience or keeping things in perspective. Maintaining open, respectful communications may be important. Get your own thoughts in order so you have a point of reference throughout the process.
  • The IB is a step change for the students and I said to all mine, you have to want to study these subjects – no one is forcing you to do this. You have to be self-motivated, and if you are the teachers will treat you as adults, not children. Students need to stay on top of things and talk to the teachers if requirements become too much.  The teaching staff were sympathetic.
  1. What do you wish you had known beforehand or what questions do you wish you has asked when your child embarked on the IB journey ?
  • I was lucky enough to have had advice from other parents with older children.  So speak to those who have been through it before.
  • US and Canadian universities care less about what courses your children are studying and more about their approach to their courses. UK universities focus primarily on courses studied when considering their offers.
  • There is a lot of tactical stuff going on, e.g. language B for native speakers, and Maths Studies for those who could/should be stretched by a higher level. This is understandable.  It is a worthy programme but certainly for the UK in most cases, it boils down to number of points.
  1. How do you encourage your child in his/her choices, studies and endurance of the IB demands ?
  • I told my children that the IB is rigorous but a rewarding challenge and very doable if you are organised, conscientious, and motivated.  Whilst there are ups and downs, the programme and work load is well managed by the school and that by Christmas Year 13, you start to see the end of the tunnel: Extended Essay (EE) done, Theory of Knowledge (TOK) and Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) almost done, along with most Internal Assessments (IAs).  I also told them it goes by super-fast and Year 13 is really 6 months at best.
  • I think there is a fine line between making your child understand how demanding the IB is and scaring them stupid!  Before my first child began the IB, many parents kept saying how difficult it is and I think my child felt quite daunted.  If they time manage (and that is also where parents come in to help on this), the IB is very achievable.  In my opinion, it is not the difficulty of the work but the quantity.  So keep checking in with them.  My useful conversations were about time management, I think it really helps for the student to be able to talk this over with someone.
  • We tried to help our children put the IB program in context within their young adult lives. It is a stepping stone, it is a great learning experience.  There are busy and less busy times so the program is always changing and whichever phase they are currently in will not last long. There is something to learn from all parts of the program and the most important learnings are not likely to be material in the syllabi but will come from interactions with others and how you respond to the challenges.
  1. How do parents help their children balance the “passion vs. IB numbers element” in their choices of High-level and Standard-level courses ?
  • I personally think it is important to do subjects your children LIKE.  It is a long IB if you just play the numbers game.  Having said that, in my opinion, some subjects definitely seem easier and less time consuming than others so it is worth talking to other students who have been through the IB to get their perspective.
  • Two of our three children had an IB course that was more of a “hobby” than a course. They sought refuge in the course work from those courses when they were tired or discouraged. We didn’t choose this purposefully but it turned out to be a source of strength and motivation for our children. Try to help your students find a course that really interests them and ideally choose this as a Higher. All three of our children are in great universities at the top of worldwide rankings for their subjects and in retrospect I would tell my kids to choose subjects they find interesting rather than those they think they need for a coherent story.  (This obviously doesn’t apply if your child needs specific prerequisites to follow their career plans.)
  1. Any other suggestions, thoughts or comments you would like to pass onto other parents ?
  • My child was not able to take one language course that she wished to continue in her IB choices so John Deighan (Coordinator of the Mother Tongue Language Program at La Chât) organised an extracurricular course for her and another to continue studying Spanish.  There are creative ways to continue studying the subjects your child wishes to pursue if they cannot work within their specific IB framework.
  • The IB revision courses really are much more effective than a student can be on their own (even a straight 7 student). Think about enrolling in these for the final exams.  (NOTE: The majority of parents responding to this set of questions have sent their children to England for the Oxford IB revision courses; these revision courses are now offered locally during the Spring Break.)
  • Enjoy the process of the IB and think carefully about your measures of success for your children – a great relationship with young adults that you find interesting, engaging and pleasant to be with might be more important than an extra IB point.



Responses compiled by Dede Ogden.

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