5 reasons why IBDP is respected by world's leading universities

Shubhdarshani Mitra
Mar 18, 2022
IBDP curriculum

The IB Diploma Programme (IBDP) offered to secondary school students aged 16 to 19 is a rigorous pre-university programme known for providing a balanced education. The curriculum allows students to excel in traditional academic subjects as well as languages.

The programme lays a strong focus on applying knowledge and skills to real-world scenarios, and an international mindset, which together give a great impetus to students for an enriching university life. 

We spoke to Ms. Deepa Chandrasekaran, Diploma Programme Coordinator at GIIS SMART Campus, Singapore to understand the strengths of this international programme, strongly regarded by leading universities across the globe.


Q1. Research suggests the IB Diploma Programme (IBDP) is a strong pathway to university education. What makes the curriculum unique as a pre-university programme?

The IB expects a large extent of independent and critical thinking, inquiry, and extensive research from its students throughout the two-year programme. 

The IBDP curriculum offers six subject groups along with the DP core components (Theory of knowledge, The Extended Essay and Creativity, Activity, Service) that aims to expand the student’s learning by challenging them to apply the various skills acquired. 

The DP provides a great deal of flexibility, accommodating student interests and abilities, and also develops international mindedness.

‘Multiple subject choices available for students’

Within each subject group, there are multiple options, and if the school is offering those many subjects, there would be different combinations for students to choose from. This is a unique offering that encourages IB students to thrive in their chosen subject area.

Not all students love math or may want to pursue science. They may see their future in arts or humanities or languages. The curriculum allows subject combinations in a way that each student is able to find their interest area. 

Once they do, the passion for the subject is developed, and the student is able to give his or her best. This is one of the major strengths of the IBDP curriculum, which acts as a springboard to university education.

‘Extensive research: A strong foundation for university’

Another reason would be the IB assessments, which are quite rigorous. The IB has internal assessments, which require students to take up research and work in a consistent manner, similar to what they would do to produce research papers during their university course. 

Each subject within the six groups is offered at higher level (HL) and standard level (SL). Also, for each of these subjects they need to do research work. So, if a student doesn’t see his/her strength in math, they opt for a lighter math load (SL), and take a subject at a higher level (HL) which is their strength. This way they majorly focus on their strengths.

Here, the school and teachers play a key role by helping students to find out their strengths, and guide them accordingly. The student might be excellent in visual arts but not in science. As teachers, we need to identify that, and encourage them too.

Ms. Deepa Chandrasekaran, Diploma Programme Coordinator at GIIS SMART Campus, Singapore

Q2. How does the programme lead to meaningful learning experiences for students beyond the classroom, adding to their ethic of service, care for community and self-confidence? 

Creativity, Activity, and Service (CAS) is one of three core components of the IBDP which provides unique life experiences to the students. 

‘Communication, collaboration and self-management skills’

The aim is, students should develop communication, social, self-management, thinking, and decision-making skills. It's more than an activity as it involves planning, collaboration, time and money management and accommodating other people’s views and ideas.

For CAS projects, the students lead the show by taking full responsibility and the educators act as facilitators. For example, if students opt for GIIS MUN (Model United Nations) as their CAS project, the IB students take charge, right from committee formation to selecting the secretary general and so on. All major decisions are taken by the students through competition, interviews, selection and filtration. 

The teachers in charge keep a track of the progress of the event, and provide guidance in case of a roadblock. We want them to think for themselves and take on necessary challenges, as that is where the learning happens. 

‘Students are prepared to face challenges’

The 21st-century university looks for more than just subject competency to enable students to take up dynamic roles once they choose their career path. When IB students graduate from school to start university life, they are able to meet the challenging  expectations of the university due to their learning at school. They are well prepared to face challenges, within and outside the classroom.

Q3. IB creates 21st-century independent learners who are said to be global citizens. How does the DP foster an international mindset among the students, deeply valued by universities?

International mindset comes from open-mindedness, one of the 10 attributes of the IB Learner Profile. As part of the curriculum, students have to research on global and current issues and also put them into writing as an essay or research paper (as extensive as 1600 words or more). Frequent studies on global issues helps students to develop the international mindset.

‘High level of thinking on global issues sets the path’

They need to dissect, find solutions, alternatives, give their opinion on different issues -  debate, research and determine the consequences, the advantages, and disadvantages.  The level of thinking that the student has to develop in order to write essays definitely prepares them for an international mindset.

For example, at GIIS, we have students in Singapore talking about  -  how the drought in Taiwan is affecting the semiconductor industry in Taiwan. The research comes from the students, and as an educator, I have to ensure that it is a pertinent global issue. 

Global issues like exploitation and inequality are looked at by the students through various lenses, and taken up for discussion with their peers. Therefore, laying a strong foundation for global mindedness among the students. 

Q4. How does open-mindedness prepare students for university life and beyond?

The IB curriculum gives the students tremendous exposure. For example, the compulsory Group 1 has English and Group 2 has languages – helping students to understand various cultures across the world. 

‘Exposure to different cultures and ideas’

They are exposed to global issues through language studies, a powerful medium. That is like an eye opener, where they get to know about what people have written about various localities, cultures - all this develops open mindedness.  

They start to think about larger issues, realising and accepting certain things, and rejecting certain other things at their own pace. All the while, shaping their own personalities. 

I always tell my students, our job is to understand and accommodate ideas but this does  not mean one has to lose one’s own identity. IB expects students to maintain their identity while keeping their minds open when looking for solutions to problems. This helps them once they step into university. 

Q5. How does success for DP students impact their admissions in top universities?

While the goal is to get into a top university, the expectations of the universities are very high.  The IB assessments are two fold: the internal assessments, which are done over a period of two years, and the final written examinations at the end of Year 2. 

‘Rigorous assessments hone skills’

The six internal assessments done for each of the six subjects have a major role to play in honing the skills and subject expertise as students get to build on their knowledge, step by step. These are comprehensive assessments based on student research. They are individual projects for which each student is given regular feedback by the teachers.

The rigorous assessments that span across the two years of the DP programme prepare students for university programmes.

Also, right from the beginning of Year 1 , IBDP students start with the college applications process. This is where the school and career counsellors guide them. At GIIS, we ask our students to create a database of 3-4 bucket lists of colleges - tier 1, 2, 3 and 4. 

The idea is to give the students a clear picture of their future college options as per their performance and grades. Invariably, each student applies to around 10 universities for which the school career counsellors help them in their personal statements and the university application process. 

GIIS has been offering the Diploma Programme for the past 17 years. We ensure that all faculty are IB trained and have all updates when it comes to curriculum delivery and assessment.  

We encourage our faculty to be IB examiners and currently 70% of the faculty are IB examiners. All this results in the students being guided to achieve excellent results over the years. With 16 World Toppers and 9 Near-perfect scorers in the 2021 cohort, our results continue to soar high.

To know more about the IBDP programme offered at GIIS, please do not hesitate to contact our friendly admissions team.

Shubhdarshani Mitra

Shubhdarshani has over 10 years of experience in content creation, curation and editing. She has worked for Indian newspapers, school magazines and international news websites where she worked closely with the leadership on the execution and communication of the content strategy. Aside from work, she’s a passionate B&W photographer and storyteller.

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