On Thursday 24th November 2015, GEMS World Academy Switzerland hosted an evening conference with special guest speakers Jeffrey A. Beard, Former Director General of the IB organization and Jeffrey S. Petty, Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship at HEC Lausanne and Academic Director of the EMBA programme.
The topic of the evening was the International Baccalaureate® and how the Diploma Programme benefits children through school and into University. The IB started its development in 1960 as a collaborative project between the University of Geneva (Switzerland), Cambridge (UK) and Harvard (USA) with the aim of developing a recognized international curriculum. The IB is now offered at over 5000 schools worldwide and every year more than 150,000 students take the final Diploma Programme. It is the fastest growing educational program in the world, but maybe the least understood.
Mrs Audrey Peverelli, Head of School at GEMS World Academy Switzerland, opened the evening and welcomed the speakers. Mr Dan Pearcy, the IB DP coordinator at the school spoke passionately about what the IB programme contains and what makes it unique. The two guest speakers then shared their insights as experts in the field and gave an overview of the changing nature of the university sector. Mr Beard emphasised that most education systems around the world are not working very well and have their limitations. In an increasingly “flat world” where borders are transnational, the ability of citizens to be educated in one country and work in another is what the future is all about. It is therefore important to emphasize open-mindedness and global citizenship skills to understand different cultures. These skills are amongst several that schools should focus on to prepare students. The IB programmes are already doing this and have a “learner profile” which is embedded in the school’s philosophy. In addition, there is rigorous assessment that all IB DP students pass at the same time across the world. Research shows that IB DP students have more success getting into top ranking universities and finishing their degree sooner. They tend to have better grades and go on to better careers. There are less than 200 schools around the world that offer all 3 IB Programmes (PYP, MYP and DP) and therefore GEMS World Academy-Switzerland is quite unique.
Mr Petty focused on how higher education views the IB. He explained how universities and colleges around the world are changing their way of teaching and accepting students based on the right “fit”. The IB prepares students to “fit” many more universities. Accreditation boards around the globe are asking that universities look for an understanding in students of their capabilities and values. IB students are able to articulate this. They are also taught to engage and have an innovative approach to learning. An IB classroom has a teacher who shares knowledge and engages with the students who work in their own way and on their chosen topic within the unit of enquiry in order to experience and embrace the learning. This is how higher education is developing now too.
To finish the evening’s talks, Danielle Oberman presented her experience of the IB DP Programme and her life as a student at GEMS World Academy Switzerland. As a South-African/Austrian/Slovakian, Danielle moved to Switzerland with her family at a very young age and went to a Swiss public school for 9 years after which her parents moved her to GEMS. She started her schooling at GEMS as a shy, scared girl not knowing what to expect but quickly adapted and came to love the IB programme and the school community. A quote that she explains symbolises her experience is from Oscar Wilde: “What seems to us a bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.” She was amazed at the way of teaching, the support she has received from the teachers and the caring environment. Today, Danielle loves learning and enquiring and her perspective has changed in that learning is not just memorising but embracing knowledge to grow.