Discovering the IBDP

Posted by

A decade later, a friend of mine mentioned in passing that, given my interests in education, I should check out the IB Diploma Programme.  Given my experiences in the world of educational reform, I was, by this time, quite sceptical that anything genuinely substantial could be done.  But the more I looked, the more impressed I became. Here was a programme that managed to combine rigorous standards for students with an inspirational, and clearly delineated, educational philosophy that promoted both breadth and depth of the educational experience.  A strong commitment to teacher professional development, through ongoing workshops, conferences, forums and other mechanisms, not only reinforced a consistent implementation of the curriculum, but also doubtless went a considerable distance to maintaining teacher enthusiasm through the creation of a reinforcing culture of support.   

Concrete, and deeply meaningful, pedagogical innovations such as theory of knowledge and the extended essay were inextricably tied to all aspects of the curriculum, ensuring that all graduates had a significant exposure to research culture and critical thinking. The latter was particularly striking to me. Virtually everyone I have ever met, at any level of education, government or the corporate sector, talks at length about the importance of “critical thinking”.  But the IB, through the creation of theory of knowledge, is the only entity I have encountered who has developed a systematic way of teaching and transmitting it.

And all of this was permeated with a refreshing culture of transparency: subject briefs consisting of a course description and aims, curriculum, and assessment model were freely available to all for all subjects.   Such transparency is vital, not simply as an illustration that one has nothing to hide, but because the act of clearly delineating a programme tangibly demonstrates a well-integrated organizational structure. This is what we are and what we do.  And once you clearly put the details together, it makes it much easier to assess, and reassess, matters to ensure that you have a consistently relevant and coherent pedagogical approach.

Clearly this was an exceptionally well-thought-out programme that had somehow managed to find a way of squaring the educational circle that had eluded so many for so long.  Moreover, its approach to the core values of education had a particularly strong resonance with my own, eventually leading me to commit to put my money where my mouth was and devote a year to reworking all Ideas Roadshow content to make our resources explicitly fit the IB Diploma Programme, with a special emphasis on integrating TOK throughout the entire curriculum.  

So that’s now done.  But you’ll doubtless be relieved to know that this blog is hardly a selling platform for Ideas Roadshow’s new IBDP Portal where you’ll be regularly bombarded with self-promotional tales of our untold magnificence.  Just like the IB, that is not our style: you can sample our content through our various guides that are freely available on another page of this blog.  From them you will be able to see our own version of, This is what we are and what we do.  

As for this blog, it was specifically created as an engagement platform for all members of the IB community.  My job is to regularly highlight specific insights from our experts that I feel would directly benefit teachers and their students, while we ask you to offer reflections and suggestions of your own.  In the months ahead, we are planning on hosting a variety of invited posts from all manner of members throughout the global IB community to the benefit of all. In time, if all goes well, you will be doing far more of the talking than I will.  

Howard Burton,


Leave a Reply