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What is IB Art?

    The aim of all IB programmes is to develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world.

The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) is an international educational foundation that was founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1968.  It was established to provide schools with a rigorous curriculum that could be universally recognized and accepted at all institutions of higher learning around the world.  Three well designed programmes- the IB Diploma program for high school and secondary years, the Middle Years programme and the Primary Years programme- provide educational opportunities for students from age three through nineteen. IBO operates around the globe in both public and private schools.  Currently there are over 2000 schools in more than 124 countries implementing the programmes.  

The educational philosophy of IBO was greatly influenced by Alec Peterson, the organization’s first director- general.  He felt that the purpose of education should be to stimulate the mind and encourage critical and creative thinking rather than rote memorization of fact.  His humanist beliefs are also reflected in the IB philosophy and his views on educational objectives are still evident in the Diploma Programme in such components as the extended essay, CAS programme and theory of knowledge class. Woven through all disciplines in the IB curriculum are the elements of the IB Learner Profile which emphasize inquiry, reflection, compassion, creativity and balance.  

IB Visual Arts is a segment of the IB Diplomma Programme designed for secondary education students ages sixteen through nineteen.  It is designed to provide a humanities component for students enrolled in both the diploma and certificate programmes.  Structured over two years, IB Visual Arts offers students an opportunity to learn the elements of art and principles of design while exploring the reflective and affective aspects of aesthetic education. Students are expected to maintain an investigation workbook which serves as a working journal for personal investigation into visual arts, incorporating contextual, visual and critical exploration. IB Visual Arts diploma candidates are given a choice regarding their culminating evaluation; they can choose to test at the Higher Level (HL) which requires 240 instructional contact hours, or the Standard Level (SL) a 150 hour requirement.  Either option also allows for the students to choose whether they wish to be evaluated with an emphasis on their investigation workbook or their studio work.  

The beauty of the IB Visual Art programme is that it provides an opportunity for all students to explore their creative and artistic capacities regardless of previous exposure to art.  Students in IB art may not necessarily possess outstanding art skills or be extraordinary visual thinkers.  The program requires a student to become involved in the process of making art, the investigation and documentation of the art journey that they embark on, the ability to make creative connections and insightful personal reflection.  

Teaching IB Art is very different than teaching a traditional higher level high school art class.  Where as most art courses are structured through prescribed projects and lessons, IB emphasizes a balance between direct instruction and careful coaching. The teacher takes on the role of facilitator, guiding each student along his or her art journey, providing instruction and resources when necessary and encouragement for individual growth and creative exploration.  An IB art class tends to look more like an artist’s studio with each student pursuing his or her own creative path.  

The IBO programmes and doctrines provide an ideal template for creating a society of careful thinkers and life long learners.  As American schools march mindlessly towards an increased emphasis on assessment and standardization, the International Baccalaureate Organization continues to refine its principles and curriculum to allow students to obtain the thinking skills that they need to succeed in our rapidly changing world.  Standardized assessment does not allow for reflection or international mindedness.  It discourages or eliminates the possibility of creative risk taking and does nothing to encourage the development of open-mindedness.  If schools that are deeply mired in Program Improvement problems were to adapt some or all of the elements of the IB Learner Profile, risk taking, balance, reflection, communication, inquiry, and focus on performance and integration of these skills instead of yearly testing results, a notable change would take place.  IB is not just for the elite, not just for the “gifted” students.  It is for all- no matter where, no matter who.  IB didn’t have to wait for Superman, they have been changing education since 1968.

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