Are All International Baccalaureate (IB)

Schools the Same?

Education Editor, St. Jude’s Academy

The International Baccalaureate, simply known as “IB,” is a highly integrated program designed to mold the whole student. The IB program is founded on principles of morality, intercultural understanding, creativity and diversity. Students are active participants in their education, as they build self-confidence and independence and gain a breadth of knowledge in academics, athletics and arts. 

The IB is globally recognized by renowned universities and provides a continuum of education from the primary years, starting in Junior Kindergarten at age 3, and ending in the senior years of high school up to age 19. 

In the GTA and Mississauga region, the IB is offered by public schools, independent and private schools alike. So you may have a few questions: does it matter whether you choose the IB program offered in a public school versus a private school? Is there a difference in the quality of the program between different schools? 

Are all International Baccalaureate (IB) schools the same?

Essentially, no.

Not every IB program is created equal.

All schools, whether private, independent or public, have their own defining culture, values and mission. No two schools are ever the same, so it’s only natural that no two IB programs are ever the same. For example, some IB schools cater to the academically elite, while others, like St. Jude’s Academy, make their IB program more accessible to all. 

According to Ann Harvey, Director of Admissions, Strategic Marketing & Communications at St. Jude’s Academy, “Extremely talented students will be challenged and rewarded in our program, while good and average students may also earn an IB Diploma and be very well-prepared in all regards for success in university and beyond.” 

Every student is unique in their level of abilities, and not all IB programs teach students who are not deemed ‘gifted.’ However, likely the biggest variation in IB programs comes from whether or not the program is public or private.

What are the differences between public school and private school IB programs?

1. Student population

It’s a known fact public schools tend to have larger classes and a larger student body than most private schools. While every IB program provides an enriched education, in a public school, the IB student is outnumbered. This results in far less opportunity available to the student. At a private school, that student is one of 15 trying out for the soccer team, not one of 50. The private IB student has endless opportunities to shine, in any discipline they choose to pursue. 

In fact, private school students come out of their shell more and are more likely to try out something new or put themselves out there for something otherwise intimidating and nerve-wracking in front of a larger student body. Moreover, a smaller student population makes for a close family of students, teachers and faculty. A tight-knit environment is difficult to achieve in a large school.

2. Student support

Private IB programs provide more comprehensive support for students. Public schools treat IB students as a minority within a large population of students in need of support, while private schools can focus their attention on IB specifically. 

Students receive dedicated support for the unique challenges and opportunities that come with being in an academically rigorous program. They are nurtured and encouraged by a strong faculty who dedicates themselves to inspiring students to achieve their greatest potential in an intensive program.

3. Student culture

In public school, IB students are surrounded by non-IB students. The danger lies in the fact that non-IB students simply do not have the same amount and difficulty of schoolwork. This can easily lead IB students to become demotivated as they watch their peers study less advanced material and likely have more off-time than they do. Young, impressionable students could feel alienated amongst their peers and grow a leisurely attitude about school.

In a private school where IB students only interact with other IB students, there naturally is a culture of taking school seriously, as all of them face the same enriched, rigorous expectations. They can motivate and lean on each other for support. If a student’s peers are working their hardest in school, that student will want to participate in this majority culture of strong work ethic. Public school does not allow for IB students to be part of this same conducive environment, because they are always part of a melting pot of students, some of which are high-achievers and others not.

We asked Melissa Chin, Head of St. Jude’s  Academy and IBO Canadian Chair, what should a parent/guardian look for in an IB School?

“The IB program should offer your child challenging academics while developing a humanistic worldview and encouraging productive involvement in the community. Their education should be more than just studying and achieving high marks. IB students should be encouraged to play on a team, lead a club, be in a band, act on the stage or sing in the choir and just be an adolescent.  When choosing an IB program, remember a student belongs in the school where they feel most inspired, supported, included and known.”

To learn more about St. Jude’s Academy, the first continuum IB school in Mississauga, please visit www.stjudesacademy.com  or arrange for a tour by calling 905-814-0277. To learn more about the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) visit ibo.org.

St. Jude’s Academy (JK-Grade 12) is the leading private university preparatory and IB School (PYP, MYP, DP) in Mississauga. Our faculty are world leaders in IB education, providing fundamental skills. Phys. Ed, Arts and language specialists nurture the whole student which ensures 100% of our graduates are accepted into their chosen university. Supported by faculty and parents, our students are inspired to confidently make their mark in the world. Visit us at stjudesacademy.com.