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Notable Educational Paradigm, International Baccalaureate (IB) Education

  Korea is implementing public education innovation in response to rapid changes in the international community. In line with this trend, there has been a recent increase in research on the International Baccalaureate (IB) program within the domestic educational community. The IB program is an innovation expected to improve the harmful effects of Korea's traditional cramming education and promote critical thinking, creativity, and global citizenship. Korea’s interest in IB education has grown as it has been known that Japan, which has a similar educational culture to Korea, has preemptively promoted IB introduction and policies in public education since 2013. Therefore, let's look at the characteristics and background of the IB education program and think about the necessary systematic support and implications for IB education through actual cases in the international community. 

 

What Is IB Education?

  The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) is an international education foundation founded in 1968 with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. It operates four educational programs for students aged 3 to 19 years old, which follows the 13-year primary and secondary education system in Europe. The programs include the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) for students aged 3 to 12, the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) for students aged 11 to 16, and the IB Diploma Programme (DP) for students aged 16 to 19. The DP qualification allows students to take entrance exams for any university worldwide. The IB programs aim to provide education that develops the necessary qualities and competencies so that students can understand the complex world and act responsibly in the future.

  IB education is particularly noteworthy in education for the digital age and global society because it emphasizes inquiry and problem-solving. The IB curriculum includes six subjects: Studies in Language and Literature, Language Acquisition, Individuals and Societies, Sciences, Mathematics, and The Arts. In addition, students must complete at least one subject in each area to achieve a balanced learning experience in the IB curriculum. For example, Studies in Language and Literature offers subjects such as Language A: Literature, Language A: Language and Literature, Language B, and Classical Languages. At the same time, students must continue In-depth learning in three of the six selection areas (the areas that students are interested in or related to their careers). Moreover, students can gain a deeper understanding and knowledge of their chosen field. For example, in the field of science, in addition to basic subjects such as Biology, Chemistry, and Physics, subjects such as Environmental Systems and Societies, Sports Exercise, and Health Science are provided, allowing students to deepen their knowledge in their chosen field. Thus, the IB curriculum supports students to gain diverse knowledge and experience by simultaneously requiring balanced learning and in-depth learning in areas of interest. 

  The IB curriculum also includes mandatory extracurricular activities such as creativity, practice, and volunteer subjects. This course is designed to achieve a balance between academic research and life outside the academic world. By completing these mandatory courses, students can grow into people with holistic personalities with consideration for others. Since there is a possibility that students will develop intellectually biased development in high school courses that require them to concentrate on studying to qualify for IB, opportunities such as performances as plays and musicals, sports activities, and volunteer activities for the community are also provided. Finally, the IB program offers an education that transcends academic, cultural, national, and geographic boundaries and encourages critical participation, creating new ideas, and discovering meaningful relationships within them.

  The Korean Ministry of Education is preparing for a "transition to future education" throughout a person's life, from primary and secondary education to higher education and lifelong learning, to provide a foundation for future generations to become leaders in a rapidly changing society. In the past, cramming education was mainly implemented in Korean education, so the purpose was to get good grades on the test based on memorizing knowledge accumulated in this way. However, this rote learning approach has revealed its limitations with the massive change of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Therefore, new educational curricula aim to cultivate individuals with core competencies such as problem-solving, creativity, and collaboration rather than simply focusing on memorization or knowledge acquisition. The key to preparing for future education is supporting each student's " customized growth." Despite various efforts in Korea, practical strategies for curricula, teaching methods, and assessment are still insufficient compared to the high interest in school education innovation. Additionally, there is a need for solutions that respond to societal demands for learner-driven deep learning, creativity education, and competency education, so adopting the IB program is one alternative solution to meet this challenge.

 

Cases of IB Education in Korea

  The Daegu Metropolitan Office of Education has earnestly pursued introducing the IB program in public education since 2018. As a result, in 2021, the elementary and middle schools affiliated with the College of Education at Kyungpook National University became the first IB international certification school in Korea as a public school. Before 2019, 13 Korean schools operated an IB curriculum (Gyeonggi Foreign High School, 12 international schools, and private foreign schools), most teaching English versions of the curriculum, targeting students aiming for foreign universities. However, the Jeju and Daegu education superintendents signed an agreement with the International Baccalaureate Office (IBO) to introduce the Korean version of the IB curriculum in public education, opening a new chapter in introducing IB education to Korea. In addition, the Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education selected IB interest schools to understand IB education’s philosophy and prepare for operational tasks starting in 2023. The IB interest chosen schools in 2023 include 14 elementary and 11 middle schools. High schools were excluded from this selection of schools of interest because the provincial council suggested that only elementary and secondary schools should be applied first, excluding high schools, during the budget deliberation related to IB education last year. The selected schools must fulfill tasks such as the principal's mandatory participation in IB workshops, the operation of IB exploration professional learning communities, and the preparation of IB candidate schools based on the support of IB headquarters consultants and the Office of Education. According to an interview with the Jungbu Ilbo on November 7, 2022, Han Hee-sook, the IB director of the Ministry of Education, explained that "Gyeonggi-style IB aims to introduce the international certification program in Korean, focusing not only on student education but also on increasing trust in public education" and that "IB education will be the cornerstone of Gyeonggi's future education."

  The application of IB education is becoming increasingly important in higher education. In Korea, there has been an increase in the number of universities recognizing the IB Diploma and the existing domestic curriculum when entering universities. Examples include Sogang University, Ewha Womans University, Yonsei University, Korea University, and Seoul National University. Inha University, in particular, has recognized the IB degree since 2016 and has continued to do so. Moreover, efforts are being made to develop and evaluate IB education programs. Some Korean universities have offered programs to train experts for IB education curriculum and evaluation development. For example, Inha University's Graduate School of Education provides a degree course for teaching IB teachers. This course began in 2021, and it is meaningful because Inha University is the first to operate a qualification course as a Korean language class in Korea. Inha University's Graduate School of Education's IBEC qualification course is designed to develop IB teachers' expertise through various curricula, such as process-oriented evaluation, curriculum development, knowledge theory, and practice programs with different IB cooperative schools at home and abroad. "IBEC teacher education and training courses will catalyze finding improvements in domestic public education," said Sohn Min-ho, head of Inha University's Graduate School of Education. "We expect the full implementation of the high school credit system in 2025 and the domestic educational landscape ahead of the essay-type CSAT in 2028 to positively impact changes." Through these efforts, IB education is gradually being applied in the field of higher education in Korea, which is expected to play a significant role in maintaining international education standards and fostering talents who will lead the future society.

  However, there are strong concerns from inside and outside the education community that introducing IB has not considered Korea's college entrance-oriented curriculum. Kang Min-jung of the Democratic Party of Korea said in a parliamentary audit of the Seoul, Gyeonggi, and Incheon Office of Education on October 17, 2022, "No country in the world applies IB as a whole to public education. Besides, it doesn’t fit our country’s curriculum and the university entrance system, so shouldn’t we consider solving this mismatch?” One of the critical issues regarding the introduction of IB education is that students attending IB schools may be disadvantaged in college entrance exams because the IB and the current college entrance system are not linked. Similar problems are being raised in Daegu and Jeju Island, which previously introduced IB education. In Daegu, which introduced IB into public education in 2019, 9 schools in total, three each in elementary, middle, and high schools, have been certified by the IB headquarters. There are currently 80 schools designated as interest schools and candidate schools in the preparation stage for IB-certified schools. However, opinions on the expansion of IB schools are continuously being raised because the IBDP, a high school course, has limitations in conflict with the current entrance examination system. IBDP is a two-year course from the second to third grade of high school. Considering that most of the rolling admissions are conducted in November, there is a problem in that students face the college entrance period without completing the DP course. Because of these problems, the Daegu Metropolitan Office of Education changed the IB program to be evaluated by semester by dividing the two-year course into four to fit the Korean semester system. In this way, despite efforts by the educational authorities to improve the limitations of college entrance in the IB course, a definitive solution for college admission strategies has not yet been established for students who have completed the IBDP. Introducing foreign education policies, particularly those from English-speaking countries such as the United States and Europe, can benefit Korean education. However, adapting and tailoring them to fit the local context is essential. According to an interview with EduPress in 2022, Kim Sung-Cheon, a professor at the Korea National University of Education, pointed out, "Becoming an IB school comes with substantial costs, including annual membership fees, certification maintenance costs, training fees, and per-test course fees, which can amount to tens of thousands of won each year.” He also pointed out, “It is doubtful whether the quality of the curriculum or class evaluation will be improved as much as the enormous budget was spent.”

 

The Global Spread and Growth of IB Education

  There are still many challenges in introducing IB education in Korea. First, it is vital to examine how IB education is spreading worldwide. Therefore, let's look at the current state of IB education in Japan, Melbourne School in Australia, and Brooklyn International High School in New York, USA.

  First, the Australian federal government is implementing policies to support education funds for IB students, making various educational resources available at relatively low prices. In addition, the Australian government has established an international education network through international exchange programs, which has contributed to the development of IB programs in cooperation with various educational institutions. Lauriston Girls' School, Melbourne, Australia, is actively promoting the introduction of the IB education program, trying to develop students' broad knowledge and competencies. Starting with the Primary Years Program (PYP), students can learn and develop problem-solving skills, thinking, communication skills, and international perspectives necessary in various fields by complementing Middle Years Program (MYP) and Diploma Program (DP). Lauriston Girls' School has joined a global network called Round Square and participated in international exchange and cooperation projects. Lauriston Girls' School operates various research projects, management, and industry cooperation programs. For example, students can participate in research projects in multiple fields, such as media, law, engineering, and life sciences. Through industry cooperation programs, they can utilize tools and technologies used in the area. These experiences help students develop competencies such as collaboration and leadership and great help when choosing future careers. As of 2019, DP graduates of Lauriston Girls' School scored an average of 38 points, significantly higher than the global average of 29.63. Moreover, this school has been recognized for educational innovation and excellence and has won various academic awards. In 2019, it received an award in the "Most Innovative School" category, and in 2020, it won the "Girls School of the Year" award. These achievements demonstrate that Lauriston Girls' School is successfully operating IB education.

  Additionally, various policies and systems have been established to introduce IB education programs and provide better programs in the United States. In 2007, the National Education Policy for "True International Education" was enacted through a presidential order called the International Education Initiative (IEI). Through this, the U.S. Department of Education promoted the spread of IB education programs by providing subsidies for IB education programs and encouraging educational institutions to introduce IB programs. Brooklyn International High School became a successful case in IB education in the United States due to various factors. Still, the main reason is that the student-to-teacher ratio is very low at 10:1. This is one of the factors that help students interact more individually with teachers and enable teachers to provide more focused guidance to students. Furthermore, Brooklyn International High School has sufficient resources and facilities to operate IB education programs successfully. The school has various facilities such as science labs, art rooms, music rooms, gymnasiums, and libraries and utilizes these facilities to optimize the IB learning environment for students. However, the limitations of IB education in the United States include the difficulty of the course and the issue of education costs. IB courses require more time and effort from students than regular curriculum courses, as they demand a higher level of learning. In particular, the DP program can be a source of pressure for students to complete extended essays, perform research projects, and take various thematic exams. Additionally, schools that operate IB programs must invest more resources than regular curriculum programs, which can lead to education cost issues. As a result, some students may not receive IB education, leading to educational inequality.

  Lastly, let's look at the case of IB education in Japan. The years 1979 and 2013 in Japan are significant in the IB curriculum. 1979 was the first year Japan introduced the IB curriculum. Since 1979, Japan has also established a legal basis for the operation of the IB curriculum concerning university entrance examinations. In addition, since 2013, Japan has been working with the IB organization to develop and introduce a "Japanese DP" that allows for the partial implementation of DP subjects in Japanese. Considering that the guidelines related to the IB curriculum were first presented in the revised 2009 curriculum in Korea, it can be said that Japan began to pay attention to the IB curriculum much earlier than Korea. However, unlike the cases of the previous two countries, the Japanese government's IB expansion policy is evaluated as a failure. According to Professor Kwon Young-sung of Cheongju University, who has studied IB education for years, the number of IBDP students in Japan was less than that of Korea's international schools as of 2021. In a report issued by the Korea Educational Development Institute in July 2022, “The current status of the introduction of the IB curriculum in Japan and its implications for education in Korea,” the report diagnosed that “the introduction of the IB curriculum in Japan appears to have failed on the surface.” 

  Establishing 200 recognized schools was the goal when Japan began its IB expansion policy, delayed the target achievement year twice, and only 102 in 2022. These results suggest that implementing IB education promoted by government policies did not significantly impact Japanese public education. According to an IB institution survey conducted in Japan in November 2019, it was found that IB-certified schools in Japan had considerable difficulty in securing teachers who could teach in English, and some schools were burdened with the cost of promoting IB-accredited schools. Japanese IB schools had financial problems running the curriculum, including textbook and examination fees that students had to pay. Also, due to the implementation of both the Japanese and IB curricula and the difference in difficulty between the two curricula, there were many difficulties in terms of curriculum linkage. Regarding the actual situation of IB education in Japan, the Korea Educational Development Institute pointed out, "Even if the IB curriculum is excellent, the burden on the school field can be increased if it is not linked to the national curriculum."


  The IB curriculum is an educational method that enables students to cope with complex problems, apply their knowledge critically and creatively, and search for rational conclusions or answers. However, some aspects of IB education are difficult to use in the current educational situation in Korea. Despite these challenges, IB education maintains an internationally recognized academic standard, significantly enhancing students' international perspectives and competence as global citizens. In summary, these values are increasingly essential in a rapidly changing world where global challenges, such as climate change and social inequality, require collaborative solutions and innovative thinking. Recognizing the benefits of IB education and continuing to realize them in a new educational paradigm will be critical future tasks.

최승빈  carpediem_oon@inha.edu

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