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IB: A Festive Feast?!

14/08/2014 14:47 BST | Updated 14/10/2014 10:12 BST

'Hi! I'm also in the acronym festival known as the IB, haha.' A new Facebook message popped up.

'So, what is the IB like?' So did another.

A walking-on-the-tightrope experience? A merciless predator of sleep? I remembered the series of dark and grotesque metaphors that fellow IB-students attributed to the IB Program, and grinned at this thought. In a previous blog post (titled 'Edutopia'), I outlined my visions for an Edutopia (education utopia, a perfect curriculum), and expressed my whole-hearted consent with Plato that 'The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life'. True, the way we perceive the world is dramatically altered by our curriculums. Although the International Baccalaureate (IB) is certainly demanding and challenging, we might as well honor it with extra credits and respect.

Upon approaching the finishing line of the IB, I have perhaps found more similarities than differences between my utopian vision and the program. Firstly, IB offers breadth and depth that not only prepares one for the rigor and demands of heavy university workloads, but also fosters the holistic growth of learners. Like the distributional requirements of American liberal arts colleges, the IB core curriculum spans across the Humanities, the Social Sciences, the Natural Sciences, and the Arts, equipping the learner with knowledge from a variety of academic disciplines. The specificity of the syllabus for IB courses allows the learner to be well-versed in that subject, and form independent preferences that may later form concrete career paths. As if all of those are not sufficient to busy (to such a remarkable extent that it is even regarded as torture) the students, the IB additionally serves students with more challenges: the Extended Essay (EE), Theory of Knowledge (TOK), and Creativity, Action & Service (CAS), encouraging students to conduct comprehensive scholarly research, contemplate on 'how we know what we know' and serve the community using creativity.

You might have noticed from the last paragraph how the IB is full of acronyms. My fellow Theatre students have all laughed at the names of the four external assessments in the course: the Independent Project, the Research Investigation, the Practical Performance Proposal, and the Theatre Performance and Production Presentation; A.K.A. IP + RI + PPP + TPPP (what an awful lot of P's! Oh, the IB, even if we substitute each 'P' with puddings, that might have been a bit too much for us, don't you think?) Curiously, IB proudly shares the acronym with investment banking, one of the careers that notoriously involve the most amount of overtime work and least family time. The daughter of an investment banker myself, I do not see each and every IB student joining the industry, but can see certain resemblance in the work ethics between the two types of IB-ers.

As one of the 'acronym-festival' participants, I have enjoyed many tasty feasts - both international and interdisciplinary. Conversations in Español in local Spanish restaurants, investigations of Starbucks' 'glocalization' strategies in China, attempts to choreograph traditional English contra-dance (a type of country dance) movements using mathematical matrices, using game-theoretical models to analyze the interrelationships between characters in Jane Austen's literature... I shall never forget about the myriad of experiences as I continue my journey of pursuing further knowledge in college and beyond!

Granted, the IB is much more difficult to complete than a usual festive feast, but certainly involves significantly more memorable impacts. Although I have not yet experienced first hand of the academic and professional life after the IB, I certainly had the pleasure of knowing individuals who have flourished after completing their IB courses. After all, principled, open-minded, caring, balanced, reflective, knowledgeable, and collaborative risk-takers / inquirers / thinkers are eagerly sought after by industries of all shapes and sizes. For now, let us keep enjoying the festive feast!

*P.S.: This is by no means a promotional article, thanks to the IB curriculum's omnipresent and omnipotent emphasis on developing analytical and critical skills.