"I can still vividly recall my initial encounter with an International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB DP) student," said Dr. Finnigan, reminiscing about his time teaching English Literature during a first-semester university seminar. "Around the second or third session, specifically during our discussion on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, one student distinctly stood out due to the remarkable depth of her analysis, her capacity to contextualise knowledge, and sophistication of her communication skills." Dr. Finnigan noted the striking contrast between the student’s performance and that of the rest of the group, feeling as though a second or final-year student had mistakenly entered the class. "As the class concluded and students were preparing to leave, amid the common queries among the newly assembled undergraduates about their previous educational backgrounds — 'What did you study for A Levels?' — I overheard her mentioning that she had completed the IB DP, of which I had previously been unaware. Over the ensuing weeks, it became evident that she was considerably more adept at handling university-level studies compared to her peers. Upon talking with her, it became apparent that her education through the IB DP at an international school had significantly contributed to her readiness for higher education.
IB DP's Global Perspective: International-minded individuals
Although Dr. Finnigan’s story may seem anecdotal, his subsequent experiences as a teacher and university guidance counsellor for IB DP students in both the UK and overseas strengthened the perspective that the DP better prepares students for university education compared to other curricula. "While much of this is attributable to the academic rigour and comprehensive learning encompassed within the IB DP, it appears to me that the Creativity, Activity, and Service (CAS), Theory of Knowledge (TOK), and the Extended Essay (EE), collectively known as the Core, represent a pivotal component adding value to students as they transition to university life." This is echoed by admissions officers from elite global universities, who frequently go on the record to state that IB DP students are their preferred applicants, citing their notably superior performance once enrolled in university.
However, it is indisputable that the context in which the IB DP is delivered plays a significant role in the students’ success. International schools like Halcyon, due to their diverse cultural demographics, offer a genuinely global perspective that is simply unavailable elsewhere. The amalgamation of staff, students, and families from various cultures and continents contributes significantly to providing students with an international mindset and pan-cultural awareness that greatly benefits their transition to life after school. "Even in my brief time at Halcyon, it's evident to me that the school's culture extends far beyond the IB curriculum," Dr. Finnigan shared while preparing for his one-to-one meeting with a Grade 12 student.
IB DP's Extended Essay: Research, Analytical and Thinking Skills at University-level Writing
IB DP students enhance and refine their holistic profile through Creativity, Activity, and Service, acquiring tangible experience from activities and projects that contribute to both personal growth and community welfare. Additionally, they develop an interdisciplinary approach to cognition and learning through Theory of Knowledge, and acquire academic research and writing skills via the Extended Essay. The extended essay is a rigorous assignment that serves as ideal preparation for university-level work; a 4000-word independent research paper that gives students the opportunity to demonstrate a variety of academic skills and gain a sound grasp of fundamental academic conventions. “For students not doing the IB DP, university classes often become their introduction to academic skills like assimilate research skills, cultivate an understanding of academic discourse, and compose scholarly work using relevant academic tools. This poses an additional challenge during a period of significant change. In comparison, IB DP students are relative experts, having undergone a 10-month-long process before higher education.”
Having supervised numerous extended essays across various subjects over the years, Dr. Finnigan possesses firsthand insight into the intellectual growth this process brings. "I consistently encourage students to perceive the extended essay as an opportunity for academic development rather than a mere task; its value might not be immediately evident to them, but will manifest itself when required at a later stage. The process also gives valuable material for students' university application writing, as the extended essay offers tangible evidence of key attributes that universities seek in applicants."
IB DP's Holistic Education: Communicators and Emotionally Intelligent Individuals.
The extended essay constitutes just one facet of the IB DP Core, and the significance of the others should not be underestimated. "The amalgamation of breadth, depth, theory, and practice within the IB DP makes it an exceptional curriculum that nurtures every aspect of a student, particularly at Halcyon, where a collaborative ethos is deeply ingrained in the school community and culture." says Dr Finnigan. For example, Theory of Knowledge presents an excellent opportunity for students to delve into philosophical and conceptual ideas intertwined with their own learning. Students collaborate with peers and staff to analyse diverse perspectives, fostering an interdisciplinary approach highly valued by universities. Creativity, Activity and Service offers students a platform to cultivate practical skills and construct an extracurricular profile showcasing non-academic attributes. As a final reflection, Dr. Finnigan highlights how Halcyon's culture seamlessly aligns with the IB curriculum: "It's an innovative, collaborative community that thrives and adapts alongside the freedom and depth offered to both IB MYP and IB DP for students."