From authorization to assessment: Building practices for inclusivity within the IB community.
Olli-Pekka Heinonen, Director General of the International Baccalaureate
At the IB we want to understand and celebrate differences within our community while recognizing and valuing the things we have in common. As we all strive to achieve our mission of creating a better world through education, we cannot underestimate the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Three years ago, the IB strived to take concrete and proactive measures on diversity, equity, and inclusion, adopting a new statement upholding these values. As a global education leader, we aim to provide guidance on ways to cultivate practices that address racism, implicit bias, and discrimination of all kinds through an inclusive IB education for our students and community.
Since that statement, the IB has intentionally developed commitments to DEIJ at an organizational level, which are reflected across all aspects of programme implementation, authorization, programme development, curriculum design and assessment. Among IB´s statement of commitments is the embrace of diversity, equity, and inclusion practices in our work and reflect this commitment as we develop our policies and procedures. This emphasis has helped to support schools to integrate these commitments into the authorization process, working with IB staff and educators to develop programmes that best suit the needs of the schools’ diverse local and global communities.
We work with schools through their authorization process to ensure they consider some elements as they implement the IB and each school’s DEIJ commitments. IB’s authorization process is based on a set of Programme Standards and Practices that are reflective of our organizational mission. A cornerstone of our mission is understanding that other people, with their differences, can also be right.
Our authorization process requires schools to reflect on and align their values to our organizational mission as a starting point. From here, schools are supported to shift or deepen their philosophical, organizational, curriculum, and assessment practices in line with our mission-driven, constructivist-based approach, in which schools work within the IB framework to create programmes that align with the IB’s expectations, their local context, and regional mandates. Through this approach, the entire school community explores local and global concepts and contexts that are important to their community in order to develop programmes that belong to them and reflect their local community, while embracing global perspectives.
The IB creates and maintains policies to support equity and inclusive education within IB schools. The access and inclusion policy is designed to enable full participation of all students across all four IB programmes in teaching, learning and assessment, by reducing and removing barriers using appropriate and well-planned access arrangements. Each year tens of thousands of students with learning, physical, sensory, emotional, medical and other long-term challenges are supported in their IB assessments - Diploma Programme (DP), Career-related Programme (CP) and Middle Years Programme (MYP) eAssessments -. Students whose learning, emotional and functional stability are impacted by personal, family, social or other life circumstances are also supported through this policy.
IB programmes are designed to ensure inclusivity and equitability, allowing all IB learners to have equal opportunities to learning pathways, learning experiences and educational recognition. The IB applies these principles for programmes and subjects.
When designing and developing the curriculum, the IB aims to meet the principles of equity and inclusive education through a universally designed curriculum that is inclusive, fair and accessible for all IB learners, taking into consideration inclusive access adaptations and student wellbeing during assessment design and development. We recognize how critical it is to explore diverse perspectives, so we incorporate knowledge, experiences, and representation from across cultures, backgrounds, nationalities, and identities to ensure our programmes can be accessed by the broadest range of students possible.
We believe these practices will allow all learners to feel represented and seen in the curriculum. Students are encouraged to think critically and holistically about a subject with an awareness of their biases. This can help reduce or remove cultural bias and expose learners to multiple co-existing narratives and ways of knowing.
We recognize there is still work to do to ensure we are living up to these values. Whether that is through evolving our curriculum to reflect thinking and ideas from around the world, deepening our understanding of the role of language for cultural identity, or developing courses and curriculum which all students can engage with, our journey begins with equity and international mindedness. The IB aims to provide equal opportunities for every IB learner. Rather than focusing on what divides us, our principles and practices are meant to recognize cultural diversity while acknowledging what unites us and what gives us strength and hope as we build more inclusive IB educational communities that prioritize the well-being and flourishing of our students.