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Student Life

About the International Baccalaureate

As many of you may know, GHS has recently been verified as an IB school. The IB Diploma Program, or the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, is a rigorous program that aims to develop the intellectual, social, personal and emotional skills of its students by placing them in a challenging and fast-paced academic environment. The school began the informal application process by expressing interest in 2010. A number of Guilford teachers were sent to initial IB training, where they learned how the program and the courses were structured. The school subsequently filled out a beginning application, and then worked with a consultant to further develop and customize the program. By spring of 2016, GHS had officially applied and was awaiting verification.

One might ask how IB courses differ from other advanced course options, such as AP classes. Ms. Chaffe, IB Coordinator, says that the IB program “puts all of the content areas on an equal playing field and it supports this idea that if you commit… you come out a stronger student in the sense that you have a very balanced experiences.” In addition to challenging courses, International Baccalaureate students complete an intensive program called Creativity, Service, and Action. Under this program, students enrich their own lives as well as give back to their community by embarking on projects that demonstrate their creativeness, dedication to service, and athletic ability. This sort of undertaking, Ms. Chaffe explains, is “a more nuanced and intense undertaking then doing, say, 30 hours of community service that you have to do to graduate and being done with it.” Additionally, International Baccalaureate students have to complete an extended essay of 4,000 words. This essay is designed to motivate students to conduct further research into an area that interests them as well as prepare students for the sort of coursework they will do in college.

In the program, students will take six classes a year in addition to the semester-long course Theory of Knowledge. Each student is required to enroll in one class from each of the six major course groups: studies in language in literature, language acquisition, individuals in societies, sciences, mathematics, and arts. Students have the option of enrolling in standard-level courses and higher-level courses. While the standard-level courses are very challenging, the higher-level courses are more in-depth and intensive. These SL courses require 150 hours of coursework and HL courses require 240 hours. By enrolling in IB, students are dedicating themselves to two years of coursework per class regardless of whether the class is SL or HL. Additionally, for one class period in the second semester of the junior year as well as the first semester of the senior year, students will take TOK, or Theory of Knowledge. This unique course teaches students to explore learning and how they themselves are as a learner. Ms. Chaffe explain that it is “very closely tied to philosophy” and “ties all your subjects together, so you get a sense of not just learning math for math’s sake and english for english’s sake but how all of these disciplines cross over and connect with one another.”

While application process for the program has not been finalized, it will not just be “about the grade,” Ms. Chaffe says. They are looking for applicants who have a “self-awareness of who they are as a student.” This sort of self-awareness is attractive because the International Baccalaureate program places an emphasis on the Learner Profile- characteristics the program wants students to display. According to the profile, IB learners are inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced, and reflective. Throughout the program, students will focus on actively developing traits that are not initially their strongest. This being said, applicants will also have to demonstrate an ability to handle the challenging coursework.