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IB at Elmwood

The International Baccalaureate (IB) program is offered in more than 5,000 schools in 157 countries around the world and is well-known for challenging high school students to engage in more academically rigorous study in preparation for university. Yet what many don’t realize is that the IB program isn’t just for high school students—IB programs have been developed for children as young as three.

While many local high schools offer IB classes, only one school in the Ottawa area offers the full curriculum from pre-Kindergarten right through to Grade 12: Elmwood, a private school for girls. Although almost 400 schools in Canada offer at least one IB program, Elmwood is one of fewer than 20 IB World Schools in the whole country with an IB program for every grade level.

The IB approach offers many benefits for younger students, says Christine Blackadar, deputy head of Elmwood’s Junior School, where the IB primary years program is aimed at students aged three to 12.

“What I love about the program is that in IB there’s an emphasis on the whole child. It’s not purely academic,” she says. “It all links to being a better citizen and being able to contribute to the world.”

Elmwood also offers the IB middle years program for students 11-16, as well as an optional diploma program for students in the last two years of high school. Younger students focus primarily on communications skills, self-management and learning how to learn, with each year building upon the skills learned before. Starting young to strengthen these skills helps support students to excel both in school and in life, Blackadar says.

Meagan Enticknap, Deputy Head, Middle/Senior School

“It’s a very interesting program, and each level of the program supports the other,” she says. “Because the IB is an international program, they’re able to draw on research on best practices from all around the world.”

For Meagan Enticknap, deputy head of Elmwood’s Middle and Senior School, what makes the IB approach so special is the emphasis on interdisciplinary learning, global-mindedness and taking responsibility for your own learning.

“Learning isn’t something done to the students or delivered to them. They are actively involved, they have a voice in the classroom, they have questions they can ask and have ways they can strategize and find out answers. There’s a big focus on collaboration,” she says.

All Elmwood students are automatically IB students until the end of Grade 10. When given the choice in grades 11 and 12, about 40 percent of Elmwood girls typically choose to pursue the full certification program, Enticknap says, and as many as 80 percent will take at least one IB class.

Despite a popular trend toward early specialization in school, students in the IB diploma program gain a true liberal arts education that ensures they have broad exposure to various subjects, including languages, math, science, and humanities.

“Students at a very young age are specializing but if they make these choices too early in the game, when they get to university they often realize they weren’t open enough,” Enticknap says.

The IB program offers many advantages for both teachers and students, she adds:

  • The strict accreditation process ensures high-quality instruction;
  • The curriculum is frequently updated, and new teaching methods recommended, based on the latest research on educational practices from around the world;
  • IB teachers are also required to regularly participate in professional development to ensure they remain up to date with current best practices in education; and,
  • Schools are regularly inspected to ensure the program implementation meets the program’s quality standards.

Studies assessing the effectiveness of IB programs have found that students in the primary and middle school programs outperformed non-IB students in core subjects such as math, reading, science, and writing, while diploma program students were more likely to attend college and stay in school, Enticknap notes.

“The idea of helping students make connections between disciplines, and really making that learning relevant, is something I haven’t found in other systems,” she says. “For me, they are real highlights of the program for students here. It allows for more creativity and for students to have a very well-rounded, academically focused education with an element of personalization and questioning.”

To ask questions about the IB program or to book a school tour, email or call 613-744-7783.

Written by: Briana Tomkinson, Postmedia Content Works