I recently ran into a teacher from my high school who has been active in the advancement and growth of the International Baccalaureate program (IB). I participated in the IB program – as a certificate, not a diploma candidate – I believe it was a great experience. The program was demanding and interesting. Equally important, it helped prepare me more effectively for university.
The encounter – and the conversation – got me thinking about how IB should plan its expansion. Clearly one option is that it could expand in a uniform manner – pitching itself to districts in a more or less uniform manner. This is not their approach, and nor should it be. The fact is, some places in North America are going to be more receptive to IB than others. One option would be concentrating resources in places where the ground is most fertile and where success more readily achievable. In its strategic plan however, IB makes it clear that it does not want to only serve an educated elite. Consequentially I would advocate for a two pronged approach. One strategy for places where IB is going to be a relatively easy sell. Another for more hostile environments, where attitudes and resources will be harder to mobilize or change.
The only question remains. How to identify the two regions?
If I were to imagine the type of parent interested in IB, it is likely one that believes in science, wants what is best for their child, has a broad, generally progressive, outlook on the world. They are probably interested in AP, but are even keener on something better. In short, present day IB kids are creative class kids. Their parents recognize the value of a strong education, and can generally afford the extra taxes currently necessary to subsidize such an education. Fortunately, Florida has mapped where the creative class lives in the United States. These maps are essentially demarcate the dividing line between areas that will be receptive and areas that will be more challenging for IB to establish itself. In short, IB should devise a “creative class” strategy and an “elsewhere” strategy. The two areas are likely very different in the questions that will need to be addressed, the allies located and mobilized, and the resources that will need to be marshaled.
(note: apparently IB is big in Texas, something that initially surprised me, but a look at this map suggests that, depending on where the IB schools are located, Texas is indeed fertile ground.)
Internationally, I might use Florida’s spiky world maps such as the one below which denotes patents per 10,000 people by region. The higher the spike, the greater the number of patents and the places where IB can most likely adopt it’s creative class strategy. The valley’s will probably require a different approach.
It would be fascinating to cross reference IB programs against these maps. I suspect there is already a high degree of correlation. Perhaps I’ll ask if they have any maps…