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The IB Diploma Critical Thinking Advantage

Research from Oxford University has found that International Baccalaureate (IB) students “appear to hold an advantage” over their non-IB contemporaries in their ability to think critically (Link). By this, we mean that diploma students have a greater ability to analyse, synthesize, and evaluate information. As a result, they will also have improved problem-solving skills because critical thinkers can delve beyond the obvious.

That is great news for our students because this skill will prepare them for life beyond Branksome Hall Asia. But, the use of the word “appear” in this statement doesn’t sound very convincing. However, if we, ourselves, think critically we can understand why researchers use this phrase. In observational research, which is research outside of a controlled experiment, we cannot assume cause and effect. We can say that we have observed that students who have studied IB have improved critical thinking over their contemporaries. We can advance this observation further and rule out other factors such as social-economic status, cognitive abilities, and demographics.  

I believe that the development of critical thinking in the Diploma programme is largely due to the extended essay (EE) and the theory of knowledge (TOK) essay. This independent research is incredibly demanding, irrespective of the subject or topic. After months of painstaking research, experimentation, analysis, and evaluation the girls submitted their essays. Even then it isn’t over. The last stage of the process is the viva voce, which is a defense of the research. Earlier this week, Siyun Na was interviewed by the MBC network and asked to discuss her EE research and then completed her defense in front of the camera.*

We are immensely proud of the research conducted by all of grade 12 students. The silver platter ceremony, which took place this week, is a celebration of their achievements. The main benefit of this process is the development of a research mindset and critical thinking skills. You don’t need to take my word for it. The Oxford University researchers concluded by saying that “DP students had significantly higher critical thinking than their non-DP peers”.

* The interview and our students' advanced learning will be aired through an MBC Jeju TV program called 'Warang Warang Jeju(와랑와랑 제주)' at 6:10 pm, Friday on December 11th and to be re-broadcasted on Saturday at 9 am this week. It can be also viewed on their YouTube channel.


Dr. Terry McAdams
Director of Technology, Research and Innovation