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A Marriage of IB and Vocational




Since it came to the United States in the 1970s, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme has been known as the greatest academic challenge ever hurled at American teenagers. Its exams are longer and deeper than those of the Advanced Placement program. It requires a 4,000-word research paper, something virtually unheard of in U.S. public schools.

That scary reputation is one reason why only about 4 percent of U.S. schools have the IB Diploma. It is also why the IB organization is launching an alternative program that somewhat downplays academic skills in favor of career skills for students who may enter the workplace immediately upon high school graduation.

The new program is called the IB Career-related Certificate. Only a few dozen schools are involved at the moment, but many principals are applying to host pilots. Binghamton High School, located in New York’s Southern Tier, graduated 42 IB Diploma students and 22 students with IB’s career certificate in June. Just-retired Principal Albert Penna calls the combination “global meets local,” with the IB Diploma’s international emphasis complementing IBCC’s focus on jobs.

The students in the career-related program need to take no more than two IB courses, augmented by four career-oriented courses in subjects like engineering and computer programming. The career courses must be certified by professional organizations. Students also must complete a major project on an ethical issue, a critical thinking course and community service.

Some principals wonder if IBCC will be too hard for noncollege-bound students. IB officials urge schools to give it a chance and see how many students are drawn to the IB promise of creating “a self-confident person ready for life in the 21st century.”


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