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A STUDY from Oxford University suggests that International Baccalaureate (IB) students are better at critical thinking than their non-IB peers.

Founded in 1968, the IB pioneered a movement of international education, and now offers four educational programmes for students aged three to 19.

More than 560 students from eight schools in Australia, England and Norway participated in the study, which examined the impact of the IB’s Diploma Programme (DP) on students’ critical thinking abilities.

No previous research has taken this approach of comparing DP and non-DP students across the globe, using a validated critical thinking assessment.

The year-long IB-commissioned study was conducted by the Oxford University Centre for Educational Assessment (OUCEA).

Quantitative results showed that the DP students possess significantly higher levels of critical thinking skills than their non-DP counterparts, an advantage that held even after relevant covariates were controlled for using regression approaches and propensity score-matching.

Additionally, as students advanced through the DP, critical thinking skills increased and further distinguished them from their non-DP counterparts.

“While we can’t know for certain whether IB participation improves critical thinking, it is noteworthy that even after controlling for many pre-existing differences, IB students appear to hold an advantage when it comes to critical thinking.

“The findings suggest that instructional approaches that focus on teaching critical thinking skills explicitly, as well as embedding opportunities for students to think critically within each subject, may facilitate the development of critical thinking skills.

“IB students and teachers have identified many potential avenues by which the IB encourages the development of critical thinking and hopefully in the future we can build an even clearer picture of how to improve students’ critical thinking skills, ” said project lead researcher Dr Therese Hopfenbeck.

As part of the IB’s continued curriculum innovation strategy, this research precedes a large project in collaboration with OUCEA, the Australian Council for Education Research (ACER) and the Jacobs Foundation, which aims to identify and share classroom practices that support the development of IB learner profile attributes and skills that foster international-mindedness in young people.

The IB currently engages with more than 1.4mil students in over 5,300 schools across 158 countries. To find out more, visit ibo.org.

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