Dr. Siva Kumari, Director General of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Organization, visited the Waterview campus of Dallas International School on Wednesday, May 23. During her visit, Dr. Kumari took time to meet with headmaster Bertrand Ferret and DIS IB coordinator Laura Margan to discuss the successes the school has had in implementing the innovative Advanced Bilingual IB Diploma. Dr. Kumari also participated in roundtable discussions with the senior students completing the Advanced Bilingual IB Diploma, as well as the upper school IB teachers.
While chatting with Dr. Kumari after the meetings, it was clear that she had come away impressed with the school.
“I think for me the commitment of the school to do both the French Bac and IB is really fascinating, which is why I’m here,” she said. “I really do believe that language is key and there’s so much research that backs that up. These students are going to be so much more competitive than other students, because it’s so important to have this global mind. I think the school is stretching things further than most, especially with the pioneering spirit of co-creating the Advanced Bilingual Diploma with the IB.”
Dr. Kumari, who speaks three languages herself, emphasized this importance of language to the seniors during her time with them.
“There’s no choice in the world at this point to be so local,” she said. “You have to be more global. We can’t escape the world. It is changing so fast every day that we have to be prepared. And I can see that you students are very prepared.”
The Advanced Bilingual IB Diploma, which combines the universally recognized demanding nature of the classic IB diploma with a high level of mastery of the English and French languages, was pioneered at DIS and just two other schools in the world. Students are able to take core subjects, such as global politics, in French as well as English. This helps them truly master both languages in their final years at DIS.
“I had done French education for ten years, but I thought it was time for me to do something different,” said DIS senior Giovanni Couto Barbosa to Dr. Kumari during their discussion, explaining why he chose to pursue the Advanced Bilingual IB Diploma. “I wanted to see how I could do things on my own.”
Another senior, Elijah Rogers, explained how taking challenging classes in both languages really helped him reinforce the differences and similarities between the two tongues.
“Some of us took economics in French and global politics in English, so it was interesting to see the different nuances between the two based on the language,” he said.
“Having that international factor helps me stand out to colleges,” he added. “It definitely shows that I’m different.”
Dr. Kumari agrees. She believes that DIS students will have an advantage over the typical college applicant due to their distinctive profile.
“A student who has done that much work over two years and chooses to be evaluated by international evaluators is so unique,” she said. “I think students should experience these stressors (of the IB diploma) early on and my belief is that it matures the student a lot more earlier on and in concrete terms shows them what they can do already. That is a great netting to send them to university with.”
While speaking with the IB teachers, Dr. Kumari emphasized how the multi-faceted nature of the IB diploma will help students face an increasingly changing world.
“I really do believe that the flexibility of the mind that the IB creates and the development of the student it creates before they enter college are very unique,” she said. “Learning to take other points of view but learning how to argue your point as well is so important. The ability to work across disciplines should not be underestimated.”
Dr. Kumari closed her discussion with the teachers with a passionate defense of the multilingual learning environment that they have created for DIS students.
“There is great value in languages, and having that compartmentalization of the brain and being able to think about different things in different languages,” she said. “It is so important to show that students can truly think in more than one language, and that was one of the original goals of the Advanced Bilingual IB Diploma. I know these diplomas will help students for a long time in life, beyond just getting a certain score.”
Laura Margan, the IB coordinator at DIS, said she’s thankful that Dr. Kumari took the time to visit the school, particularly the students.
“I think her visit really gave a sense of importance to the students enrolled in the ABD,” Margan said. “It’s not an easy choice. Just last week we had a visit from the French officials, so it was nice to see a visit from the IB. It shows here at DIS that we really consider the two tracks (FB and IB) just as important and challenging. It was great to see the director come and show her interest in the program that we’ve implemented.”
Margan also believes that this unique diploma will help students stand out from the rest of the pack when it’s time to put in college applications.
“I think it helps them stand out because the IB exists in a lot of schools and even the bilingual IB diploma is offered in a lot of schools, but our school truly shows a multicultural aspect and students and teachers use different languages as tools,” Margan said. “That ABD really can show that those two languages are studied at a high level but are also used as tools. They’re used outside of the classroom as well as inside.
“Because of all the requirements to pass the ABD, universities can see that the student who chose to do that really wanted to challenge themselves,” she added. “It’s not a required challenge, but they chose to do it. If they encounter difficulties in the future, they will be able to face them. It really says something about the student.”
Dr. Kumari also subscribes to that philosophy. She sees languages as tools and the Advanced Bilingual IB Diploma as a prime tool sharpener.
“The diploma provides students with the ability to ground themselves and really learn how to study,” Kumari said. “You have to truly remember things and how to apply them. It’s not just memorizing content for an exam. It makes students really well-educated and well-rounded, because history is just as important as computer science. Only having information in the now will not help you in the long view.
“It gives you the ability to think of problems in a different way. Having all those tools at your disposal helps us develop the leaders of the future.”