Check out the latest blog entry from Head of School Andy Guest, where he discusses Notre Dame's IB program and his recent trip to New Orleans for the IB Global Conference.

Sitting at the airport after four days at the International Baccalaureate (IB) Global Conference in New Orleans, I have a few minutes to reflect on my experience. The theme for this year’s conference was Generation IB and included presentations from IB alums from all over the world.

Our Notre Dame contingent included Ms. Fruchey, lower school Primary Years Program (PYP) teacher, and Ms. Sagert, who is the Diploma Program (DP) coordinator. Attendees included more than 2,000 administrators, IB coordinators and teachers from 30 different countries.

Even though we have been an IB-authorized school for more than a decade, I find that parents still have many questions surrounding the program, how it benefits their students and how it fits ideologically with our Catholic faith.

First and foremost, Notre Dame is and always will be a Catholic school. We follow the teachings of the Catholic Church, the religious curriculum of the Archdiocese of Detroit and the charism of Mary as taught to us by the Marist Fathers and Brothers; who are charged with overseeing the Catholicity of the school.

The IB curriculum was chosen as the pedagogy to deliver our educational experience to students. The mission of the IB program is to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.

It was chosen as our educational platform because of its unique approach to teaching and learning, which better prepares students for an increasingly international and competitive world.

Traditional approaches to teaching focus on content. IB focuses on the skill sets students will need to be successful in the world in which they will work and live. Skill sets such as critical thinking, problem-solving and international-mindedness. I often marvel at how well our students, even at the very youngest ages, can handle complex material and how well they can present to large audiences with confidence and maturity.

If you have ever had the opportunity to attend the fifth-grade PYP exhibition, view the tenth-grade personal projects or read a Diploma Program candidate’s extended essay, you know exactly what I mean.

Parents also tell me all the time about how well behaved our students are and how peaceful our school is versus experiences they have had at other institutions.

Our reputation is that we are a school where it is “cool to be smart,” which means students can grow and explore their interests without the threat of being made fun of by their peers.

It is cool to want to do well in school. It is cool to be involved. And, it is cool to have talent. Whether in academics, arts or athletics, our students appreciate the intelligence, hard work and accomplishments of their peers.

When IB talks about international-mindedness, some parents feel that connotes a “liberal” political slant or even worse, an anti-Catholic slant to education. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

IB teaches us to pursue knowledge excellently. When our students understand complex issues from the perspective of others, particularly those in other parts of the world, it will lead to more effective solutions to the challenges those students in tomorrow’s world will face.   

As Catholics, we believe in respect for others. We urge our students at every level to have compassion for the marginalized in society and to provide a voice for those whose voices cannot be heard. The poor, the elderly, the unborn all have a place in society, and we need to use our sometimes comparatively privileged backgrounds as platforms to help make the world a better place.

IB is generally recognized as the top, most effective approach to teaching in the world. That’s why Notre Dame was the first Catholic school in the nation to offer the IB curriculum from PK through twelfth grade.

And, that’s why IBelieve!