Looking Back: IB Schools Australasia’s early years as AAIBS: 1989 - 2001

By Christopher Brangwin AM, RFD
September 01, 2020

About the Author:

Christopher Brangwin was formally IB Coordinator and Deputy Headmaster of SCECGS Redlands, Sydney.  In 1994, he was appointed IB Regional Representative for Australasia and reported to the IBAP Regional Director, located in Singapore. His interest in the AAIBS stems from the Association’s foundation.

In 1989, the offering of the International Baccalaureate (IB) in Australasia was confined to the Diploma Programme; an increasing number of Australian schools were either offering the programme or were considering implementing it[1].  

At the time, the IB office for Asia and the Pacific (IBAP) was located in Singapore, within the grounds of The United World College of SE Asia (UWCSEA). The Regional Director IBAP at that time was John Goodban, who had been on the teaching staff of UWCSEA for many years as a senior member of staff and a geographer. By 1998 the demands upon his time to carry out IB work was such that he was employed full time by IBO, but remained at the College in a dedicated office, with the school clerical staff there to assist him. Much later, Sujatha Ravikumar and Charles Chua were appointed as dedicated IB clerical staff.

Each year the Regional Director arranged a regional conference for IB Coordinators within the IBAP region.[2]  He also regularly arranged teacher workshops, registration visits, examination inspections, and government and NGO briefings.

The Regional Conference, held in November 1988, was in Bangkok and was preceded by a Theory of Knowledge (TOK) Teachers’ Workshop to be held at the Redemptorist Centre in Pattaya, Thailand.

The Australasian contingent present was John Green (Kristin School), Kate Jenkins (Narrabundah College), Barbara Possingham (Pembroke) and Christopher Brangwin (SCECGS Redlands). During a chat whilst sitting around the pool, someone suggested that Australasian IB schools really needed to keep in touch with each other, as there were a lot of matters on which we could support each other.  From this conversation, the idea of involving all Australasian IB schools arose, and hence an association was suggested. 

At that time, there were very few such associations around the world seeking to create a forum of IB schools located in reasonably close proximity to one another. It was felt by creating such a forum self-help could be fostered and would also provide a common voice to put to the IBO.

Before the workshop ended our Australasian group had agreed to advise coordinators of the suggestion and, through Diana Medlin (Head of Pembroke), seek the support of Australasian Heads of Schools.

The concept of forming an Australasian Association of IB Schools was very much supported by Australasian school heads/principals with Ms Diana Medlin (Pembroke) leading the way. Notable among these heads of schools were Jeff Mason, (Narrabundah), Dr Tim Hawkes (St Leonards), Mr Peter Cornish, (SCECGS Redlands) and Claudia Wysocki,(Kristin School).

The plan was to meet early the following year in Canberra and be hosted by Narrabundah College.

Inaugural meeting and formation of AAIBS:

It was extremely appropriate that the inaugural meeting of this planning committee should meet at Narrabundah College.  Narrabundah College, located in Canberra, was Australasia’s first IB school, with Mr M. E. March, Principal of the College, and indeed the first Principal. Narrabundah has always had a solid reputation for offering an internationally focused curriculum to provide for the many students who are internationally mobile, catering, as they do, for diplomatic families. Narrabundah strove to be an internationally minded college and offered the French Baccalaureate as well as the International Baccalaureate. Thus, this college was very much regarded as being in a position to advise and assist schools that were considering the introduction of the IB Diploma. St Leonards College, in Melbourne, the second IB school in Australasia, took on a similar role.

The Third IB accredited school in the Australasian region was Port Moresby International School, the programme being led by Dianne Korare[3].

The Inaugural General meeting held at Narrabundah College was well attended and there was unanimous approval to form an association.

Appointed were: Geoff Peters (St Leonards College) as Chairman; Secretary - Chris Brangwin (Redlands); Committee: John Green (Kristin), Beverley Hamilton (Narrabundah), Hen Bin Wee (Glenunga College). Among those who attended the meeting were John McCabe (Mercedes College Principal), Diana Medlin (Pembroke Principal) and Andrew Maclehose (Geelong Grammar School, Timbertop), Andrew was not representing an IBAP school at that time, but he had extensive IBO experience in UK and Europe and so was a useful person to advise.[4]

The early 1989 Canberra meeting, hosted by Kate Jenkins at Narrabundah College resolved to form an association to be named The Association of Australasian International Baccalaureate Schools (AAIBS). It’s initial aims were:[5]

  • To support the goals and objectives of The International Baccalaureate Office (IBO) and The International Baccalaureate Asia Pacific (IBAP) Office.
  • To promote the IB Diploma as an alternative pathway to university entrance in Australia and beyond.
  • To liaise on behalf of AAIBS member schools with the Ministries of Education and with professional educational organisations in Australasia.
  • To provide a forum of IB educators and to foster and help teachers and administrators to successfully offer this programme.
  • To provide teaching aids to member schools.
  • To conduct a conference once per year, open to all Australasian IB teachers and those interested in IB curriculum.

John Green, the first IB coordinator in New Zealand, writes:

"In the mid 1980s Claudia Wysocki, the dynamic and innovative Principal of Kristin School, just north of Auckland, was worried about what would challenge her top students after the very demanding separate Scholarship papers were discontinued.  During her sabbatical in 1985 she visited a number of United World Colleges and other IB schools and was attracted by the academic demands of the programme.  She decided this was the answer and, soon after my emigration to NZ in 1987, I was asked to take on the role of IB Coordinator and implement the programme.  Kristin became the fourth Australasian IB school and entered its first students in the November 1990 session."[6]

The AAIBS Annual Conferences:

John Goodban (IBAP Regional Director) was consulted and although sceptical at first, in time saw an opportunity of conducting IBAP Teacher Workshops immediately following the AAIBS conference. The AAIBS Committee would choose the venue and seek the support of the host school. The Regional Director would then announce the workshops to be offered and choose the workshop leaders from senior examiners and curriculum experts, all within the IBO.

The AAIBS Conference and the IBAP Teacher workshops were held in July each year from 1990.

The following were the venues:






Narrabundah College. Inaugural meeting to form AAIBS



Pembroke School/SA Dept Education + First AAIBS General Meeting.



SCECGS Redlands



Kristin School



Wesley College + IBNET presentation (Clive Carthew & Andrew Bollington)



Suva Int.  School



Narrabundah College



Brisbane Boys College + IB Students Conference



Kormilda College  IBAIRN Conference



Prince Alfred College



Kristin College



New England Girls School  Special emphasis on IT (Andrew Bollington)



Cary Baptist College



Adelaide University



Mount Anglem College



MLC/ Trinity Grammar Sch.

The annual conference was undoubtedly the foremost innovation of the Association, and led to a number of practical projects that would help to explain the IB Diploma (and later the MYP and PYP) to the wider community, and also to assist in providing aids to schools, and recognise student excellence.

There were, from time to time, opportunities to include additional and special items to the AAIBS conference programme. In 1993 at the Wesley College conference, the Director of the IB Examinations office (IBEX) [7] Clive Carthew attended. Here, he introduced to a packed multi-tiered lecture theatre of conference delegates the use of the new IBO communicating system IB network (IBNET).

Andrew Bollington[8] writes:

IBNET was set-up to allow IB Coordinators (Diploma only then) to register examination candidates and receive results.  In 1993 that would have been one of the very first demonstrations of the concept (before the Internet) so using a private wide area network, dial-up modems and special software written for DOS compatible PC's!    IBNET connected directly to the computer system in IBEX used for candidate administration and meant that IB Coordinators received an immediate confirmation that the registration was valid (a somewhat complex task given the thickness of the Vade Mecum - the old procedures manual - to do manually in those days)”[9].

 In similar vein, Andrew Bollington gave a number of workshops and IB coordinator sessions and presented a paper at the AAIBS conference in 2000 at Armidale, hosted by The New England Girls’ School.

At the 1996 Brisbane Conference (hosted by Brisbane Boys’ College), it was decided to conduct an IB students’ conference concurrently. This proved to be a huge task, and one that was not to be repeated. None the less the students declared it enjoyable and of great value to their IB experience.

Growth of the IB in the 1990s:

In 1994 Christopher Brangwin was appointed as IBAP Regional Representative for Australasia, based in Sydney. Thus, from that date he attended the AAIBS committee meetings by invitation. The Regional Representative for South East Asia was Shelley Gonzales, who was located in Singapore at the IBAP office. Gradually other Regional Representatives were appointed: Kyoko Bernard (Japan/Korea), Farzana Dohadwalla (South Asia) and Wang Hong (China), all of whom reported to the Regional Director.

There were many distinguished educators and people of extraordinary ability in many walks of life who assisted in the growth of the IB and AAIBS in Australia during the time frame of this paper, particularly The Hon Greg Crafter MP, former South Australia Minister for Education, Dr Barbara Possingham, Professor Tim Brown, Dr Stephen Codrington, Dr Helen Drennen[10], Mr Geoff Peters and Ms Dianne Korare. 

Early Chairs of AAIBS:

The AAIBS, first under chairmanship of Geoff Peters (St Leonards), (1989-1990) followed by Barry Roots, (St Pauls Grammar School) (1990 to 1994), quickly became an important conduit to brings schools together, providing a forum to meet regularly and to foster teacher contact within disciplines.

In Barry Roots’ time as Chairman, the AAIBS produced a professionally made VCR. Barry writes: “The aim was to identify the current IB schools and to highlight to prospective IB schools how the IB Diploma programme was structured and why it was an internationally recognised and highly regarded program to be offered to students in their final two years of secondary schooling.  Students from a number of the existing AAIBS member schools were asked to comment in the video on various aspects of the IB Diploma Programme. Copies of the VCR were then given to member schools and were made available to prospective IB schools. Additionally, a set of Overhead Transparencies was prepared for use by schools to use at Information Evenings for parents and prospective IB Diploma students”.[11]

IB Association Information Resource Network (IBAIRN):

The AAIBS was keen to foster the importance of school libraries and more particularly information centres. Fundamental to the IBO philosophy is the importance of research and the information centres or libraries in each school are fundamental to this. The AAIBS initiative to form the IB Association Information Resource Network (IBAIRN) made up of librarians, was a practical step in bringing librarians together and so forming a network by which information could be shared. IBAIRN met a number of times to coincide with the AAIBS Conference and IBAP workshops, the first being in 1997 at Kormilda College, Darwin.

Each year, a commercial company that produced the student yearbooks published a manual of independent schools. This manual was intended for parents and students to have access to a description of independent schools, their location details and an outline of their academic, co-curricular and sporting programmes. For a number of years a section within this manual highlighted the AAIBS and its member schools.

Development of the AAIBS Certificates:

It was important, the AAIBS Committee argued, to have some means of congratulating IB students on their academic achievement. To this end, an AAIBS certificate was produced which was forwarded to those who had been nominated as having attained excellent results. See Appendix 4.

Development of AAIBS to encompass the PYP and MYP:

As the years progressed, it was necessary for AAIBS to encompass all three of the IB programmes, which required modification to the conference content, the materials produced and to the members of the standing committee in order to reflect expertise in all IBO programmes. The development of the Middle Years Programme (MYP) particularly influenced the content of the 1998 Conference held at Prince Alfred College in Adelaide. The organiser of this AAIBS Conference was the College Director of Studies, Roger Marshman [12]. He writes:

We engaged guest speakers with a strong environmental science and ethical speciality, including John Nieuenhuizen and Dr Ian Possingham. This was significant in relation to the values-related focus of the Areas of Interaction (later Global Contexts) of the IB Middle years Programme (MYP), just becoming established.

The 1998 Conference was notable for the attendance of Monique Conn, an important figure in the development of the MYP. Based at IBCA in Cardiff, Monique had been appointed as the first MYP Manager in 1997. She had been involved in the development of the International Schools Association Curriculum (ISAC) from 1988. The IB had shown a slowly developing interest in ISAC, adopting it in 1994 but with accelerated momentum after Conn's appointment. Conn later was appointed academic director of the IB in 2004.

The IB in Australasia in 2000:

By 2000 there were approximately 40 IB schools in Australasia. The Middle Years and the Primary Years programmes had joined the Diploma programme and one Australian school, Mercedes College, offered all three programmes. Many more schools eventually followed to become continuum IB programme schools. The period from 1998 to 2001 was a time of extraordinary growth for the IBO, particularly so in Australia and, to a lesser extent, in New Zealand[13].  Christopher Brangwin retired from the IBO in 2001 and Greg Valentine was appointed the new Regional Representative for Australasia. He too experienced exceptional growth in all three programmes within Australasia.


[1] The International Baccalaureate Organisation first offered the Middle Years Programme in 1994 and the Primary Years Programme in 1997 (https://www.ibo.org/programmes/ accessed 3 December 2020)

[2]  See Appendix 1 for the location of each IBAP Regional Conference.

[3] Ms Dianne Korare was later appointed to the Suva International School, Fiji.

[4] Andrew Maclehose: previously of Geelong Grammar School and the International School of Geneva (Ecolint), Atlantic College (Director of Studies)  Principal Chand Bagh School, Pakistan 1998–2001,

[5] Note: in 2000 the AAIBS Committee asked Dr Stephen Codrington (then Head, St Paul’s Grammar School, Penrith, NSW) to write a formal constitution for the Association. See Appendix 2 to this paper. This constitution, which was accepted by the committee, contains a full list of the aims of the Association as they had evolved.

[6] Email from Dr John Green, to me dated 2020. Dr Green has gone on to teach Chemistry at Li Po Chun UWC College, Hong Kong and is a senior examiner in Chemistry and TOK and author of numerous text books.

[7] IBEX later to be renamed IB Curriculum and Assessment (IBCA), both located, at that time, in Cardiff.

[8] Andrew Bollington: IT Project Manager.  Later appointed IT Director, Strategic Planning Director and Regional Director (AEM). 

[9] Email from Andrew Bollington to author, September 2020.

[10] Dr Helen Drennen, Biology teacher Wesley College, Melbourne, IB Director of Curriculum and Assessment, Cardiff, Wales, Principal Wesley College, Melbourne.

[11] Email from Barry Roots to author, dated September 2020.

[12] Roger Marshman subsequently, in 2001, became the first MYP regional manager for IBAP, based in the Singapore office.

[13] Soon after Kristin School joined the IBO and AAIBS, Waitaki Girls and Scots College both came on board, but later left owing to changes of Principals, similarly for Mt Anglem. The earliest of the current IB schools after Kristin was John McGlashan College (Dec 1999).  In 2009, Scots College was once again authorised as an IB World School and now is an IB continuum school offering the PYP, MYP and DP.

Notes from the Author:

This short paper was written to ensure that the early history of AAIBS is recorded. It is hoped that this will form an important link to those events that led to the formation of this organisation and prove to be a valuable account of the Association’s early days prior to being renamed IB Schools Australasia (IBSA).

The history and comments made in this paper are based on research, and, in particular, the memory of the author and those he consulted. As such, this material represents recollections of time, events and places by the author and individuals consulted by the author and may not in all cases be accurate. Although facts have been verified where possible, reliability relating to specific events cannot be guaranteed.


I am most grateful to the following persons who have provided information, advice and encouragement.

John Green, Dr Stephen Codrington, Andrew Bollington, Barry Roots, Antony Mayrhofer, Roger Marshman, Kerrie Grundy.

I thank also Rebecca Hammond, Executive Assistant IB Schools Australasia, for her willingness to receive a brief history of the AAIBS and indicating that this paper would be well received by the Association.