Past, present, future: the IB is a leading edge in a changing world

Olli-Pekka Heinonen, Director General of the International Baccalaureate
July 14, 2022

With the horrors of the Second World War still fresh in their minds, the founders of the International Baccalaureate (IB) were motivated to imagine a better way of thinking about education – and how, in turn, education could help build a better and more peaceful world. Unfortunately, the recent events in Europe demonstrate the importance of those words, stated in the IB mission, still today. 

At the same time, we are experiencing an era of change or even a change of era. The challenges that we face today, although in many ways different from those confronted by the founders of the IB 54 years ago, have renewed our passion and sparked courage to create a better world through education. For students to thrive and make a difference, we are called to engage in open, forthright conversations about what we teach and how we teach it; how we can help our students become the agents of change we so desperately need. It is never easy, but I believe the IB is uniquely placed to empower the next generation of students with the confidence – and the agency – to make a significant impact on the world they are to inherit.

So, what is the role of the IB in 2022? How do we help today’s world as it faces its own unique challenges and uncertainties? The IB’s founders would not have wanted us to stand still in the face of this opportunity, but instead to evolve, and turn the COVID-19 crisis into a chance to renew and refresh their vision. 

Certainly, the challenges confronting us today are different in nature from those that came before. They are more complex, more global, and more multifaceted. They demand that we think differently. Take for example the climate emergency. It is conventional to think that it is problem for scientists to conquer – and that we should support and fund them in this endeavour. Although we do need scientists, to overcome the enormous challenge of global warming we also need social scientists, behaviourists, communicators, and business experts to all work together.