What is an IB school? (And where to find them)

Jarrod Brown
Jarrod Brown

The International Baccalaureate (IB) is becoming a popular alternative to mainstream education in Australian schools.

The IB system is a non-profit educational foundation focused on developing “international-mindedness and critical thinking in students”. This system takes a more holistic approach to learning than mainstream education, placing a greater emphasis on developing the whole children, both personally and academically.

The programs are offered for children aged three to 19, all being geared towards university preparation and culminating in the IB Diploma — a globally recognised educational qualification.

To offer IB programs, schools must be authorised as IB World Schools. Its origins stretch back to 1968 in Geneva, Switzerland, and the IB now operates in more than 5,600 schools across 159 countries.

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Currently, in Australia, 209 schools offer one or more IB programs. While operating independently of the Australian Curriculum, its primary and middle-year programs still accommodate the learning objectives and milestones mandated in the Curriculum.

The IB Diploma is recognised by all Australian universities, as well as 140 universities around the world.

A different way of learning

IB schools offer four distinct programs for K-12 students. 

The Primary Years Program (PYP) is for students aged three to 12. It focuses on child development, learning how to learn, developing self-sufficiency and exploring their place in the world.

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The Middle Years Program (MYP) is for students aged 11 to 16, fostering empathetic, active learners who connect their studies and the real world.

The Diploma Program (DP) is for students aged 16 to 19. It’s a demanding two-year pre-university course, culminating in the IB Diploma. The DP favours academically inclined students.

The Career-related Program (CP) offers a vocational pathway alongside academic studies for students aged 16 to 19. The CP has the least uptake in Australia but is the fastest-growing program globally.

At the heart of these four programs lies the IB’s Learner Profile — ten attributes students should aspire to, including ‘caring’, ‘principled’ and ‘curious’.

Students of all ages are expected to take charge of their learning. The IB uses an inquiry-based approach to education, largely revolving around open-ended questions, investigations and critical problem-solving.

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IB programs can be taken consecutively or independently. Some schools offer dual streams of IB and state/territory-based curriculum.

Students can easily transfer between IB and other systems until years 11 and 12. Then the rigorous and academic nature of the IB’s senior program, the Diploma Program (DP), makes the transition tough.

IB schools across the country

picture of boys walking in front of somerset building

Somerset College (QLD)

Located in the heart of the Gold Coast, Somerset College is one of Australia’s leading independent schools for students from pre-prep to year 12. 

Students at Somerset College have access to both PYP and MYP and the school aims to challenge and inspire students to love learning, to strive for personal success, and experience a global outlook.

students lined up showing document

Calamvale Community College (QLD)

Calamvale Community College is a state school of 2500 students from prep to year 12. The school provides a wide range of language opportunities and post-school education pathways, and boasts one of the highest enrolment levels from international students across Asia. 

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Offering IB PYP and Diploma programs but with MYP candidacy, they hope to be an IB Continuum School by the end of 2023.  

st peters sporting building

St Peter’s Lutheran College (QLD)

St Peters Lutheran College is one of Queensland’s most prominent private schools and offers Christian co-education from pre-kindergarten to year 12. With a reputation for academic excellence, multiple pathways, comprehensive sports programs, and internationally renowned music programs since 1945, the College proudly presents a more holistic approach to education.

Senior school students can choose to study IBDP as part of the multiple pathways on offer at St Peter’s. Primary years’ students also follow the PYP International Baccalaureate curriculum.

hunter valley school building

Hunter Valley Grammar School (NSW)

Hunter Valley Grammar School is an independent, non-selective, secular, co-educational day school for students from pre-school – year 12.  

Located two hours north of Sydney, they are the only school in their region authorised to offer the PYP. Using the International Baccalaureate Programme, HVGS uses school-wide pedagogy to better develop students’ skills necessary to navigate global citizenship.

students walking in front of school building

The Armidale School (NSW)

The Armidale School (TAS) is a vibrant residential boarding and day school that achieves consistently high academic results and offers students from pre-kindergarten to year 12 a wide range of co-curricular and outdoor activities.

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As an IB World School, the academic journey at TAS starts with the PYP in junior school, which continues to the Middle Years Programme in middle school (years six-eight). 

From the commencement of senior school in years nine and 10, students are able to select semester-long elective courses from dozens of options that prepare them better for subject selection in the HSC years 11 and 12. 

St Paul students lined up in uniform

St Paul’s Grammar School, Penrith (NSW)

St Paul’s Grammar School is a co-educational, non-denominational Christian Grammar school in Sydney’s Greater West – and is founded on the aspiration of a determined community.

Since establishing a Christian Grammar School to serve the Penrith area in 1983, St Paul’s is now recognised as one of the foremost schools in the region. They offer IB programmes continuously from pre-kindergarten to year 12, as well as the New South Wales Education Standards Authority (NESA) Curriculum.

Good news school campus

Good News Lutheran College (VIC)

A focus on strong Christian values is the cornerstone of Good News Lutheran College’s educational philosophy. Founded in 1997, the College has grown from a small group of 24 students to more than 1000 students today, with its first year 12 class graduating at the end of 2016.

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Since 2018, GNLC has been a candidate school for the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme and Middle Years Programme. As part of their commitment to assist students in engagement, their IB program fosters a collaborative environment where teachers can deepen student learning and increase their confidence and self-motivation.

students standing in front of kardinia school building

Kardinia International College (VIC)

Kardinia International College (KIC) is a K-12 educational, non-denominational, independent school located in Bell Post Hill, Geelong. It opened its doors in 1996 with just 31 senior school students and 42 kindergarten children, but has grown to hosts more than 1900 students across both junior and senior schooling.

KIC offers the IB Primary Years Programme to students in their formative K-six years. Middle school students are then offered a “vertical curriculum”, based on the guidelines of the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, and senior school students are offered both the IB Diploma Programme and the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) to complete their education. 

Preshil school building

Preshil – the Margaret Lyttle Memorial School (VIC)

The oldest progressive school in Australia, Preshil is a co-educational, secular and private school in Melbourne. It remains a deliberately niche private school, and welcomes children from three years of age into kindergarten, as well as catering to the completion of their secondary schooling at year 12. 

As an IB Continuum School, they offer exclusively the Primary Years, Middle Years and Diploma Programmes (PYP, MYP & DP). Combining a unique focus on music, philosophy and art with the IB’s global approach to education, students are given unique intellectual challenges that prepare them for further education. 

students walking in front of mercedes school building
Mercedes College.

Mercedes College (SA)

An International Baccalaureate world school from reception to year 12,  Mercedes College has an academic record of excellence in both the IB and South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE).

The PYP, MYP and IB Diploma Programs have been available here for more than 30 years, and students will find a progressive, internationally focussed curriculum that is supported by family and community values. The aim is to prepare students as future local, national and global community leaders.

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stradboke primary school building

Stradbroke School (SA)

Stradbroke School sits in the eastern suburbs of Adelaide, in South Australia’s capital. As one of the larger primary schools in the state, they have a large range of resources and choices to offer to students, parents and the broader community.

Specialist expertise in education from reception to year six is on offer here, and the school has a wide range of Curriculum and extra-curricular activities designed specifically for younger students in their formative years of education.

international western australia school campus

International School of Western Australia (WA)

The International School of Western Australia (ISWA) is a leading co-educational, non-denominational, independent international school in Perth.

With more than 50 nationalities of students enrolled, the school offers a unique education experience to both local and international students from kindergarten to year 12. There is a maximum of two classes per year group, with the school aiming to ensure students enjoy equal access, meaningful feedback and swift intervention from passionate educators. 

ISWA offers two academically rigorous education pathways for senior students in years 11 and 12. The two pathways are the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB DP) and the US College Board Advanced Placement (AP).

scotch college school building

Scotch College (WA)

Scotch College is a leading progressive, top independent boys school catering for pre-kindergarten to year 12 students in Perth. Founded in 1897, the College recognises that today’s young people must be independent thinkers, imbued with a curiosity that is all their own.

In addition to the IB Primary Years and Middle Years Programme, as well as the optional IB Diploma in Senior School, Scotch College also offers opportunities for international exchanges through its membership with Round Square.

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students learning IB program in class

Good Shepherd Lutheran College (NT)

While being the largest school in the Northern Territory, Good Shepherd Lutheran College is also the only IB school in the state. Both the Primary Years and Middle Years Programmes are available, and the College’s distinctive sub-school structure aims to embrace the needs of each age group from Early Learning Centre to Primary through to middle and senior school.

The College integrates a unique ‘values’ program, with the emphasis being proudly placed on its motto, ‘Identity. Service. Respect’.

South Christian College school building

Southern Christian College (TAS)

Southern Christian College is an Early Learning to sear 12 school that focuses on delivering a ‘Christ-centred’ education that inspires, challenges, encourages and equips young people for life at school and beyond.

The College places religion at the heart of their learning. While completing IB Primary Year and Middle Years Programmes, the school also offers daily devotions, weekly Christian Studies lessons, prayer groups and assembly presentations.

archway into the Friends School

The Friends’ School (TAS)

The Friends School is an independent, co-educational day and boarding school situated in the heart of Hobart and stands proudly as one of Australia’s last remaining Quaker schools. The religion’s core ideals are at the heart of the school’s teachings: simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and earthcare.

Boasting consistently high academic results, a varied curriculum and co-curricular opportunities, The Friends’ School offers a unique and well-rounded “Quakerism” education in a supportive and engaging environment that aims to benefit students from all walks of life.

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Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. Jarrod established his journalism career working on the education news and information site The Bursar. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.