How accessible is IB schooling for rural and low income students in Australia?

Year: 2016

Author: Dickson, Anisah, Perry, Laura, Ledger, Susan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This study examines access to International Baccalaureate (IB) schools in Australia. The IB is a highly regarded programme of rigorous, inquiry-based academic education. It is offered in most countries and in more than 4,000 schools worldwide. It is growing at a dramatic rate, with the number of IB programmes increasing by almost 50% in the last five years. Australia is the fourth largest provider of IB schools in the world, with 155 schools that offer one or more of the three IB programmes (primary, lower secondary and upper secondary). While largely catering to privileged students, the IB is committed to increasing the proportion of low-income students enrolled in its programmes. Our study provides a benchmark for assessing the degree to which this goal is being achieved within an Australian context.Using data from the MySchool website, we examined the characteristics of all 155 schools in Australia that offer an IB programme. Specifically, we examined their geographic location (metropolitan, provincial, rural and remote), sector, fees and student characteristics. We also examined housing prices of the communities in which IB schools are located. To the best of our knowledge, our study is the first of its kind to examine the characteristics of all IB schools in a given country with this level of detail.The findings show that access to IB schools in non-metropolitan locations is severely limited, with 92% of all IB schools located in metropolitan locations. Two-thirds of IB schools are private, and 40% of them charge in excess of $15k in fees per year. All 13 non-metropolitan IB schools are private. Half of all students at IB schools come from the top SEA quartile, whereas only 7% come from the bottom quartile; overall, 75% of students at IB schools are in the top two SEA quartiles. Only 11 IB schools (7%) have a level of socio-educational advantage that are less than the national average. Our findings show that access to IB schools in Australia is largely limited to families who reside in large cities and who can afford to live in communities with high housing prices or pay fees to attend a private IB school. Because of these systemic barriers, it is not surprising that students from higher SES backgrounds are over-represented at IB schools in Australia. We recommend an increase in the number of public schools in non-affluent communities and rural areas that offer the IB. In-depth research about the challenges, benefits and enablers of implementing IB programmes in low SES public schools and in rural areas would be a useful next step.