After cancelling all IB exams last May due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the IB took the decision this year to offer schools the choice of two pathways: written examinations, where they could be administered safely, or a non-exam route using a combination of internal assessment coursework and teacher-predicted grades, where they could not.
Out of 170,660 students worldwide, 104,275 were in the non-exam route and 65,576 in the exam route (and 809 were split between both routes). The number of students taking the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) was 87,307 compared to 86,657 last May.
Countries where students did sit exams in May include Singapore and Hong Kong; those that followed the non-exam route included the UAE – “due to the rising cases of Covid-19 and following ongoing conversations with schools, associations and education boards” – and the UK (where exams were cancelled by the IB in February due to A Levels also being cancelled and the “ongoing disruption” of school closures in the country).
Despite another challenging year for students, with school closures and social distancing causing further disruption to their education, IB results are up. The Diploma pass rate is 88%, up from 85% in May 2020, and the number of students achieving 40-45 points is 15,513, up from 9,701 in May 2020. The average diploma grade is 5.19, up from 4.95 in May 2020.
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Olli-Pekka Heinonen, Director General of the International Baccalaureate, said:
"The last 18 months have been incredibly challenging for students, teachers, and schools throughout the world as COVID-19 has undermined much of what we had come to take for granted. I salute their spirit and dedication to our shared mission: education for a better world.
“A key responsibility of the IB this year has been to ensure that our students are not disadvantaged by the pandemic, including in their applications to university and higher education. The many changes we have made to this summer’s session are part of this commitment to ensure students are not affected by the hugely challenging circumstances in which they have been learning.
“We understand the pressure being put on the whole education system by COVID-19, and we thank all our partners, including universities, for their support and understanding as we have navigated our way through this challenging time.”
Commenting on the decision to adopt a dual route system, the IB Heads Council said:
“We believe that the IB's approach to the May 2021 examination session – in which schools that could sit the exams did so – was the fairest possible solution. We also believe the non-exam route for allocating results to students who were unable to take exams was fair, clear and allowed for grades to be distributed that reflect their achievements and abilities."