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October 1, 2022

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, an independent, Catholic, International Baccalaureate school, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

Currently at 15 years of International Baccalaureate and counting, Notre Dame is building upon that success in developing "inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who will help to create a better and more peaceful world."

Notre Dame Prep is the only Catholic high school in Michigan with the International Baccalaureate program. It was first authorized by IB in 2007. 

Notre Dame is celebrating 15 years as an authorized International Baccalaureate Diploma Program World School. The school received that authorization in 2007 before eventually receiving authorization for the IB Middle Years Program in 2009 and the IB Primary Years Program a year later. The school was the first Catholic institution in the nation to be authorized for all three main IB academic programs and Notre Dame Prep remains the only Catholic high school in Michigan with the IB-DP.

In a 2009 interview published in IRISH magazine shortly after receiving IB-MYP authorization, school founder and then-president Fr. Leon Olszamowski, s.m., noted that Notre Dame provides the "best education you can get, Catholic and international," he said. 

"That’s why we went with the IB curriculum," he continued. "We are not preparing kids to live in our world — we are preparing kids to live in their world, 20 or 30 years from now, when they are prosperous and productive people. When they are CEOs and leaders, we want them to be good CEOs and leaders and we want them to live in the world and not get swallowed up by it. Ultimately, we want to continue to provide to our kids the education they need to be successful in this world and in the next."

That vision continues at NDPMA as the school prepares for its 16th year of IB educational excellence. It is perhaps also appropriate at this date to provide another primer on the IB program (below, called "What is an IB education?" from International Baccalaureate) and its inherent advantages for students. Study after study confirm that high school graduates who experience an International Baccalaureate education do much better at the next level and are far more successful in getting into better universities and colleges. 

A recent survey of more than 4,000 students conducted by the International Insight Research Group in partnership with the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) showed that the acceptance rate of IB students into Ivy League universities is up to 18% higher than the total population acceptance rate. The gap is even more significant for top-ranked universities outside of the Ivy League, where it is 22% higher, on average.

The IB programs emphasize the importance of making connections, exploring the relationships between academic disciplines, and learning about the world in ways that reach beyond the scope of individual subjects.

Johns-Hopkins University in Baltimore says its acceptance rate for non-IB-DP graduates is 11.4 percent versus 46 percent for IB-DP grads. It's 9% versus 49% at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and 13.7% versus 69.6% at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

The survey report summarizes by saying: "One thing is for sure; by taking the IB Diploma, you automatically rise to the top of the admissions pool. U.S. colleges love good grades, but what they love even more is to see that you’ve pushed yourself to get them. Universities appreciate the IB’s rigor and they know it takes hard work and dedication to perform well, particularly in Higher Level (HL) subjects."

What is an IB education?


Creating a better world through education

Imagine a worldwide community of schools, educators and students with a shared mission to empower young people with the values, knowledge and skills to create a better and more peaceful world. This is the International Baccalaureate (IB).

IB programs aim to provide an education that enables students to make sense of the complexities of the world around them, as well as equipping them with the skills and dispositions needed for taking responsible action for the future. They provide an education that crosses disciplinary, cultural, national and geographical boundaries, and that champions critical engagement, stimulating ideas and meaningful relationships.

The first IB program, the Diploma program (DP), was established in 1968. It sought to provide a challenging yet balanced education that would facilitate geographical mobility by providing an internationally recognized university-entrance qualification, but that would also serve the deeper purpose of promoting intercultural understanding and respect.

With the introduction of the Middle Years program (MYP) in 1994 and the Primary Years program (PYP) in 1997, the IB identified a continuum of international education for students aged 3 to 19. 

In all IB programs, including the MYP,  teaching is based on inquiry: A strong emphasis is placed on students finding their own information and constructing their own understandings.

These IB programs can be implemented independently or in combination. They are all underpinned by shared values and a shared emphasis on developing students who are lifelong learners and who are able to not only make sense of, but to make a positive impact on, our complex and interconnected world. These aspirations are summed up in the IB’s ambitious mission.

The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.

To this end the organization works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programs of international education and rigorous assessment.

These programs encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.

Written primarily for educators, "What is an IB education?" provides an overview and explanation of our educational philosophy. It explains how our mission and philosophy shape and drive our programs.

To do so, it explores four foundational and interrelated elements that are central to all IB programs.

1.    International-mindedness
2.    The IB learner profile
3.    A broad, balanced, conceptual and connected curriculum
4.    Approaches to teaching and learning

Key elements of an IB education

1. International-mindedness

The aim of all IB programs is to develop internationally minded people who recognize their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet. Central to this aim is international-mindedness.

International-mindedness is a multifaceted concept that captures a way of thinking, being and acting characterized by an openness to the world and a recognition of our deep interconnectedness to others.

To be open to the world, we need to understand it. IB programs therefore provide students with opportunities for sustained inquiry into a range of local and global issues and ideas. This willingness to see beyond immediate situations and boundaries is essential as globalization and emerging technologies continue to blur traditional distinctions between the local, national and international.

An IB education fosters international-mindedness by helping students reflect on their own perspective, culture and identities, as well as those of others. By engaging with diverse beliefs, values and experiences, and by learning to think and collaborate across cultures and disciplines, IB learners gain the understanding necessary to make progress towards a more peaceful world.

NDPMA has successfully and skillfully interwoven the Catholic faith with its academic curriculum, including the IB program, which spans all grades from PreK through 12th grade.

An IB education further enhances the development of international-mindedness through multilingualism. All IB programs require students to study, or study in, more than one language. This is because we believe that communicating in more than one language helps students to appreciate that his or her own language, culture and world view are just one of many. In this way, it provides excellent opportunities to develop intercultural understanding and respect.

International-mindedness is also encouraged through a focus on global engagement and meaningful service with the community. These elements challenge students to critically consider power and privilege, and to recognize that they hold this planet and its resources in trust for future generations. They also highlight the focus on action in all IB programs: a focus on moving beyond awareness and understanding to engagement, action and bringing about meaningful change to make a more peaceful and sustainable world for everyone.

The components of an IB education described in this document work together to support the IB’s overarching aim of developing international-mindedness.

2. The IB Learner Profile

The IB learner profile places the student at the centre of an IB education.

The 10 attributes reflect the holistic nature of an IB education. They highlight the importance of nurturing dispositions such as curiosity and compassion, as well as developing knowledge and skills. They also highlight that, along with cognitive development, IB programs are concerned with students’ social, emotional and physical well-being, and with ensuring that students learn to respect themselves, others and the world around them.

IB educators help students to develop these attributes over the course of their IB education, and to demonstrate them in increasingly robust and sophisticated ways as they mature. The development of these attributes is the foundation of developing internationally minded students who can help to build a better world.

Through the development of these learner profiles, an IB education seeks to empower young people for a lifetime of learning, both independently and in collaboration with others.

3. A broad, balanced, conceptual and connected curriculum

Each of the IB programs provides a detailed and developmentally appropriate curriculum or curriculum framework that is broad, balanced, conceptual and connected.

IB programs offer students access to a broad and balanced range of academic studies and learning experiences. They promote conceptual learning, create frameworks within which knowledge can be acquired, and focus on powerful organizing ideas that are relevant across subject areas and that help to integrate learning and add coherence to the curriculum.

The programs emphasize the importance of making connections, exploring the relationships between academic disciplines, and learning about the world in ways that reach beyond the scope of individual subjects. They also focus on offering students authentic opportunities to connect their learning to the world around them.

IB programs focus on effective teamwork and collaboration between students.

The programs are all underpinned by a shared focus on international-mindedness and developing the attributes of the IB learner profile. Yet each program also has its own identity and developmentally appropriate elements, as shown in the following examples.

• In the PYP, learning aims to transcend traditional boundaries between subject areas. Students explore six transdisciplinary themes of global significance: who we are; where we are in place and time; how we express ourselves; how the world works; how we organize ourselves; sharing the planet.

• In the MYP, students explore six global contexts that are developed from, and extend, the PYP transdisciplinary themes: identities and relationships; personal and cultural expression; orientation in space and time; scientific and technical innovation; fairness and development; globalization and sustainability.

• In the DP, the curriculum consists of six subject groups and the three elements of the DP core. As one of these core elements, the theory of knowledge (TOK) course encourages students to become more aware of their own perspectives and assumptions through an exploration of the fundamental question of how we know what we know.

All three main IB programs also require the completion of a culminating project: the PYP exhibition; the MYP personal project or community project; the DP extended essay. These projects provide an opportunity for students to both deepen and showcase their knowledge, understandings and skills, and to celebrate their learning journeys.

Meaningful assessment supports curricular goals. In IB programs, assessment is therefore ongoing, varied and integral to the curriculum. IB schools use a range of strategies and tools to assess student learning. Emphasis is placed on the importance of analyzing assessment data to inform teaching and learning, and on recognizing that students benefit by learning how to assess their own work and the work of others.

The MYP and DP also offer a range of IB-validated assessments. These assessments balance validity and reliability, offering assessment tasks that, for example, require students to demonstrate higher-order thinking rather than simple, factual recall. These rigorous assessments help to maintain the IB’s hard-earned reputation for high standards and challenging programs.

4. Approaches to teaching and learning

Grounded in contemporary educational research, the IB’s six approaches to teaching and five approaches to learning guide and focus educators and students in IB World Schools. They play a crucial role in ensuring that the aspirations of an IB education become a reality in the classroom.

IB's five main categories of skills play a crucial role in supporting its mission to develop active, compassionate and lifelong learners at the earliest ages.

The approaches are centered on a cycle of inquiry, action and reflection—an interplay of asking, doing and thinking—that informs the daily activities of teachers and learners. They also place a great deal of emphasis on relationships. This reflects the IB’s belief that educational outcomes are profoundly shaped by the relationships between teachers and students, and celebrates the many ways that people work together to construct meaning and make sense of the world.

Approaches to teaching

The same six approaches underpin teaching in all IB programs. The approaches are deliberately broad, designed to give teachers the flexibility to choose specific strategies to employ that best reflect their own particular contexts and the needs of their students.

In all IB programs, teaching is:

• Based on inquiry: A strong emphasis is placed on students finding their own information and constructing their own understandings.
• Focused on conceptual understanding: Concepts are explored in order to both deepen disciplinary understandings and to help students make connections and transfer learning to new contexts.
• Developed in local and global contexts: Teaching uses real-life contexts and examples, and students are encouraged to process new information by connecting it to their own experiences and to the world around them.
• Focused on effective teamwork and collaboration: This includes promoting teamwork and collaboration between students, but it also refers to the collaborative relationship between teachers and students.
• Designed to remove barriers to learning: Teaching is inclusive and values diversity. It affirms students’ identities and aims to create learning opportunities that enable every student to develop and pursue appropriate personal goals.
• Informed by assessment: Assessment plays a crucial role in supporting, as well as measuring, learning. This approach also recognizes the crucial role of providing students with effective feedback.

Approaches to learning

Our focus on approaches to learning is grounded in the belief that learning how to learn is fundamental to a student’s education.

The five categories of interrelated skills aim to empower IB students of all ages to become self-regulated learners who know how to ask good questions, set effective goals, pursue their aspirations and have the determination to achieve them. These skills also help to support students’ sense of agency, encouraging them to see their learning as an active and dynamic process.

The same five categories of skills span all IB programs, with the skills then emphasized in developmentally appropriate ways within each program. The five categories are:

• thinking skills—including areas such as critical thinking, creative thinking and ethical thinking
• research skills—including skills such as comparing, contrasting, validating and prioritizing information
 • communication skills—including skills such as written and oral communication, effective listening, and formulating arguments
• social skills—including areas such as forming and maintaining positive relationships, listening skills, and conflict resolution
• self-management skills—including both organizational skills, such as managing time and tasks, and affective skills, such as managing state of mind and motivation.

The development of these skills plays a crucial role in supporting the IB’s mission to develop active, compassionate and lifelong learners. Although these skills areas are presented as distinct categories, there are close links and areas of overlap between them, and the categories should be seen as interrelated.


A worldwide community of educators

The IB has always championed a stance of critical engagement with challenging ideas, and of combining our commitment to enduring fundamental principles with our drive for innovation and improvement. For this reason, What is an IB education? is intended not only to inform, but also to stimulate further conversations and discussion within the community of IB educators.

The IB and its programs are unique in many ways. We are a not-for-profit organization, meaning that there are no shareholders and any surplus income is invested in our work. We are independent of political and commercial interests, and IB programs are offered in a hugely diverse range of schools around the world, both state and private, national and international, large and small.

Each of the IB programs provides a detailed and developmentally appropriate curriculum or curriculum framework that is broad, balanced, conceptual and connected.

One of the most special features of the IB is that it gathers together a worldwide community of educators who share a common belief that education can help to build a better world. Each of our IB programs and curriculums undergoes regular review to help ensure that we are delivering the best possible education for IB students, and this curriculum review process involves educators from many different cultures and backgrounds. This review process ensures that practicing teachers play a critical role in the development of each program. It also means that our vision is constantly sharpened by research, both our own and that of other respected academic bodies.

An IB education is designed to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who will help to create a better and more peaceful world. It brings together educators who share that aspiration. Today, as new global challenges emerge at an unprecedented pace of change, an IB education is more relevant and necessary than ever.

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, an independent, Catholic, International Baccalaureate school, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

Comments or questions?

Follow Notre Dame on Twitter at @NDPMA.

About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three schools are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the National Association of Independent Schools. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school’s home page at