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San José High’s International Baccalaureate Program Offers Unique Learning Experience for Students

Collage Students San Jose High

As soon as Ian Parker entered high school, he knew what career path he wanted to pursue—engineering. He knew that the best way to achieve his goals was to enroll in San José High School’s ambitious International Baccalaureate (IB) program.

An internationally recognized set of educational curricula, the IB program helps provide students within the San José Unified School District a unique opportunity to develop skills and learning tools that can prepare them for an ever-changing world. At the high school level, the IB program has two specific focuses—the Diploma Programme (DP) and the Career-related Programme (CP)—and for Parker, with his mind set on a career in engineering, the CP route made the most sense for him.

“The classes are really designed for career pathways in mind,” said Parker, who is now a senior. “With an engineering focus, I took a multimedia art class that was tied directly to my industry. I took a course called personal professional skills where you build your resume for the first time. There are also major projects where you write a 4,000 word essay examining ethical issues in your career pathway using knowledge from your courses. It’s all about making sure you are as prepared as possible for a future in your chosen field.”

IB programs are offered free of charge at all levels in San José Unified at Horace Mann Elementary, Muwekma Ohlone Middle School and San José High. The IB World Schools provide academically rigorous courses that are accepted internationally for entry into higher education or the workforce. The goal of the District’s IB program is to develop inquiring, knowledgeable, and caring young people who help to create a better world through intercultural understanding and respect.

As a student at Muwekma Ohlone Middle School, Parker began taking courses that could prepare him for the IB diploma program, which is available to juniors and seniors at San José High School. When discussing potential high schools, he and his parents were particularly intrigued by San José High School, because they knew it offered an IB program. In addition to the guidance it could offer him on his journey to a career in engineering, they were excited about the possibility of a global educational approach.

“My parents and I both really appreciated the idea that international learners are people who are very open-minded and have a very unique experience,” said Parker, who has already been accepted to San José State University, but is planning on enrolling at Foothill Community College for his two years of college. “So that was a huge factor in going to San José High School and joining the IB program.”

Noorpreet Thinda, also a senior at San José High School, found out about the IB program through her uncles, both of whom enrolled in the initiative at the school. Unlike Parker, she opted to enter into the Diploma Programme (DP). The DP is made up of six subject groups, comprising theory of knowledge (TOK), creativity, activity, service (CAS) and an extended essay, and is geared toward a more general college preparedness. The DP is a two-year comprehensive and rigorous pre-university curriculum leading to an IB diploma. Successful IB candidates are typically granted advanced placement credit at the most prestigious universities and colleges in the nation.

“I really want to challenge myself with the DP program,” said Thinda. “The CAS requires 150 hours of service, which is 100 more than the CP pathway, but I knew the experiences would be worth it.”

For her essay, Thinda wrote 4,000 words comparing the novels “The Hunger Games” and “Before I Fall,” and her CAS activities included everything from dancing to painting to strength building and Key Club. Thinda will continue her engagement in the DP program even after the SJUSD school year finishes, as her final exams–in which she will learn if she has qualified for college credits–take place in May, after graduation.

Most importantly, according to Thinda, were the critical thinking skills she learned from her TOK courses.

“We learned a lot about our egos and thinking beyond ourselves,” said Thinda, who has been accepted into a host of colleges, but is primarily considering San José State and Santa Clara University. “When we approached a problem, we learned that what applies to ourselves, might not apply to other people.”

"The International Baccalaureate program at San José High not only offers a challenging, high quality curriculum necessary to prepare students for college and career, but it also provides the critical thinking skills that are so important for a fully-enriched life," said San José High Principal Jeannette Harding. "Ian and Noorpreet are phenomenal examples of how the IB program can inspire students to commit to an immersive and rewarding educational experience. I would encourage all students to explore this opportunity, both as a way to develop and expand on essential skills and knowledge necessary in an increasingly globalized world and to set themselves up for the next chapter of their journeys."

SJUSD Board of Education Vice President Teresa Castellanos said that San José High School’s IB and IC programs “offer an unparalleled learning experience that prepares students for success in a rapidly evolving world.”

“The rigorous curriculum, coupled with a focus on career pathways and global perspectives, equips students with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in their chosen fields,” said Castellanos. “I am proud to support these programs, which not only challenge students academically but also foster a sense of inquiry, empathy, and understanding that is invaluable in today's interconnected society."

Parker conceded that the IB program is challenging and difficult, but ultimately worthwhile.

“This program definitely requires a lot of time management and keeping a steady schedule,” said Parker. “So anyone thinking of enrolling should be mindful of that. But that said, I think those are super helpful skills for preparing you for college and the real world.”