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“Be steady and well-ordered in your life so that you can be fierce and original in your work.”

Gustave Flaubert

All IB programs aim to develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help create a better and more peaceful world. To advance this goal, the IB has outlined several specific traits that its unique approach to education aspires to cultivate in students. A collection of 10 characteristics, the IB Learner Profile illustrates the kind of successful people and citizens that define the IB method

To better understand why these traits matter and how they are developed in the classroom and through experiential learning opportunities like CAS, we are unpacking each of them individually. As mental health and integration of academics with other IB elements have been top of mind as of late—we are looking at what it means to be balanced. 

The foundation of balance

As outlined by the IB, cultivating the trait of balance means, “Understanding the importance of balancing different aspects of our lives—intellectual, physical, and emotional—to achieve well-being for ourselves and others. We recognize our interdependence with other people and with the world in which we live.”

All IB students are active participants in a wide range of aspects of campus life, as well as focusing on their academic development. This helps them see the value of their classroom efforts enacted in the real world and teaches them the importance of self-care. They are given a safe space to grow and experiment as they journey through the IB program—and it is through mastery of balance that they learn to take advantage of the many opportunities and learning experiences made available to them. 

Putting the elements together

As stated in the quote above, balance means accounting for the various elements of life and education and giving them equal weight. 

  • Intellectual—involving thought and reason 
  • Physical—taking care of one’s body
  • Emotional—the feelings of one’s experiences

To be balanced is to understand that all of these areas are equally important, and if one is neglected, the others will be impacted too. By encouraging young people to spend time each day doing many different things, the IB teaches the importance of taking positive actions for not only the mind, but also the body and feelings. 

Mental health and realizing the value of downtime

In addition to being an essential strategy for getting the most out of an IB education, maintaining balance is a cornerstone of overall well-being. Balance prevents stress, anxiety, and the adverse health effects which are caused by the two. 

Of course, the IB curriculum does require that students make wise use of their time, but it also highlights the agency and decision-making power that each young person possesses. Common excuses for living an unbalanced lifestyle like “I’m too busy” or “There’s never enough time to do everything” may be accurate, but the IB framework emphasizes that it is ultimately a matter of choices regarding how one spends their time. 

The IB teaches students to fill their days with a multitude of experiences so that they do not feel scattered from neglecting important roles. Students feel most successful when they have managed to give each aspect of their life the necessary attention and have the space to express themselves intellectually and creatively.

What role does CAS play?

The CAS experience is vital to maintaining a sense of balance throughout the IB program. It provides opportunities for self-determination and collaboration with others, while fostering a sense of accomplishment and enjoyment that students achieve from their work. CAS is also an essential counterbalance to the academic challenges of the DP, as it allows students to appreciate that a lot of learning takes place outside of the classroom and enables them to enhance their personal and interpersonal development through hands-on experience. All of this works to create a balanced individual who is confident in their ability to manage multiple tasks and knows when to take a break. As the opening quote from writer Gustave Flaubert illustrates, it is only by creating harmony in one’s day-to-day life that a person is truly empowered to reach their full potential and be a force for positive change.

Image Credits: Aziz Acharki

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