Opting for The Arts in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP)
: Strategies for IB World Schools to Bypass Barriers to Uptake

  • Michael Bindon

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


Participation in secondary-level arts subjects—such as art and design, dance, drama, media, and music—significantly contributes to a range of developmental skills and competencies in young people (Bamford, 2006; Catterall, 2009; Eisner, 2002; Fleming, 2012). Despite the clear benefits, the arts struggle to find a valued place in national and international curricula. The International Baccalaureate’s (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) is emblematic of this struggle.

This qualitative study explored barriers hindering student engagement in DP arts subjects in IB World Schools (IBWSs) and how certain schools navigate these challenges to encourage student participation. Research spanned nine diverse IBWSs, integrating insights from arts students and educators using interviews and document analysis, thus expanding on earlier research by Elpus (2019).

Results highlighted enduring barriers to arts uptake in the DP, ranging from the DP’s structural confines to broader societal and educational constraints. The ‘enduring tensions’ (Tarc, 2009a) of choice, value, balance, and access emerged, with conflict theory offering deeper insights into these barriers. Using Villalobos's (2015) conflict model, the research discerned four conflict sites concerning DP arts: resource allocation, perceived educational value, the IB's structural adaptations, and university admissions criteria.

Strategies employed by IBWSs to boost arts participation were classified into five categories: school-wide marketing initiatives, school leaders’ arts advocacy, college counsellor interventions, arts teachers' promotional strategies, and non-deliberate strategies encompassing broader arts experiences. Two case schools demonstrated how deploying these strategies could effectively overcome the barriers, with a clear correlation between the number of strategies employed and arts student enrolment.

This study has wide implications. For IBWSs, it unveils inherent autonomy allowing schools to overcome DP’s structural challenges. The IB has an opportunity to reposition the arts in its curriculum, particularly as it revisits the DP's framework. Furthermore, universities should broaden their entry criteria, valuing diverse competencies cultivated through the arts.
Date of Award27 Mar 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorTristan Bunnell (Supervisor) & Shona McIntosh (Supervisor)


  • subject choice
  • Arts
  • Education
  • International
  • IB
  • International Baccalaureate
  • Diploma Programme
  • Arts Education
  • Uptake
  • Conflict theory
  • Case study
  • Multisite
  • Pragmatism
  • Barriers
  • Strategies
  • Group 6
  • IB DP

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