The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) has been a part of the SFS high school experience for 40 years. With a new High School Principal joining SFS this year, we sat down with her to learn a bit more about her vision for the next 40 years of IBDP at SFS. We also asked young alumni to reflect on their IBDP experiences, and how SFS prepared them for the future.
Dr. Nancy Le Nezet is the High School Principal at Seoul Foreign School. She took on the role in August of 2021, inheriting a 40-year history of International Baccalaureate education at SFS.
A native of France, Nancy has spent more than 24 years abroad, having lived in eight countries. Her career as an educator has spanned classroom teaching, work for the International Baccalaureate (IB) organization, leading IB workshops, and authoring the IB Philosophy textbook, widely used by educators internationally.
Nancy’s extensive experience, combined with her passion for education, influenced her strategic vision for the future of the IB Diploma Programme (IBDP) at SFS. “The DP is the end goal for students. It helps guide how we educate in the earlier years so students can successfully transition into the DP,” she explains. As the culminating project of the student experience, IBDP gives a clear endpoint for the entire educational program, and dictates a student’s development in order to reach that endpoint. At SFS, 94% of students participate in and complete the IBDP.
An integral part of IBDP is the community service element. “It’s what makes the IB an absolute gem,” she says. The Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) project engages students in purposeful activities with significant outcomes, and the focus is self selected. Many students elect to take on projects with a significant element of service to others. These higher goals and aspirations are intended to foster young people who will change the world for the better throughout their lifetimes. An increased focus on developing “the whole person” is part of a strategic effort by Nancy and the DP Coordinator at SFS, Piotr Kocyk, who are actively instilling the ideals of balance and wellness in students.
With 40 years of IBDP experience, SFS has a significant advantage in the DP program. “We have an inspiring group of educators who are experts and passionate about what they’re doing,” Nancy explains. “We did the math, and we have 63 years of IB leadership experience in the leadership team alone.” This deep knowledge and skill in oversight helps students to be more organized, explore areas of interest, and get the most out of the IB programme. “In Korea, parents are very supportive of their children’s education. The school and parents become partners in making sure students are successful in their DP studies and go to universities that are the right fit for them.”
Rose Kim ’17
The IB programme can help students not just get into good universities, but do well at those universities. During my first semester, I noticed that my fellow IB graduates and I had less difficulty managing university coursework than students who were not in the IBDP. (I even made several friends bonding over the “collective hardship” that was the IB programme.) I would tell current students that...they’ll develop skills like task management and critical thinking which are extremely useful. These skills can (and should!) be used in the communities students are a part of now (SFS) and in the future (university, work, etc.). Doing so will not only help these communities grow, but help students become the successful leaders of the future that our society needs.
Michelle Keun ’04
Volunteering at the orphanage as my CAS helped me become who I am. It developed my social skills and allowed me to collaborate with others beyond the classroom. Teaching orphans English was a memorable experience, and I realized that I wanted to help orphans develop their own identities, speak for themselves, and not feel intimidated by kids with parents. This recognition of my advocacy skills still drive my passion to be a teacher today. I recommend all SFS students to participate in CAS, not as an obligation, but as an opportunity!
Geo Sanghyuk Yoo ’20
The most important skill I learned from the IBDP is organization and motivation. Whether it’s in college or in an internship, work ethic is probably the most crucial skill to develop in order to succeed - the IBDP, with its rigorous and demanding curriculum, equips you with exactly this. A good demonstration of this came in my second week of college; in my humanities class, we were required to read 60 pages of multiple classics everyday and had to write 10-page essays on our reading every three weeks. This shocked many of my classmates, but I realized that I already developed the resilience and self-discipline to execute such tasks from already going through multiple IAs, the Extended Essay, and TOK essays, to just name a few. In that sense, IBDP is the perfect training one can get in high school - it not only teaches you valuable knowledge about different subjects, but it also develops skills you need throughout your life.
Emma Sheldrick ’14
Having taken IB Theatre, I really appreciated how the IB programme gives structure to learning in creative fields. This, paired with the curiosity and critical thinking skills I gained through Theory of Knowledge (TOK) and writing the Extended Essay (EE), set the foundation for how I worked through my Theatre degree at university, now in my career in Film and arguably my general world-view.
While you’re at school, it may seem daunting having to study so many subjects and achieve certain grades but I would highly encourage students to try to put the thought of grades aside and truly enjoy the chance to engage with so many interesting subjects. You’ll be surprised what things you’re learning now may come back to you in the future.
Joseph Hong ’17
My initial conception was that video games and IBDP are mutually exclusive, so as I began my first year in Rochester Institute of Technology with a Game Design & Development major, I expected nothing from what I learned in the IB programme. Five years later, as a graduate student who is studying in the same field, I now realize that the skills required to work with a team as a game designer depended on the skills that I learned from the IB programme. I would even question myself if I would be where I am today without the IBDP. Through Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS), I explored different creative fields that the six classes didn’t cover, which helped me to discover my new strengths and weaknesses. In addition, through Theory of Knowledge (TOK), I learned how to question the existing knowledge using logic, discussions, and credible sources, which enlightened me to ask myself what makes the game fun and brainstorm game mechanics outside of the box. Last but not least, through the Extended Essay (EE), I experienced breaking down an enormous project into small chunks within a finite time, which helped me to plan priorities and vision Minimum Viable Product (MVP) when creating projects under creative media. Knowing what my limits are, how to think for new creative ideas, and how to deal with big projects, taught me how to be transparent with myself and the situation I am in, which was critical when working in teams. Whether people use these skills to design a game or not, I believe that utilizing them in the future can be a game-changer to everyone.
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