Blackboard/Whiteboard: The Discursive Construction of the International Baccalaureate in Canada

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Fitzgerald, Saira




The International Baccalaureate (IB) is a series of educational programs for students aged 3 to 19 offered in schools around the world. Originally created for a transient population in need of a portable and recognized curriculum, it has evolved to become an alternative to local curricula in countries such as Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. This manuscript dissertation includes four articles that examine perceptions of the IB in Canada and the implications these perceptions might have for the wider society (e.g., publicly funded education or real estate). The study was conducted in two parts: (i) online survey and semi-structured interviews to gain insight into how admissions personnel at Canadian universities view the IB in relation to other curricula; and (ii) corpus linguistics combined with aspects of critical discourse analysis to examine a 1.5 million word corpus of Canadian newspapers on how the IB is represented in the public domain. Results from both domains showed consistently positive views, suggesting that there exists a dominant (hegemonic) discourse surrounding the IB.

Results also suggested that the positive view of the IB tends to create a negative view of things non-IB (programs, students, schools). Since one is constructed as “better”, there is an implied comparison that seems to go unnoticed. Using corpus-based critical discourse analysis, patterns of language use were analyzed to make visible values and assumptions that discursively construct the IB as superior. The linguistic patterns and strategies identified appear to bear a striking resemblance to discourses of discrimination and difference, such as (1) collectivization of people into a homogeneous group, (2) attribution of particular qualities or characteristics to the group as a whole, and (3) perpetuation of the stereotype through repetition, and eventually “common sense knowledge” which is taken for granted and more assumed than stated explicitly. In the context of Canada’s publicly funded education system, where the IB has grown increasingly popular, this positive view is problematic as it privileges a select few while disadvantaging the rest (e.g., by preferred admission into universities), thereby creating a context of insiders and outsiders.


Canadian Studies
Sociology of Education




Carleton University

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Applied Linguistics and Discourse Studies

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Theses and Dissertations

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