Arnold Heller – International Business Program for High Schools (IBPHS), Atlanta, GA

Vocational Education and the IBO

IBPHS Presentation to the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO), Cardiff, Wales, May 10 – 11, 2004: Develop vocational education courses with an added dimension / innovative arrangements

1. Suggested framework for strategic development of high status vocational course (of study): Modified Holland Hexagon Model

The modified Holland Hexagon model is the basis for most career inventories used today (1973, p. 23).  According to Holland, most persons can be characterized as one of six interest-based personality types: RIASEC – R: Realistic, I: Investigative,  A: Artistic, S: Social, E: Enterprising, C: Conventional.  Holland’s system classifies jobs into occupational categories, interest clusters, or work personality environments.  Different assessments provide information on the relationship between job personalities, key characteristics, college majors, hobbies, abilities and related careers. 

2. Rationale for vocational education developments in the IBO

Accelerating economic globalization, workplace specialization and the rapid growth of
K-12 international business or entrepreneurship concentrations during the past decade calls for development of appropriate international vocational / business education curriculum standards (Latchko, 1997).  The IBO is uniquely qualified to:

  • Offer an alternative, complementary high status interdisciplinary college preparatory program that incorporates business and vocational education components.
  • Meet a wider range of educational needs and student learning styles through effective integration of global perspectives, economics education, entrepreneurship education, international education and experiential and applied learning opportunities.
  • Develop global curriculum standards and a rigorous assessment framework for secondary level international business and vocational education.

Although IB Diploma candidates do experience hands on learning experiences in music, arts, IT, physical sciences and other curriculum areas, at North Atlanta High School, an information-centric process existed in the major academic subjects and the social sciences in particular.   The International Studies magnet partially responded by offering a complementary international business program that incorporated experiential entrepreneurship applications to better meet the learning styles of a perhaps a third of the magnet’s student population.  World wide, this instructional need is increasingly being satisfied through enrollment in international business concentrations, specialized vocational academies and other models that integrate measures of academic, business and vocational education.  The benefits to the IBO for meeting this need are:

  • Development of a second innovative and respected college preparatory program with international education theme.
  • Development of model integrated academic / business / vocational curriculum.
  • Development of an assessment framework for academic / business / vocational education concentrations.
  • Enhanced revenue stream by having two rapidly expanding high school programs.
  • Broader position in global educational marketplace.
  • Expanded global network through new alliances with secondary schools outside the traditional private and public recruitment sources for IBO branded schools.
  • Promoting world wide interest in high quality business / vocational education and degrees offers enhanced growth potential in less penetrated regional markets: Asia, Latin America, Africa and France.
  • Further intercultural understanding and international trade through the natural connectivity of a global business / vocational education program that promotes school-to-school interactions
  • Appreciation from generations of future learners that were provided a curriculum that reflected their learning style, interest and career direction 

The development of a successful alternative complementary curriculum, the proposed IBP (Diploma), should:

  • Enhance stature and support for the IB Diploma, not dilute it.
  • Increase financial support from private business / corporate sources.   
  • IBO branded schools are provided an opportunity to offer two outstanding IBO products @ $8,300 per annum (North Atlanta High School fee) or perhaps discounted at $15,000 for offering both. 
  • Foster interest in creating complementary elementary and middle school programs.

An enriching education serves as both an end in itself and a preparation for work and economic activity.  The IB Diploma, as a high status qualification for entry into university, offers an education that is both an “end in itself” and rigorous academic “preparation for the professions” including international business / entrepreneurship.

The challenge to the new more specialized Diploma vocational program and curriculum is the same as the IB Diploma’s: Include appropriate academic content (end in itself), business and vocational components (preparation for work / economic activity), foster development of critical thinking skills, involve students in meaningful educational activities and prepare young people to adapt and contribute to a changing world.    
3. Current issues in vocational education

Vocational education’s historic role of training workers for large scale industrial enterprise and the unionized trades linked it to the lower classes resulting in a form of stigmatization.  In contrast, the professions, specialized work functions within society often restricted to occupations requiring extensive study and possessing a specialized knowledge or theory base, such as law, medicine, nursing and the clergy or engineering have been assigned higher status (wordiQ).  The professions, which also include the study of business and public administration, increasingly international in practice, are considered more desirable for factors of better quality work, higher status and income, and broader avenues of economic opportunity.  Traditional North American pathways of upward social mobility influence youth to pursue academic preparation for the professions and business in a quest for higher levels of economic success and individual fulfillment.

Academic educators suffer criticism for providing curriculum that lack participatory forms of learning and opportunities for students to connect learning to real world events.  Five integration models reflecting a range of purposes, goals, desired outcomes and innovative practices are presented as suggested reform practices for meeting the challenges of accountability (Grubb et al. 1991).

  • Making academic courses more vocationally relevant.
  • Academy model, school within a school concept (National Academy Foundation).
  • Occupational high schools and magnet schools (North Atlanta’s Center for International Studies offered both the IB Diploma and an International Business Program (IBP)
  • Occupational clusters, “career paths”, and occupational majors (High School of Fashion Industries, Aviation Trades, NY, NY).
  • New Millennium High Schools that integrate academic and technical education (Dr. Robert Boegli,

4. Working definition of vocational education for IBO purposes: North American / USA Perspectives

According to word iQ (www.wordiq,com/definition/Vocational_education.html), the definition of vocational education is to “prepare learners for certain careers or professions, which are traditionally non-academic and directly related to a trade, occupation or ‘vocation’ in which the learner participates”.  Essentially, “vocational education assists young people to secure their own futures by enhancing their transition to a broad range of post-school options and pathways.  Students are engaged in work-related learning built on strategic partnerships between schools, business, industry and the wider community.” (

  • Virtually all American high school students take at least one vocational course, one-half take four or more vocational courses.  There is almost no difference in the number of vocational course credits taken by students in different racial and ethnic groups and almost one-half of all vocational credits are taken by college-bound students.
  • There are too many different occupations taught in U. S. high schools for there to be a viable national competency test.  Accuracy in assessment of highly specialized skills may come at the expense of more broadly applicable generic skills. (Performance Standards for Secondary School Vocational Education, OTA)
  •  The State of Georgia, in the United States, through the Career and Technology Department, offered a broad range of component vocational education programs: Agricultural Education, Business and Information Technology, Family and Consumer Sciences, Healthcare Science Technology Education, Marketing Education, Coordinated Vocational Academic Education, Trade and Industrial and Youth Apprenticeship. (GACTE Page Portfolio.doc).
  • DECA, an Association of Marketing Students (Distributive Education), motivates secondary students to learn marketing, management and entrepreneurial competencies that will prepare them to become skilled, employable workers. 
  • The BUILD Program (Businesses United in Investing, Lending and Development), in Palo Alto, California, focuses on basic business and entrepreneurship skills – college preparation and a youth business incubator ( 

The integration of academic and vocational education is a reform strategy conceptualized by vocational educators, supported by the business community, and articulated by policy makers in the 1990 Carl Perkins Amendments, which require that federal money be spent on programs that integrate academic and occupational competencies.  The aim is to improve educational and employment opportunities for youth who will face new technologies and business management systems that demand high-level worker skills.

Some benefits of integrating academic and vocational education are improved student motivation, workplace linkages, equity, problem-centered learning, changes in school organization and a more qualified work force.  The following changes must also be made: Student orientation, curriculum and assessment, teacher roles and school organization (Berryman and Bailey, 1992)

It may be asked of entrepreneurship education, a growing field of interest, how it differs from business education and business management trainingBechard &Toulouse define entrepreneurship education as a “collection of formalized teachings that informs, trains, and educates anyone interested in participating in socio-economic development through a project to promote entrepreneurship awareness, business creation, or small business development (1998, p. 320).  Entrepreneurship education should be viewed broadly in terms of the skills that can be taught and characteristics that can be engendered in students that can help them develop new and innovative plans. (

Entrepreneurs drive the economy through small business job creation and model the way for young people to enter the business world.  Entrepreneurship education teaches students how to creatively solve problems, how to plan and communicate ideas, and about the risks and rewards of starting and running their own businessThe Council for Entrepreneurial Development located in the North Carolina Research Triangle Area developed the Future Entrepreneurs Program for middle and high school students.  CED’s eight-lesson curriculum teaches students processes of entrepreneurship, from identifying potential business opportunities to developing a business plan.  (Coleman and Cisco Systems Foundations, CED; entrepreneurs/ ).

Sandercock, in Innovations in Entrepreneurship Education, Depaul University, 2001, identified six (modified) themes that create innovative and effective entrepreneurship programs such as the IBP at North Atlanta H. S. 

  • Internal parties, internal / external – capitalize on the impact of centers, advisory boards, practitioners, faculty and students. (ACTCo Board of Directors, Center for International Business Education & Research (CIBER) at Georgia Institute of Technology, IBP parents)
  • Interdisciplinary programs and recognition – building an in-school entrepreneurship education program and publicizing significant achievements of students, faculty and alumni (ACTCo, program / company web site and e-catalog)
  • Specialized entrepreneurial offerings – meeting individual, local and regional needs; developing partnerships with federal, state, local and corporate sponsors

(State Farm Insurance, Atlanta Sister City Commission, Atlanta Mayor’s Office of International Affairs, tax-exempt non-profit corporation)

  • Entrepreneurship skill development – experiential learning tools are developed for students to apply, hands on applications and internships are arranged (Warrior Warehouse School Store,, internship)
  • Real-life entrepreneurial opportunities – creating first-hand experience of the risks and rewards of venture creation and investing (annual financial reports, balance statements, $6,000 Bank One Small Business Credit Line, Bank of America commercial checking account and merchant services credit card processing capacity)
  • Technology implementationintegrating technology applications in to the entrepreneurship education curriculum (web site, e-commerce instruction / applications, online credit card processing capacity) (Coleman Foundation Entrepreneurship Awareness and Education Grant Initiative, 

The need for expanded conomic education in the United States:
According to William Walstead, the best and only opportunity for increasing economic understanding occurs in high school.  Unfortunately:

  • Less than half of U. S. high school students take an economics course (44%).
  • 1% take an Advanced Placement or IB Diploma level course.
  • 24% take a geography course.  
  • Of the 63% of high school students that enroll in college or universities, 40% will take an economics course.   
  • Of 51 U. S. teacher certification agencies, only 26 require teachers to have a single course. (Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 15, No. 3, Summer, 2001, pgs. 195 – 210)

The National Council on Economic Education (NCEE) has responded with the Campaign for Economic Literacy, a concerted effort to increase effective teaching of standards-based economic education.  The campaign is advocating educational reforms that will improve American’s economic reasoning and problem-solving and decision-making skills. (

Adding international perspectives to vocational education:
International work opportunities are increasing as the borders of the U. S. economy expand to embrace global markets.  Given NAFTA’s development and plans for expansion, workers in the Americas need to develop global awareness and an understanding of competitive, cultural, and economic factors that influence ways of doing business in order to work in the international arena.  In a society characterized by cultural diversity, limited experience with people of other cultures places citizens at a disadvantage.  A European Union that now stretches from Ireland to the Baltic States and the borders of Russia calls upon four hundred million people to begin viewing themselves more as Europeans and less as nationals.  With the growth of multinational corporations and continental free trade zones, workers need to understand how changes in global conditions affect them.  (Brown, Lankard, ED407575, 1997)   

5. Outcomes for students

The proposed vocational / business education program should emphasize the same high expectations and standards as the Diploma ProgramRigorous academic standards should be demonstrated through evident student mastery of the following seven broadly-stated proficiencies.

Performance Standards #1 – 7:

     1- Students that complete an international vocational / business concentration display
          increased acquisition of the knowledge and skills needed to adapt to a changing
          work place and successfully compete in business and the global economy
          (entrepreneurship, marketing, economics and international trade, communications,
          business and technology applications)

     2- Students that take an economics course with a global trade focus will significantly                    
          increase their understanding of the workings of the economy and operation of a
          business.  (Infusion of economics into the social studies or business education 
          curriculum provides little or no increase in economic understanding – Walstead.)

     3- Students that complete an international vocational / business education
         concentration that requires fluency and literacy in speaking, reading and writing of
         national and foreign language demonstrate increased proficiency in communication

     4- Global entrepreneurship / business education students demonstrate increased
          mastery of important business management knowledge and skills when experiential
          business and technology applications are integrated into the curriculum.

     5- Students receiving international education instruction as part of an experiential
          global business concentration demonstrate higher levels of tolerance and respect
          for cultural diversity.  (Knowledge of cultural groups, appreciate of cultural

     6- More effective instruction approaches include experiential and applied learning
          opportunities in order to better meet the variety of learning styles evident in the
          secondary school population.

     7- Provision of experiential international entrepreneurship programs for urban
          secondary level youth will improve minority student outcomes

6. Distinguishing elements of an IBO vocational course:

The proposed vocational / business education program, for the purpose of effective branding and distribution, must incorporate the same key underpinning principles of the Diploma Program.  In order to assure unbiased acceptance, the IBO is advised to consider the importance of the proposed vocational program’s name / identity.   Public perceptions of vocational education suggest that significant measures of business and entrepreneurship education be incorporated into the proposed academic / vocational curriculum and serve as the umbrella concept for integrating vocational components into.

A proposed International Business Program (IBP) Diploma benefits students by incorporating into an IB core curriculum internationalized courses of study in Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Economics and Regional Area Studies and vocational components such as an international business worksite internship.  The IBP is offered as an umbrella concept based on integration of five educational threads or strands. 

  • Global perspectives: History, political science, world geography, global issues foreign language instruction
  • Economic education: Macro / micro economics, global trade focus, business education, response to supply / demand factors, experimental economics
  • Entrepreneurship education: Entrepreneurship, business management, marketing, economics, international trade, business and technology applications, communication skills development
  • International education: Develop tolerance of cultural differences, respect for and appreciation of cultural diversity, involvement in cultural activities and exchanges, educational  travel, foreign language immersion, team building
  • Experiential and applied learning: Enterprise management, e-commerce applications, web site development and maintenance, involvement in international trade, student internship, economic games, case studies.

8. Next steps
Proposed idealized vocational educational programs need to advance beyond abstraction status and be grounded in global, continental, national and local realities, specifically perceptions of program quality and status. Factors to consider when marketing any proposed vocational education program as the umbrella concept include:

  • The size and openness of the North American educational market.
  • The ongoing entrepreneurial spirit of the United States.
  •  Responsiveness to innovative and effective international and business education programs. 

A perception of lower quality must be avoided or a successful replication of an academic / vocational program may be undermined due to weak branding.

8.1: Position paper

Conclusion: 3 future steps
1 – Refinement / reworking selected curriculum model
2 – Engagement with intra / trans-national organizations
3 – Evaluation of vocational developments 


Note from Arnold Heller:  The International Baccalaureate Organization seriously considered adoption and adaptation of the International Business Program (IBO) as a second program offering.  Unfortunately, currency fluctuations during 2004, namely the pound and Euro soaring and a plunge in dollar values, squeezed the IBO economically and necessitated scrapping the IBP Diploma idea.  The International Business Program for High Schools (IBPHS) was later established to fill the void