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Circular economy now a permanent feature in new International Baccalaureate course

February 14, 2017

The International Baccalaureate (IB) have launched their new geography syllabus which now includes explicit reference to the circular economy.

Ib Geography

The Diploma Programme (for 16-19 year-old students) includes the circular economy within its ‘Global resource consumption and security’ unit, which is part of the programmes core theme - ‘Geographic perspectives – global change’. The new syllabus sits alongside the UN Sustainable Development Goals, as a ‘Resource Stewardship’ strategy, and explores ‘the value of the circular economy as a systems approach for effective cycling of materials and energy’.

The introduction of the circular economy into the IB’s syllabus has been welcomed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation as an important opportunity for teachers to engage their students in discussion about alternative scenarios for the future of our economy. Currently, a growing number of approximately 7,500 IB students graduate having read geography each year, the Foundation hopes that these students will feel inspired to be part of rethinking our current ‘take-make-dispose’ economy through deeper engagement with the circular economy framework. 

The new geography course aims to develop students’ skills to conceptually and critically understand our ever changing and interconnected world, with systems thinking approaches embedded in topics relating to population, environment and resources – including the Nexus and circular economy.

- Kelvin Williams – Geography IB Curriculum Manager

Recognising the interconnectedness of our world – the economy, society and the environment – lies at the heart of geography as a discipline. The circular economy applies systems thinking to resources, following flows of materials, energy and information, it also highlights the importance of seeing the bigger picture and understanding the world as a complex system, rather than one that is linear and predictable.    

The circular economy challenges us to rethink how we produce, use and consume, as an alternative to today's wasteful economic system. Geography encourages students to study systems, making it an ideal discipline through which to tackle the multi-faceted issues that the circular economy seeks to address.

- Colin Webster - Education Content Manager, Ellen MacArthur Foundation and former Geography Teacher

The Foundation is looking forward to collaborating with the IB in stimulating creative and critical thinking about the circular economy among diploma students. The circular economy is an evolving framework that benefits from multidisciplinary engagement and has relevance to a range of IB subjects.

To discover more about the Foundation’s work in education, take a look at our schools and colleges website and download the latest resources from our iTunes U collection