International Biology Olympiad

The International Biology Olympiad (IBO) is a science olympiad for high school pupils. The first academic international Olympiads were launched under the auspices of the United Nations in the 1960s. The programs have gradually expanded to include more than 70 participating countries across five continents. The IBO is one of these five olympiads. All participating countries send the four winners of their National Biology Olympiad to the IBO, accompanied by usually one team leader and two observers/jurors.

The aims of the IBO are to promote a career in science for talented students and to stress the importance of biology in our current society. It also provides a great opportunity to compare educational methods and exchange experiences. This is useful information to improve biology education on a national level. Since the organization of every National Olympiad requires the cooperation of many institutions, such as ministries of education, industry, teachers' associations, universities and schools, communication and cooperation between those institutions is promoted and intensified. And last but not least, the IBO stimulates contact between students and teachers from many countries in a friendly environment. To demonstrate this last aim, both students and teachers swear an oath of behaving according to the principles of fair play.

All participants are ranked based on their individual scores. These are based on the results of a theoretical and a practical test, each making up approximately fifty percent of the final score. Gold medals are awarded to the top ten percent of students, silver medals are awarded to the next twenty percent of students and bronze medals are awarded to the next thirty percent of students. Despite the oath of fair play, one student has been caught cheating and was disqualified.

The IBO's official languages are English and Russian. To provide equal opportunities for all participants, the tests are translated prior to the testing days. This is done by each country's own team leaders and jurors. This means they hold specific information on the tests before the participants should know. Therefore, teachers and students are lodged in separate accommodation. Only after testing they meet.

The importance of winning a medal differs greatly between countries. For students from South East Asia for example, winning a gold medal guarantees access to a university of choice and a fellowship. In several Western European countries and the United States, a medal brings no advantages of that kind to the student. This difference is probably reflected in the final results: many gold medals go to Asian students. Whereas some others might cheer if just one team member wins bronze, to them winning bronze would be a personal disaster. In spite of this, however, some countries whose students are much less pressured than in South East Asia have achieved outstanding success. For example, the team from the United States was ranked first in 2004 when they made IBO history by winning four gold medals. In the 2006 IBO competition, however, China has succeeded in duplicating this most outstanding achievement: four gold medals for one nation in a single year.