The International Biology Olympiad (IBO) is a science olympiad for high school pupils. The first academic international Olympiads after the (originally Eastern European-based) International Mathematical Olympiad 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 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
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
The competition itself is composed of a theoretical and practical element. The theory exams cover a wide range of Biology: Cell Biology, Molecular Biology, Plant Anatomy and Physiology, Animal Anatomy and Physiology, Ethology, Genetics and Evolution, Ecology, and Biosystematics. The marks are scaled so that the theory and practical components each have a weighting of about fifty percent.
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 official language is English
. 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.
Objectives of Participants
The goals that each participant hopes to achieve in the IBO contest may vary widely from winning medals to socializing and exploring interactions between different cultures.
The importance of winning a medal differs between countries. For some students from East and South East Asia, for example, winning a gold medal guarantees access to a university of choice and a fellowship. In some Western European countries and the United States, a medal brings almost 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 being the first country to win four gold medals. In the 2005 and 2006 IBO competition, however, China has succeeded in duplicating this most outstanding achievement: four gold medals for one nation in a single year. In 2007, Three countries won four gold medals: China, Korea, and the United States. In 2008, three countries had also won four gold medals: Taiwan, the Republic of Korea, and the United States.
Past and future IBOs
Each year, the IBO is organised by a different country.
- Former Czechoslovakia, Olomouc in 1990
- Former Soviet Union, Makhachkala in 1991
- Former Czechoslovakia, Poprad in 1992
- Netherlands, Utrecht in 1993
- Bulgaria, Varna in 1994
- Thailand, Bangkok in 1995
- Ukraine, Artek in 1996
- Turkmenistan, Ashgabat in 1997
- Germany, Kiel in 1998
- Sweden, Uppsala in 1999
- Turkey, Antalya in 2000
- Belgium, Brussels in 2001
- Latvia, Riga in 2002
- Belarus, Minsk in 2003
- Australia, Brisbane in 2004
- China, Beijing in 2005
- Argentina, Río Cuarto in 2006
- Canada, Saskatoon in 2007
- India, Mumbai in 2008
- Japan, Tsukuba in 2009
- Korea in 2010
- Taiwan in 2011
- Singapore in 2012
- Finland or Switzerland or Vietnam in 2013
- Iran in 2014
- Denmark in 2015
- United Kingdom in 2016
- Poland in 2017
Websites of individual IBOs