Martin Doherty, Executive School Principal

Martin Doherty has over 20 years of experience of managing schools in over 13 countries across five continents, including North America, Europe, Asia, the GCC/Middle East, and Africa. He helps schools broaden their student bodies, improve best practices, modernize the teaching and learning environment, and cultivate an overly “happy” school climate while also helping them obtain a global perspective. Also, he is a former Senior Project Manager / Business Process Manager, for over 10 years with Fortune 500 companies (head offices: IBM, Bell Mobility, Sprint PCS, TELUS Mobility, Canada Life, Minacs) in Toronto, CANADA, and the USA.


I have led International Private K12 schools in 12 countries / 5 continents: with a former career as a Senior Project Manager in Fortune 500 Corporation head offices (IBM, Sprint PCS, Bell Canada, Canada Life, etc.) in the USA and Canada.   I assist schools in gaining a global perspective while expanding their student body, enhancing best practices, upgrading the teaching and learning environment, and fostering an excessively “positive” school climate.  As an Educator Disruptor (some use the term “Change Agent”), I have a non-traditional approach to education.

I specialize in new school start-ups and school improvement initiatives. I have launched new schools and managed improvement projects on all varieties of international curriculum schools.  Again and again, I see common themes repeated, not only in behavior and in teaching and learning but also in curriculum limitations.

Yes, 21st-century teaching skills are universal regardless of the curriculum being used, however, these are molded by the restrictions (or progressiveness) of the curriculum being used.  Frequently, in schools that adhere to the popular international curriculum, individuals may find themselves restricted by an antiquated methodology that does not align with the demands of higher education or real-world professional settings.

Education plays a key role in shaping the future of any nation. The curriculum adopted by the local education system is essential in preparing students to become competent and successful members of society. The Ontario Secondary School Diploma Program (OSSD) and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP) are two of his globally recognized curricula. Both syllabuses aim to provide quality education, but this article aims to argue that the OSSD syllabus is superior to the IBDP.

Overview of the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD)

The Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) is a high school diploma awarded to students who have graduated from the secondary education system in Ontario, Canada. The OSSD curriculum focuses on developing students’ skills in five key areas: transformational skills development, real-world application and innovation, global citizenship education, differentiated education, diverse assessments, and individualized learning paths. The assessment system used in the OSSD program is based on continuous assessments, assignments, and projects to assess student progress more comprehensively.

The OSSD curriculum is recognized worldwide as the leader in differentiated learning. This approach ensures that each student receives an education that is tailored to their individual learning style and abilities. The emphasis on continuous assessment ensures that students are not only preparing for exams but also continuously improving their skills. Additionally, many overseas schools follow the OSSD curriculum, making it a globally recognized and respected curriculum.

Under the Radar & Ahead of the Curve

Despite its many strengths, the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) program is often overlooked or not widely known on a global scale. This is likely due to the prevalence of promotion for other curricula such as the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP) and those from the UK and the US. These curricula have been heavily marketed and advertised in various countries, leading to greater global recognition and awareness. In contrast, the OSSD program has not received the same level of promotion and may not be as well-known outside of Canada.  But it is growing in international popularity due to its global strengths & superiority.

As a new school startup specialist, I am increasingly having more & more conversations with those who are starting new overseas international schools who are either transitioning towards opening the “plug and play” OSSD model I implement or are transitioning to offer a dual diploma program adding the OSSD as one of the key options.

Overview of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP)

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP) is a rigorous curriculum offered to students in over 140 countries around the world. The IBDP curriculum aims to develop students’ intellectual, personal, emotional, and social skills and prepare them for success in higher education and in life outside of school. The IBDP curriculum is divided into her six subject groups: Language and Literature, Language Acquisition, People and Society, Natural Science, Mathematics, and Art. The IBDP curriculum is designed to encourage students to think critically and independently and to develop a lifelong love of learning. The grading system used in the IBDP program is exam-based, with final grades awarded for each subject. Additionally, the IBDP curriculum includes courses in the Theory of Knowledge, advanced essays, and completion of CAS (creativity, action, service) activities.

Comparison of OSSD and IBDP curriculum

There are some similarities between the OSSD and the IBDP syllabus: Both focus on developing students’ skills in multiple areas. However, there are some important differences that distinguish the OSSD curriculum from the comprehensive curriculum.

The OSSD curriculum is globally recognized as a leader in differentiated learning, which is not the primary focus of the IBDP curriculum. The OSSD approach ensures that each student receives an education that is tailored to their individual learning style and abilities. In contrast, IBDP programs expect all students to learn in the same way, leaving little room for differentiation.

The evaluation system used in the OSSD program is based on continuous evaluations, assignments, and projects. This approach allows for a more comprehensive assessment of learning progress and ongoing development. In contrast, the IBDP program’s assessment system is primarily exam-based, with more emphasis on memorization than skill development.

Practical Application and Innovation

The OSSD curriculum focuses on practical application and innovation, which is not the main focus of the IBDP curriculum. The OSSD program aims to develop students’ skills in areas such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration, and prepare them for success in the workforce. In contrast, IBDP programs focus primarily on developing students’ intellectual skills such as critical thinking and analysis, with little focus on practical application and innovation.

Global Recognition and Acceptance

The OSSD curriculum is recognized and accepted worldwide and there is a growing demand for international schools to follow the OSSD curriculum. The number of international schools adopting the OSSD curriculum is increasingly growing, demonstrating its global recognition and acceptance.

The IB Diploma Program:


Global Recognition: The IB Diploma program is recognized worldwide, providing students with opportunities for international education and career options. (Top Universities, 2021)

Holistic Approach: The program encourages a well-rounded education by requiring students to complete coursework in six subject groups and three core elements, including Theory of Knowledge, Extended Essay, Creativity, Activity, and Service. (National Association of Independent Schools, 2021)

Critical Thinking Skills: The program focuses on developing critical thinking skills and encourages students to question, analyze and evaluate information. (Council of International Schools, 2021)

University Preparation: The program prepares students for university-level coursework and provides college-level credit for those who perform well in the exams. (U.S. News & World Report, 2021)


Lengthy Program: The program is lengthy and requires consistent effort and performance throughout the program, with final exams taking place at the end of the course. (The Princeton Review, 2021)

Demanding Workload: The program demands a heavy workload, making time management crucial for success. The Guardian. (2019)

Limited Flexibility: The program offers limited flexibility in course selection, requiring students to study six subject groups and specific core elements.  (National Association of Independent Schools, 2021

Limited Availability: The program is not widely available, with fewer schools offering it compared to other high school programs. (Study International, 2021)

Limited Pool of Teachers: IB Diploma Program teachers must have a master’s degree or higher, a minimum of two years of teaching experience, and specialized training in the IB curriculum. They must also be able to demonstrate competence in the six IB Learner Profile traits. (College Transitions, 2021)

Quality Control: The quality and dedication of the teachers are essential for achieving success with the IB program, which can vary significantly depending on the school and the instructors. (College Transitions, 2021)

Cost: The IB Program is perceived as exclusive and elitist, as it is only accessible to schools that serve the wealthiest of families and individuals. This has resulted in IB schools becoming symbols of wealth and privilege. The Atlantic. (2019)

Student Attrition Rate: A review of the IB program conducted by the UK government found that the program had a high dropout rate, with many students leaving before completing the full diploma. (UK Department of Education, 2019)

Limited Recognition by Universities: Despite its worldwide recognition, some universities still do not accept the IB Diploma as a valid qualification for admission. Inside Higher Ed. (2019)

The OSSD Diploma Program:


Widely Available: The Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) program is widely available in Ontario, Canada, and recognized by post-secondary institutions internationally.  Kuder, J., & Dennis, K. (2017)

(The Ministry of Education of Ontario no longer licenses / accredits overseas schools directly; however, my implementation method by-passes this and registers the students directly with the Ministry of Education of Ontario)

Cost-Effective: The program is cost-effective compared to other high school programs, making it accessible to a wide range of students. MacMillan, D. (2017)

Flexibility: The program offers flexibility in course selection, allowing students to choose from a range of courses and tailor their education to their interests and career goals. Park, S., & Yu, S. (2019)

Differentiated learning: recognized worldwide as the leader in differentiated learning. Tomlinson, C. A. (2017)

Practical Education: The program provides students with practical skills and knowledge to prepare them for the workforce or post-secondary education. Articles, A. J., & Harris-Murri, N. (2017)

Worldwide Acceptance: The Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) is recognized worldwide as an entrance requirement for universities worldwide. Altbach, P. G., & Knight, J. (2018)

Ranking: The Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) is ranked in the top 15% of high-school diplomas, (ranked # 4 globally). OECD. (2019), PISA (2018)


Limited Global Recognition: The program is not widely recognized outside of Ontario. de Wit, H., & Altbach, P. G. (2017)

Course Selection: The OSSD program offers students a wide array of core and elective courses. However, some students have not found the specific courses they are interested in or the courses they need for their desired career path. As such, some students have limited course options. Guo, Y., Gao, F., Liu, X., & Sun, X. (2018)

Academic Excellence

So one may ask, how can the OSSD, a provincial curriculum, be such a strong internationally placed curriculum?  Well, I would suggest it is due to Canada being so committed to ensuring a high level of education for its citizens. Canadians are the most educated people in the world. Over 57.5% of the workforce (age 25-65) have a post-graduate degree. Canada is recognized as having the best education system in all of the G7 countries and is ranked #1 in the English-speaking world in math, reading, and science. (Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2018, 2015 & 2012)

In Canada, education is regulated on a provincial level – not federally. The latest PISA results show each of the Big Four provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia achieving significantly higher average reading scores than all other G7 member countries.

Overall, OSSD (Ontario Secondary School Diploma) program was ranked #4 internationally.

OSSD as a Leading International Curriculum:

  • The World Bank’s report “World Development Report 2018: Learning to Realize Education’s Promise” states that Canada’s education system, including the OSSD curriculum, is one of the best in the world, with high levels of student achievement and equity in access to education. (Source: World Bank, 2018)
  • In the 2018 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings, Canada ranked fourth in the world in reading, math, and science, with Ontario performing above the national average. (Source: OECD, 2018)
  • In a study comparing the performance of Canadian students in the OSSD curriculum and students in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, researchers found that students in the OSSD program had higher scores in math, science, and reading. (Source: International Journal of Educational Research, 2019)


In conclusion, while both the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) program and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP) aim to provide quality education, upon inspection the OSSD curriculum seems to be superior in many ways to the IBDP. The OSSD curriculum’s emphasis on differentiated learning, continuous assessment, real-world application and innovation, global recognition and acceptance, and academic excellence sets it apart as the preferred curriculum. With Canada recognized as having the best education system in all of the G7 countries and the OSSD ranked as the 4th best in the world (top 15%) it is clear that the OSSD curriculum is an internationally advanced curriculum, rightly to be ranked among the best in the world.

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