New Zealand competed in the International Biology Olympiad (IBO) for the first time at the 16th Olympiad in Beijing, China in 2005. Since then we have competed in Argentina in 2006, Canada 2007, India 2008, Japan 2009, South Korea 2010, Chinese Taipei 2011, Singapore 2012, and Switzerland 2013. This year’s competition is being held in Indonesia in July.
New Zealand students ‘punch above their weight’ at the IBO competition. The competiiton is incredibly tough as approximately 60 countries compete each year and every student at the IBO was a winner of their national biology olympiad competition. The New Zealand team won 2 Bronze medals in both China and Argentina. An outstanding result for a country new to the IBO and a reflection of the academic caliber of our students. The competition in Canada resulted in our first Silver medal, won by Ryan Yeu who was ranked 42nd in the world. The IBO in India in 2008 was the first time when all four New Zealand team members gained a medal; 3 Bronze medals and a Silver being won at this competition. In South Korea, we gained 2 Silver medals and 2 Bronze. Geoffrey Hoggins was our highest ranked student to date, 31st in the world, and only narrowly missed out on Gold. In 2011, Jack Zhou won our first ever Gold medal and was ranked 21st in the world. The team also brought home a Silver and a Bronze medal. The 2012 team won Silver and 2 Bronze medals and all team members competing in Switzerland won Bronze last year. Altogether NZIBO team members have won 20 Bronze medals, 7 Silver medals and 1 Gold medal. We are incredibly proud of them all!
We must remember that the NZIBO programme is not just about competing in the international competition each year. It is designed to benefit all of New Zealand’s talented secondary school biologists by encouraging interest, participation, and excellence in biology within New Zealand education. To date over 2200 of New Zealand’s top biology students have participated in the NZIBO programme. These students have come from a wide variety of schools from Northland to Otago – we have not yet had any schools from Fiordland, Southland or Stewart Island participate in the NZIBO programme but we hope to extend our geographical reach into these areas in the future! We are particularly proud of the fact that we often have entries of a single student from small secondary schools.
NZIBO takes pride in the fact that schools enter their exceptional students into the programme and see this as a way to motivate and extend their brightest. Our first practical training camp included a student from Dunstan High School, Alexandra, Central Otago. When asked for feedback, he commented that he had gained a lot from the NZIBO programme and that the most important thing for him had been to be in “a room full of people who think and talk like me”. This student sums up the reason why NZIBO is so valuable; he was inspired and motivated, and he saw biology as an exciting career choice. He went on into tertiary study in biology!