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Is the International Baccalaureate Diploma right for your child?

31 August 2017

Choosing the right curriculum for your child can be quite a challenge. Here is a quick guide to the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme to help you decide if it is the right choice for your child at 16-19 years old.

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1. What is the International Baccalaureate?

The International Baccalaureate, commonly referred to as the IB, is considered a comprehensive and international curriculum that takes a holistic approach to education, fostering intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills. It aims to develop ‘inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who are motivated to succeed’. There are 3 programmes for students aged 3 to 18 years old:

  • The Primary Years Programme (PYP) for students aged 3-12
  • The Middle Years Programme (MYP)  for students aged 11-16
  • The Diploma Programme (DP) for students aged 16-19 and grants entry to universities around the world.

Schools around the world can choose to offer all of these programmes or combine them with other curricula. For instance, many Nord Anglia Education schools follow the English National Curriculum up to 16 years old, followed by the IB Diploma.

In many ways, the IB is ideal for the expat family - with more than 4000 schools worldwide currently offering the curriculum, students can easily transition back to their home or to another country and be evaluated on a standard, universal scale. The curriculum is also popular with parents seeking a well-rounded and international education for their children.

2. What is the IB Diploma?

The IB Diploma Programme, or IBDP, is offered to students aged 16-19 and is based on the philosophy that students should always question the subjects they learn and apply critical thinking skills to real world situations. The IB Diploma offers a broad range of subjects for students to study so that students can personalise their own learning.

The IBDP Curriculum is composed of six subject groups; in general students are required to study one from each group, three at higher level and three at standard level over a two-year period:

Studies in Language and Literature – often mother tongue language

Language Acquisition – often a foreign language

Individuals & Societies (subjects include business and management, economics, geography, global politics, history, information technology in a global society, philosophy, psychology, social and cultural anthropology, world religions)

Sciences (subjects include biology, computer science, chemistry, design technology, physics and sports, exercise and health science)

Mathematics (subjects include mathematical studies, mathematics, further mathematics)

The Arts (subjects include dance, music, film, theatre and visual art)

In addition to the six subject groups, IB Diploma students study the IB core - three required components which broaden their experience.  The three core components are:

Theory of knowledge – students reflect on knowledge and question/challenge what we know

The Extended Essay – an in depth self-directed 4000 word research paper in an area of their choice

Creativity, activity, service (CAS) – students participate in various purposeful and personally challenging activities related to these three subjects, with significant outcomes

3. How does the IB Diploma curriculum differ from other curriculums?

The IB Diploma curriculum offers an international focus and emphasis on self-directed, independent learning through research and applying problem-solving skills to real world issues. The certification requires students to engage in a wide variety of activities and places equal weight on learning inside the classroom as well as outside the classroom.

The IB Diploma also offers students the opportunity to study a broad range of subjects, compared to say A-levels, which encourages students to become specialised in a few subjects which they study in-depth.

This also differs from the education offered in North America which varies from state to state.

4. What are the benefits of studying the IB Diploma?

  • Universities around the world hold the IB Diploma in high esteem – IB Diploma students are accepted at the best colleges and universities
  • Emphasizes independent and self-directed learning. Focuses on social and emotional development – for example being a world citizen with universal values
  • Encourages a global perspective - for example, students are required to master a foreign language, learn about other cultures and political systems among other things.
  • It’s an international qualification so especially useful for students who plan to study or work abroad
  • Good for expat students because they can transition to many other countries where the IB is a widely offered curriculum in international schools.  

5. Why might another curriculum be a better choice for my child?

Many students describe the IB curriculum as challenging, but rewarding. Students who would prefer to focus on fewer subjects to create an area of specialism may prefer to opt for A-levels rather than the IB.

Students may also wish to consider where they would like to continue their education, for instance, if you wish to study in Switzerland the Swiss Maturité may be more appropriate or the French Baccalauréat for university in France. 

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