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Straight As: Why A Levels are still the best option for many students

A Levels have long been the gold standard of the post 16 British education system; they are rigorous, respected and the recognised passport to universities around the world. However, in recent years A Levels have, perhaps, been cast out of the poll position by the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) and the IB Career-related Programme (CP). This article aims to restore them firmly to the podium and clarify why A Levels are the post-16 study of choice at the British School of Yangon. 

Why choose A Levels? 
 

The biggest advantage of A Levels is arguably the ability to specialize. Students can gain in-depth, expert knowledge on 3-4 subjects over the course of 2 years which play to their strengths. They can drop subjects that they do not excel, or have any interest in, and instead apply themselves to a handful of subjects which they are passionate about. Students can choose combos, such as Art and Music, or Biology and Chemistry; or they can choose completely independent, separate subjects such as Maths and History. Either way, it is important to note that A Levels provide the opportunity for greater focus and high levels of achievement. 

As well as detailed learning, A Levels also encourage independent study. Typically, A Levels require less classroom time than the IBDP, therefore it gives schools more space to supplement the taught curriculum with programmes that devote time to building skills, knowledge and other essential work-place qualities. For example, students at the British School of Yangon can study the Eclipse Programme, a complimentary curriculum which focuses on enrichment, extended learning, community outreach and leadership. 

A levels were considered to offer better “in-depth subject expertise” with 94 per cent stating that they developed this “well or very well”, compared to 56 per cent for the IB. University Admissions Officers Report 2017

Who do they suit? 
 

A Levels suit everyone because you can pick from a broad or narrow suite and specialize in subjects suited to that person. It is particularly good for students who are non-native users of English and who want to take STEAM subjects. These students are not disadvantaged by their weaker language skills as they would be in the IBDP. Likewise, it is good for students who struggle with subjects such as Maths or Languages and wish to drop these after their GCSEs. 

Although it is argued A Levels are not as well-rounded, they do allow students to concentrate on subjects they are more gifted in and to achieve their academic and personal best. At the British School of Yangon, Sixth Formers are taught through an ‘Individualised Pathway’ programme; a curriculum that is flexible and responsive to the needs of individual students, and one that is achievable for many.

sixth form students

So, why is the IBDP so popular? 
 

For those students who are very good all-rounders and haven’t yet decided on a university pathway, the breadth of the IBDP is attractive. It is though also one of its drawbacks as students do not gain the in-depth, specialist subject knowledge they would at A Level. The IBDP is also considered to be more ‘global’ as it includes a foreign language, but as mentioned above, for many of our non-native English students adding a second language would be very taxing. 

IBDP students must be very well-organised and disciplined to manage the demands of studying 6 subjects plus other elements such as TOK (Theory of Knowledge), CAS (Creativity, activity, service) and the Extended Essay (a research paper of 4,000 words). This is undeniably strong preparation for undergraduate study, however the workload is very intense, which can come as a big shock to some students. All good schools offering A Levels will ensure that their core curricular programme is also complimented by similar enrichment, academic and adventure opportunities and should therefore not be dismissed for being too ‘old-school’ or discrete.

A BSY Sixth Former will become a leader, a team player, a communicator, a risk taker and a collaborator. In essence, an individual fully equipped to make their mark on the world as a global citizen and an ambitious, resourceful and confident young adult. Mr J Mycroft, Head of Sixth Form at BSY

Which pathway is right for my child? 
 

Both A Levels and IBDP are globally respected accreditations that will enable your child to study at top universities around the world. If you’re unsure about which path is right for your child, your current school should be able to provide guidance counselling and offer tailored advice which takes into account a whole range of factors such as academic ability and aspiration, potential future goals, and of course, character and attitude to learning. You can also talk to teachers, educational professionals and even friends who have experienced the different learning paths. Ultimately, the choice should be right not only for now, but as the springboard to an exciting and prosperous future.  
 

Find out more about studying A Levels at BSY.

 

Article Written by: 

Tor Del Federico 

Principal 

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