How does the International Baccalaureate curriculum stack up against the competition?
In nearly every article we’ve posted, one theme has often stood very clear: The International Baccalaureate programme is one of the best choices for your child, who will be entering a highly diverse and globalised world and needs to be ready to face it.
But we haven’t necessarily explained what makes it so good compared to other curricula that are taught in international schools.
In this article, we break down the five main curricula that you might encounter, including the IB, and talk about how they stack up against each other.
The current British curriculum, which yields the A-Level qualification and is sometimes called A-Level as well, was introduced in 1951 and is the curriculum that students take up in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. A-Levels are accepted in various universities around the world.
A-Level studies feature three to four subjects that may either be in the sciences or the humanities. They’re also more highly specialized in whatever the student chooses to study, as the classes are studied in detail.
Each subject is taught independently, rather than in a holistic fashion as with the IB. If you’re studying maths or sciences, then that will be the exclusive subject matter of your class, with little input from other subjects.
Each course is also graded independently. The A-Level exams are graded on a letter basis, and many universities need you to have passed a certain number of A grades to get in.
For A-Level students, extracurricular activities are dependent on the school, and generally optional for students.
The American curriculum, as its name suggests, is modelled after the curriculum that is taught to students in the average American K-12 school. The American curriculum culminates in the Advanced Placement (AP) exams, which are also accepted in many schools around the world, and also in nearly every university in the United States.
The AP programme was designed to help prepare students as they enter university, by taking college-like courses in various advanced topics. AP courses generally focus more on teaching students textbook knowledge and test them with plenty of multiple-choice tests, though of course there are written composition exams.
In general, AP can be thought of as a university preparatory programme more than anything else. It’s ideal for students who want to study in the US.
The French curriculum features four “cycles” of instruction, which represent different stages of primary and secondary schooling. It’s far more rigid than others, with very little room for designing a curriculum to meet a student’s needs. The focus is on starting with exploring the world, and gradually introducing more clearly-defined fields of inquiry. Ultimately, in the latter stages of the programme, students can choose high-level subject streams to specialize in, such as Economics and Sciences. Students graduate with the French Baccalaureate, which is accepted around the world.
The French curriculum is fairly rigorous and highly formal. With plenty of lectures and classroom learning, it’s a traditional system. There is also a lot of focus on textbook-based learning as opposed to creative exploration and freedom to approach subjects from various angles. Teachers are considered the ultimate authority in the classroom. There’s also a bilingual component that requires French along with a foreign language, often English.
Every school that teaches the curriculum must be audited by French authorities before they can be certified, and then are regularly monitored by French inspectors on a yearly basis.
The result of this is that every French curriculum graduate will be well-prepared for acceptance to French universities.
The Swiss curriculum is relatively similar to the International Baccalaureate – no surprise considering that it was conceived in the same country.
The Swiss curriculum involves studying a very broad range of subjects throughout primary to secondary school but is then broken up into deciding whether to pursue tertiary studies or take up vocational training. This offers plenty of flexibility for many students.
For international schools, the vocational training aspect still applies in some fashion. Many international schools such as SISD host programmes that immerse students in the workplace and give them the opportunity to do real work.
The Swiss curriculum contains a bilingual component, usually composed of the main languages spoken in Switzerland, plus English.
At the end of the curriculum, students graduate with the matura, which is recognized globally, and also provides them with a great opportunity to return to Switzerland for studies.
The International Baccalaureate Degree Program sets itself apart from the rest by focusing on creativity and critical thinking, rather than rote memorization of details and being tested for such.
It’s unique in that it has six courses of study, plus the all-important CAS (Creativity, Action, Service) requirement that extends learning to outside the confines of the classroom, and requires students to work together, explore issues, and discover new things about their field of study. The curriculum can also be tailored to each student’s needs, allowing them to grow in their own respective ways. There’s even a theory of knowledge programme and an independently-researched essay.
Nothing so clearly exemplifies how different the IB is from other programmes than the IB Learner Profile, which calls for students to become, among many others, open-minded, principled, reflective, and communicators. These attributes truly showcase how IB students aren’t just shown how to get into university, but are provided with a holistic education that prepares them for the real world.
Completing the IB is a massive benefit for many students in the international playing field. Studies show that IB students are accepted into top-ranked universities around the world at a rate that’s 22% higher than average. For Ivy League universities in particular, the acceptance rate is 18% higher than the world average.
Many universities appreciate the rigour of the IBDP and tend to favour students who have passed through it. Some even award course credits to students who have completed IB Diploma courses. That’s several benefits stacked in favour of the IB.
After graduating university, IB students tend to do better than students from other programmes as well. A 2010 study on students in the University of California system showed that IB students graduated at a higher rate and achieved higher GPAs.
Finally, over 2,000 schools accept the International Baccalaureate across over 75 countries, making it an exceptionally well-recognized diploma that will secure your child’s future.