Tuesday, 24 July 2007

A Levels/ IGCSEs vs International Baccalaureate (IB)

In previous posts, I looked at the opportunities for linguists offered by the IB and the IGCSEs.



A current threat named “The A' level is dead...Long live the IB” on the TES staffroom forum urges teachers to get up to date with the IB developments. Is this the end of A Levels?


As you would expect from this kind of discussion, there is no clear winner, as the pros and cons have to be put into specific school contexts. However, some comments are very enlightening indeed…

“I have headed two IB Diploma schools and taught in two others and it is an interesting system but neither an ideal match for every situation nor for every student. There is also some movement away from IB. One of the IBs flagship schools in Santiago de Chile fairly recently reverted to A Levels and the best national school in Delhi went back to ICE. There are other examples I could cite. Of the three IB programmes the MYP is the poor relation and many parents shy away from such a loosely-defined programme with no 'real' examination to show for it in Year 11.” [whereas some high profile private schools seem to be going the other way, see previous post]

“The IB is an excellent programme but it's very academic and not for everyone. I understand the separate certificates (taken if you can't manage the full diploma) are no longer recognised by some Australian universities. … Interestingly, the most sought after International school here in Singapore does PYP, then GCSE then IB, leaving out the MYP altogether.”

“I agree about the MYP, it's a mess. Many schools just don't use it and start IB in Yr 12. They don't seem to be any less successful. “

“The confusion I have is with the tariff given by UCAS for IB for University entry in 2008. An 'A' at A level is 120 points - so obviously 3 x A = 360. Yet an IB diploma of 40 points is worth over 650 points which is just bizarre. Having taught both there are obviously pros and cons. I don't think for example that some IB courses are more academically demanding that the A level in that subject. I hear from some universities that they are simply discounting the UCAS ratings and are setting their own next year.”

“At my school, those students who it is believed would do better on the A levels are terms 'specialists' and those who would do better as 'generalists.' So in other words, people say, A levels are better for going deeper and IB is better for going broader.” [Some argue that the IB is both broad and deep…]

“I don't think the IB is only for "high flyers". I've seen very mediocre students pass the full diploma. Their points-score wasn't stellar, but they did end up with a diploma. The key factor isn't intellectual capacity but willingness to work hard... It seems to me that a student who could pass three A Levels ought to be able to pass the diploma as well. If they CAN'T do three A Levels, then their needs are unlikely to be catered to at the average international school anyway, regardless of which system it uses...” [So willingness to work hard does make a difference!]

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