International Baccalaureate or A-levels?
Have you ever wondered if the International Baccalaureate is better than the A-levels in terms of preparing your child to enter a recognised and prestigious university? Find out more here...
The international A-levels has been considered by many experts in the field of education to be the "gold standard" of examinations for a very long time...until now.
A recent story in thedailymail.co.uk reports that the credibility of A-levels is under scrutiny after it was observed that the International Baccalaureate (IB) qualification is possibly academically superior, making it the new gold standard to guaranteed entrance to a good university.
This was discovered by The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service in Britain, which has developed a new tariff system that gives the International Baccalaureate an A-level equivalence for the first time.
According to the news report, an IB score of 38 points out of a maximum of 45 (which is easily achieved by more than 200 pupils a year at a popular British school) is equivalent to five A grades at A-level.
Prestigious universities such as Oxford and Cambridge usually ask for an International Baccalaureate score of 40 points, which is equal to five and a half A-level A grades. A relatively modest IB score of 35 points is worth four and a half A grades.
According to the report, even 30 IB points equates to three and a half A grades at A-level, which is enough to secure entry to most academically selective universities around the world.
What is the International Baccalaureate?
The IB is an international education programme that was founded in 1968 and is based in Geneva, Switzerland. The International Baccalaureate works with over 3,000 schools in 147 countries and offers 4 IB programmes to approximately 1,166,000 students around the world.
These four International Baccalaureate programmes span preschool to pre-university years:
- The Primary Years Programme: This is for students aged 3 to 12 and focuses on the development of the whole child in the classroom and in the world outside.
- The Middle Years Programme: Aimed at students aged 11 to 16, this programme provides a framework of academic challenge and life skills, achieved through embracing and transcending traditional school subjects.
- The Diploma Programme: This is for students aged 16 to 19, and is a demanding two-year curriculum leading to final examinations and a qualification that is recognised by leading universities around the world.
- The Career-related Certificate (IBCC): This is for students aged 16 to 19 and is the newest offering from the IB. The IBCC is especially designed for students who wish to engage in career-related learning.
The International Baccalaureate programme prides itself on the quality of the education it offers that includes encouraging global-mindedness in all students. They do this by helping students nurture an understanding of their own cultural and national identity.
The IB also encourages a positive attitude towards learning by encouraging students to ask challenging questions, to critically reflect, to develop research skills and to participate in community service.
Even though your child may still be young, it's good to have an idea of what options are available in terms of education.
This way, once your child is ready to enter the world of competitive examinations leading to university entrance, you are ready to help and guide him along the right path that best suits his academic capabilities and ambitions.
To help you get started with this, we give you a snapshot of information relating to both the A-levels and the IB in Singapore.
International Baccalaureate in Singapore
There are 29 IB World Schools in Singapore offering one or more of the three IB programmes.
Seventeen schools offer the Primary Years Programme , 6 schools offer the Middle Years Programme and 20 schools offer the Diploma Programme. To find out which schools offer IB in Singapore, click here.
A-levels in Singapore
Students in Singapore have the option of sitting for the Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education Advanced Level (A-level) exam, which is a different version of the international A-level examination.
A collaboration between the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate, the Singapore-Cambridge A-level exam allows Singaporean students to enter both local and overseas universities.
Some common subjects offered at the A-level examination are:
Arts-based: Economics, Geography, History, English Literature, Theatre Studies and Drama.
Science-based: Mathematics, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Computing, Geoengineering.
For more information on the A-levels, click here.
IB or A-level?
It really depends on your child's academic strengths. The International Baccalaureate is more about a comprehensive educational style, while the A-levels puts more emphasis on individual subject knowledge.
An IB student must take six subjects, three at higher level and three at standard, which must include maths, a science, English, and at least one foreign language. So if words aren't your child's strength, then the language component of the IB (including the compulsory 4000 word essay) may pull your child's overall IB score down.
On the other hand, if your child is well-rounded and copes confidently with Arts subjects as well as Maths and Science, then the IB programme may be ideal for your little learner.
Experts believe the A-levels give a child depth of knowledge, while the IB gives a broad education. They also believe that the IB may prepare a child better for facing the challenges of a university education.
The MOE's point-of-view
When asked whether the IB qualification gives children an advantage in university entrance, the MOE says, "A-Level and IB are internationally benchmarked qualifications for university admission. All qualifications are assessed equally rigorously during the admission process and no qualification is accorded any advantage or disadvantage."
Parents, ultimately, you and your child's teachers know your kid's academic capabilities the best. If you are wondering if the IB would suit your child, talk to your child's teachers and come to an educated and well-informed decision. Don't forget to ask your child, too, on what he or she would like to do.
The IB website has loads of information that will help you decide as well.
Do your kids follow the IB programme? Share your experiences with us by leaving a comment.