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International Baccalaureate: ‘My students walk the road less travelled’ February 25, 2011

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in International education.
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The following is the beginning of an article from Wednesday’s Independent. Click here for the full story…

The International Baccalaureate is being billed as a new gold standard of learning. But while it is ideal for some pupils, its broad approach doesn’t suit everyone – and nor should it, argues headmaster Martin Priestly.

So the Royal Society has joined the debate regarding A-levels and alternative courses of pre-university study, such as the International Baccalaureate Diploma (“No A-level physics at 16 per cent of schools”, The Independent, 15 February 2011).

As Headmaster of a school that has, for the past five years, offered its sixth formers the choice between A-levels and the International Baccalaureate Diploma, I feel well placed to judge the differences and relative merits of the two programmes. We try to be even-handed in our advice. We recognise that neither route is “better”: rather, we look to match the student to the programme – or vice-versa. To illustrate the point, our lower sixth has opted for the two programmes in roughly equal numbers.

Even though the IBD is hardly the new kid on the block, having been created in Geneva in 1968, it is still the road less travelled – so its structure, limitations and benefits require greater explanation to parents and prospective students than the better-known A-level route. That is changing of course but in the meantime I would argue that the great strengths of the IBD programme can be summarised in the concepts of breadth, independence, internationalism and stretch. Studying six subjects instead of four gives breadth. Many young people are not ready, at the age of 16, to specialise. The IBD, with its requirement of maths, a science, a humanities subject, a foreign language, one’s own native language and one other elective subject, provides a highly respected but broad liberal arts education.

The IBD’s independence over the past 40 years from the meddling of national governments of different hues has secured it from the buffeting of adversarial politics and also from the diminution of credibility that ensues from grade inflation. Not only does it provide an international academic passport that is widely accepted across the globe, but the culture of internationalism pervades the teaching of subjects to the benefit of its students.

Click here for the rest of the story from the Independent website…

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