So why the IB?

With A Level results now only a couple of weeks away and knowing how much interest these results will attract from the media, I’d like to highlight the work of our un-sung IB students, whose achievements receive little media interest in comparison but whose efforts are equally admirable and significant.

While so much of our current national examination system is shrouded in uncertainty, I’d also like to highlight the undisputed strengths of the IB system, its unparalleled depth and breadth, which have served its students so well for over 40 years, giving them a superior learning experience, with distinct advantages in later life.

The strengths of the IB programme have been highlighted recently in various reports, particularly those relating to STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths). While traditional A Levels results in recent years have shown a decline in numbers studying science and maths, this is inherently mitigated in the IB programme.

Simon Armitage, head of our Sixth Form College, attended a recent conference about A Level reform at which Glenys Stacey, Chief Executive of Ofqual, spoke. She highlighted that there is now general confusion about the purpose of A Levels and confirmed that the modular approach has “resulted in problems” with “too much gaming”, ie playing the system for exam results, in the current qualification. Stacey also passed negative reference on the UK’s fixation on qualifications saying “we are very examination focussed in this country”. With all of this, I wholeheartedly agreed and, for all of these reasons, I applaud the IB programme and the students who decided not to follow the crowd, turning their backs on A Levels, to study for a far broader based, relevant and internationally recognised qualification.

Prof Janice Kay, Deputy Vice Chancellor (education) from Exeter University, speaking at the same conference as Stacey, noted that A Level students entering university lack maths and english skills. She commented on science students who could no long write effectively and humanities students with a lack of numerical fluency.

What is clear to us is that for the right students, of which there are many, the IB course provides the discrimination in the top grading as well as a greater breadth of subjects and skills. With most university degree courses multi-disciplinary, and all requiring an engagement with academic writing and research, the IB hits all three buttons, with the added bonus of a foreign language component.

So, while we await the A Level results, I would like to acknowledge the impressive achievements of our IB students who averaged 39.65 points which, on the UCAS scale is the equivalent of 4 A* grades at A Level.

Finally, I’d like to leave you with this thought. Each year a large proportion of sixth form students change their minds about their future degree aspirations. This is unsurprising considering they are only 16 and 17 years old. However, having already chosen their three or four A Level subjects, their path is set. With IB this is not the case. A good example from this year is a student who would have chosen science and maths in A Level to aim at medicine. However, while her choice to study IB allowed medicine to remain open as an option, it also allowed for her changing her mind. She is now off to study CHINESE at university next year, something that would not have been possible if she had followed the A Level route.

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