A new system – the IB

8:44 am Blogroll, Hong Kong Education

Actually it is not correct to call the IB – the International Baccalaureate – a new system as it has been around for decades. It has even been possible to take the IB diploma in Hong Kong for quite some time. But it does suddenly seem like the IB is a new system. This is because the ESF (English Schools Foundation) is phasing it in, with this year’s cohort of Year 12 students being offered it, and not the UK A-Level, for the first time.

There has been some uncertainty among parents and students about this change. Subject choices need to be made, new IB-related terms need to be understood and questions about whether particular universities will accept the IB as easily as other senior secondary qualifications need to be asked. But the IB seems to be a world-wide trend in education. The diploma certainly must have seemed before its time when it was developed in the 1960s.

Today, schools and universities value the links students make into the community. The community action and service component of the diploma is therefore an excellent way for students to be able to do this. Also, an extended research component offers students the chance to develop skills which will be important during their tertiary studies, and so the extended essay is another useful element to the diploma. Theory of Knowledge (ToK) is the third core component of the IB and it introduces many students to different ways of thinking and knowing, often for the first time.

As well as these core units, students need to choose one subject from six different areas, including a first language and a second language, a mathematics, a science, a humanities and a free choice or arts subject. This does offer students a broad range of subjects from which to choose from and it prevents students from specialising in a narrow area, which did often happen with the A-level.

In Hong Kong, a second language usually proves to be no barrier to students who find themselves facing the IB – Hong Kong’s multicultural society means that most students already speak or learn at least one other language. I wonder whether this is also the case in countries where English is the first language of many students. Students can take their second language at a beginner level, so it should be no barrier or disadvantage. Of course, it is usually elite or independent schools which offer the IB diploma, and these schools are more likely to have a foreign languages program than regular or government- funded schools.

In Hong Kong, some of the elite local schools are also hoping to move towards the IB, but it is generally incompatible to have students sit both the local system and the IB diploma to hedge their bets. If local schools adopt the IB, it needs to be in a separate stream from the local curriculum.

For those starting the diploma this year, there seems to be a lot of changes and adjustments to be made. But soon, all of this will seem normal and the community will be better informed about the details, and the advantages of the IB.

The following is a list and link to Hong Kong schools that currently offer the IB Diploma Programme.

Australian International School Hong Kong, Canadian International School of Hong Kong, Chinese International School, French International School, Island School, Kiangsu-Chekiang College International Section, King George V School, Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong, Renaissance College, Hong Kong, Sha Tin College, South Island School, Victoria Shanghai Academy, West Island School, Yew Chung International School – Hong Kong

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