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Sixth Form: A Level or IB Diploma?

By ITS Education Asia

Sixth Form: A Level or IB Diploma?

Established in 2001, Tanglin's Sixth Form Centre welcomed just 20 Year 12 and 13 A Level students. Eight years later the International Baccalaureate Diploma was introduced, alongside A Levels. Now, this unique hub offers a dual pathway for nearly 350 students, ensuring that they can choose the right course for them.

The Sixth Form at Tanglin is designed to allow every student the opportunity to achieve their academic and social potential. In addition, the environment, with its leadership and co-curricular opportunities, endorses high expectations and a sense of community.

The breadth of choice is great. But to thrive, students need to make vital connections – and to realise their potential takes the confidence that comes from personalised support, creating a special environment where all students are known well, and everyone's wellbeing is supported.

Tanglin Sixth Form is a centre for dedicated, resourceful and enthusiastic teachers who are progressive in their outlook; who lead by example and always go the extra mile to extend the imagination of our students.

The experience of our staff is highlighted in our most recent British Schools Overseas (BSO) inspection, which said: "The teachers' enthusiasm for learning is often infectious, leading to students seeing learning as a highly worthwhile and enjoyable process; students are highly motivated to succeed." BSO Inspector 2017.

In addition, Tanglin is one of only nine institutions across Asia Pacific to be a host partnership school with the International Baccalaureate Organisation, allowing us to offer IB workshops to other schools in the region.

Alongside a very strong pastoral and academic support system, students can access fantastic facilities. These include collaborative study areas, a common room, quiet study rooms, a fully resourced library and close links with the Careers and University Guidance Office.

Below, we ask Luke, Assistant Head Boy 2018/19 and Loulya, Assistant Head Girl 2018/19 about their experience of Sixth Form, and which pathway they chose to study and why.

Why did you want to continue studying at Tanglin Sixth Form?

Luke: I have been at Tanglin since Nursery, and throughout my time here the amazing community has continued to support me. Not only are the academic and extra-curricular opportunities exceptional, the people that surround you are keen to help you to succeed.

Loulya: Since joining the school in Year 9, I have had the opportunity to participate in a range of experiences, from international sporting competitions to NYAA expeditions. The support I have received from my peers and teachers further cemented my desire to continue my Sixth Form career at Tanglin, which I believe to be the two most important years of ones' school education.

What influenced your decision to choose to study A Levels or IB?

Luke: By the time I had to choose a pathway I already knew that I wanted to become a chemical engineer, so I decided to take A Levels to allow me to specialise in my chosen subject areas. The depth that A Level subjects go into will be hugely beneficial to my further study in the future.

Loulya: After completing my GCSE's, I was still unsure of the career path I wanted to pursue in the future. The nature of the IB allows me to develop my understanding of more subjects with an open-minded approach. Ultimately, it has given me a better understanding of how I learn, as well as what subjects interest me.

Was it important to you to have a choice between taking the A Level and IB pathway?

Luke: I think that I would have enjoyed taking either pathway, but being given the opportunity to choose the one that suited my goals better was certainly very helpful. Some people in my year group have very strong feelings on which pathway fit them better, so having the choice was invaluable to them.

Loulya: I feel extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to choose which pathway to study in Sixth Form. Having two options allowed me to weigh out the advantages and disadvantages of each one to come to a decision that I felt completely happy and comfortable with.

How did you feel supported by staff in your decision-making? What helped to prepare you for Sixth Form?

Luke: Throughout the process of choosing a pathway, many of my subject teachers and my form tutor remained in contact with me and were keen to find out which pathway I was leaning more towards and why. At several points I had interviews with members of staff, so they could ensure my reasoning for choosing the A Level pathway was justified.

Loulya: We were initially introduced to the different pathways in Year 10, through a series of assemblies. This meant that we were more familiar to the process when we reached Year 11, so we were able to remain concentrated on our schoolwork. I found the options fair extremely useful as I was able to talk to current A Level and IB students from a range of subjects to get their insights into what each pathway was like.

What factors did you consider when choosing a pathway?

Luke: The main factor I considered was the content of the courses I was going to take. I preferred the sound of the A Level chemistry and further mathematics courses since they went far more in depth than the equivalent IB courses. This was more suitable for my future. The more rigid structure of the courses also suited my learning style.

Loulya: A major factor that influenced my decision to take the IB pathway was the coursework aspect in all the subjects. This was particularly attractive to me as it meant my final grade did not solely rely on my exam performance. Furthermore, the amount of independent study time in the A Level pathway did not appeal to me as I prefer the collaborative environment provided in classrooms.

How's your experience of Sixth Form been so far – both academic and beyond the classroom?

Luke: Sixth Form has certainly been challenging. With plenty of school work, college applications and extra-curriculars to keep me busy, there isn't ever a dull moment. However, I can say that I have enjoyed every moment of it. From trekking through the Himalayas and working at a medical camp with my friends, to undertaking an individual chemical synthesis project with the support of my teachers, the opportunities have been incredible. I've made friends with the most amazing people, taken the opportunity to lead events and students through the position of House Captain, and learnt plenty along the way, both in terms of subject knowledge and personal skills.

Loulya: My experience of Sixth Form so far has been balanced and enjoyable. Alongside my academics and school work, I have been involved in multiple school sports teams and extra-curricular clubs through Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS), which has allowed me to engage with the wider community of Singapore. For example, organising a fundraiser for my service trip to Cambodia at the end of Year 12 was one of the highlights of the year - witnessing the success of my team's hard work and effort was extremely rewarding.

How do you hope your decision will impact your future post-Tanglin?

Luke: I hope that my decision to take A Levels at Tanglin Sixth Form will provide me with the means to become the best engineer I can be. I hope to be knowledgeable about scientific and engineering principles, but also to have the skills needed to communicate to, connect with and inspire others. Although it has been just a stepping stone, it is one that I won't forget, and is certainly one that will provide many meaningful connections to me in the future.

Loulya: I hope that by choosing the IB Diploma, I graduate from Tanglin as a well-rounded student with all the qualities necessary for me to be successful at university. In particular, I believe that the IB will enable me to have the confidence in my own judgements and abilities, allowing me to lead an independent life beyond Tanglin.

Dulwich College Singapore

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.

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