5 Ways the IB Trumps the O’ and A’ Levels

Dear Parents,

I’m sure that some of you have considered enrolling your children in an IB (International Baccalaureate) school or at least wanted to find out more about the IB programme.

Having taught in both systems (the A’ Levels and the IB Diploma Programme), I would like to offer my humble perspective.

The O’ and A’ Level programmes do have their benefits. They train students in recall skills and analysis of questions. They also hone students’ time management skills as they have to be able to answer questions under time pressure. With drill and practice, students can excel in the assessments for these programmes.

However, in the IB programme, particularly the Diploma programme, the assessments demand a lot more but in the long run, the IB framework does benefit students more than the O' or A' Level examinations. Here are 5 ways in which students would benefit from the IB programme as they learn how to:

  1. Formulate Robust Arguments

Aside from pen-and-paper tests administered under timed conditions, the IB programme also requires students to write mini-theses as part of their coursework. In doing so, they learn how to formulate and substantiate solid arguments and in the process, evaluate their own beliefs and preconceptions about themselves and the world around them.

  1. Develop Strong Oral Communication Skills

As part of their everyday tasks as well as graded assessments, students frequently engage in oral presentations. Often, as part of these presentations, students are required to answer questions fielded to them on the spot. Therefore, strong communication skills (both written and verbal) are needed.

  1. Work on Meaningful Projects Beyond the Classroom

IB students embark on independent projects, including those that serve the communities. As an IB teacher, I mentored groups of students who took the initiative to choose an organization (for eg. a charitable or non-governmental organization) that they wanted to work with so that they could serve their community.

  1.  Inherit Solid Research Skills

Since research skills are part of the bedrock of the IB programme, students are required to have knowledge of how to do research and how to cite their research in their assignments even before they enter university.

  1. Practising Deeper Thinking

The level of thinking is also deeper in the IB. It is not enough to excel with knowledge of superficial concepts. Since one of the aims of the IB is to prepare students to be global citizens, they are exposed to a wide variety of cultural contexts, for example in the literary texts that they read. Instead of chasing "the right answers", one of the things that IB students learn to do is to ask "the right questions" that will prompt greater discussion of topics and subjects.

The IB programme is not perfect. Admittedly, it is stressful because students are expected to master numerous skills and they are also being tested ALL the time and throughout the year.

Suffice to say, the IB programme is not just preparing students for short-term examinations. It is aimed at preparing students for life, where they will become global citizens and thinkers.

The reality is that in Singapore, only a small percentage of students will have the opportunity to study in an IB institution. And even if children do gain admittance to an IB school, will they be sufficiently prepared for its demands? Do our local schools adequately prepare our students for these demands?

Not all the time.

What can you as a parent do now to ensure that your children reap some of the benefits of an IB education?

Supplement your child’s current education with classes or learning environments that:

1. Enable them to think and answer questions on the spot
2. Use their creativity and critical thinking skills to formulate solutions to problems
3. Train them to express themselves confidently and persuasively in writing and speech

On a separate note, if any of you would like to discuss the option of an IB education for your children, drop me an email and I’d be happy to be of service. 😀

Yours in partnership,