The benefits of studying the International Baccalaureate
“What has inspired me the most about the IB is its ability to encourage students to become internationally minded”
As students start to plan their future, choosing the right upper school curriculum is often a difficult decision to make. Faced with so many options, from A-levels to the International Baccalaureate (IB) or even the American Advanced Placement (AP) or high school diploma, the question is which one is the best fit for their abilities? And which one will more likely lead to a good degree?
I wish there was a simple answer, but it just depends on what type of student they are. Whether a good all-rounder who enjoys studying a wide range of subjects and rises to the challenge of investigative projects and exams like in the IB, or perhaps they are a more analytical mindset who prefers time to ponder their work with a curriculum focused on fewer subjects and graded more equally on coursework and exams like some A levels and the AP or whether no exams at all like the high school diploma.
“However, with a multitude of options catering for different abilities, requirements and ambitions, the good news is there is potentially a pathway for everyone”
While A-levels are academically renowned and held in high regard by universities and colleges around the world, and AP and the high school diploma in the US and Canada, I would like to explore the benefits that the IB offers. Currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, the two-year programme requires students to take a compulsory six subjects, encouraging them to become well principled, independent, critical thinkers who are not afraid to take risks. These attributes challenge students to think beyond subject-based learning outcomes and are fundamental for helping them prepare for higher education and future career opportunities.
Throughout my career, I have led international schools all around the world, overseeing students studying a range of international curriculums. For the last 18 years, I’ve worked for the International Baccalaureate as a Workshop Leader and Site Evaluator.
From my varied experience, what has inspired me the most about the IB, is its ability to encourage students to become internationally minded, by giving them the opportunity to explore and understand global cultures, attitudes and values. I believe this provides them with the foundational basis for challenges they may face later in life, such as how to manage issues that have a local and global relevance and significance.
“Over the years I’ve been asked many questions about the IB: whether universities, especially in the UK and US, will accept students who study it?”
Does it have the same academic reputation as A levels? The answer is yes. The IB enjoys a high level of respect and recognition among universities globally and is a good option to help students secure the right university or college place. In fact, The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) published research that explored the onward educational performance of 1.2 million students who studied A levels and 48,700 students who took the IB diploma between 2007 and 2013.
The results showed that IB students had a 57% greater likelihood of attending one of the top 20 UK universities than students who studied traditional A Levels. In addition, US Ivy League Universities including Princeton and Stanford recently endorsed the IB, citing it had a positive influence on student performance and expectations.
Overall, the IB offers significant educational and developmental benefits for students. By nurturing intellectual curiosity, the programme enables them to embrace a broad set of skills and attributes. These provide a strong foundational basis to help them prepare for higher education, future career and beyond.
About the author: Bryan Nixon has been Head of School at The American School in England (TASIS) since June 2017. Before that, he has led international schools in locations as varied as the Bahamas, Germany, and the United States.