Post-16 education can be hard to navigate. Gone are the days of moving straight from GCSEs to A Levels; there are a lot of other options available these days, and a wide variety of further education facilities as well. One of the main questions parents seem to have is regarding the International Baccalaureate Diploma, and how this is different from A Levels. Which is better for your child, and which will get them further in life? Read on for some key points to consider.
The IB Diploma is for students aged 16-18 and comprises a broad curriculum of six subject groups. As a general rule students will choose three at a higher level and three at a standard level.
The six subject groups are:
Studies in Language & Literature
Individuals and Societies
Each subject is graded from 1-7, with 7 being the highest. The pass mark for the IB Diploma is 24 points, which equates to 260 UCAS points, as well as successful completion of the Core requirements which carry an additional 3 points.
The compulsory Core element comprises an Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge and an evaluation of the student’s CAS (Creativity, Action and Service).
The maximum achievable score for the IB Diploma therefore is 45 points. The IB Diploma is
For A Levels students will usually choose 3 or 4 subjects and study these over 2 years. Since September 2016, A/S Levels have been removed, meaning that students can’t take the first half of an A Level in their first year and follow this up with the second half the following year. Now all A Level exams take place at the end of the second year of study. A Levels are graded with letters, from A* to E.
IB or A Levels; which is best?
Neither type of qualification is better than the other; it really comes down to which is better for the student. A Levels allow a narrowing of focus to 3 or 4 key areas which are learned in depth, whereas the IB Diploma has a wider knowledge base. The IB is not a newcomer to education; it was actually first introduced in the 1960s. One key advantage it has over A Levels is that it is taught around the world, whereas A Levels are taught only in the UK.
That said, for those students who have a strong idea of what they want to study at university and pursue as a career, A Levels can be a good way to begin to narrow that educational focus. After all, if a student has gained reasonable GCSE grades in core subjects and now wants to pursue a career in the arts or humanities, will studying sciences and mathematics for an additional two years really be of benefit to them? Similarly a student who has no interest in the arts or humanities and dreams of becoming a scientist will be glad to drop subjects such as arts and humanities.
As with many educational questions, there is no right or wrong answer here; for some students A Levels will be a good fit; others will benefit from continuing that broader educational base for a while longer.