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What are the differences between the UK National Curriculum and the International Baccalaureate?

Within the British School system there are two educational frameworks available to students: the International Baccalaureate (IB) and the UK National Curriculum (UK Curriculum). Whilst both curricula have their merits, the ‘better’ curriculum is the one that best fits an individual’s learning abilities.


The Approach

The UK Curriculum favours a more structured approach and consistent approach to education, within which teachers produce interesting and inspiring lessons to encourage the expansion of pupils’ knowledge, understanding and skills. There are set subjects and guidelines enabling students to learn and be assessed within a standardised framework.

The main emphasis of the IB programme is to develop a ‘human learner’ and ‘global citizen’. A ‘child-led’ learning approach, the IB aims to encourage both the personal and academic development of students, with a greater focus on independent learning. Teachers deliver ideas-based learning, which is interdisciplinary across subjects and languages. Students are encouraged to think critically and ‘inquire’ about the world around them.

 

The Stages and Subjects

UK Curriculum:

Key Stage 1 & 2: Primary Education, age 3-11

Key Stage 3: Secondary Education, age 11-14

Key Stage 4: Secondary Education, age 14-16 (GCSEs)

Key Stage 5: Secondary Education, age 16-18 (A Levels)

Students study 12 ‘core’ subjects, with a focus on English, Maths and Science, and other ‘foundation’ subjects. During Key Stage 4, pupils sit their General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE), an internationally recognised scholastic qualification awarded in each specific subject.

Students aged 16-18 years have the opportunity to study for Advanced Level (A Level) qualifications, selecting any three or four subjects to study. This approach would therefore suit students who have varied strengths and weaknesses, as there are no compulsory subjects.

 

IB:

Primary Years Programme, age 3-12

Middle Years Programme, age 11-16

IB Diploma Programme, age 16-18

Students study seven subjects, Maths being compulsory and introducing a language from age seven. Providing a broader range of subjects, this system suits those with abilities in many areas, and therefore opens up the breadth of choices for tertiary study.

 

The Qualifications

The IB Middle Years Programme is not as highly regarded or internationally recognised as the UK Curriculum GCSE, which has been established for longer. However, the IB Diploma Programme can be seen as a more difficult qualification than the UK Curriculum A Level, as students that succeed in the IB are ‘all-rounders’ – with strengths in each subject area. It is therefore more respected by Universities. This is particularly apparent in the United States, where achieving above a certain score in the IB Diploma Programme may enable a student to skip a pre-requisite year of University studies.

Increasingly, British Independent Schools are leaning towards the IB, however schools such as Eton and Cheltenham Ladies’ College are likely to stay rooted in the traditional British academic style.

For IB students entering UK Curriculum-based schools before the age of 11, the difference in curricula would not restrict entry. Transferring from the IB into the secondary years of the UK Curriculum is also achievable, however students may struggle with both the unfamiliar assessment style of the entrance exams and the transition to a new mode of study at this stage.

For more information and help deciding whether the UK Curriculum or IB Diploma is the correct choice for either you or your child, please contact our Education Consultancy team on 020 7034 0800.

 

About Holland Park

Established in London in 2004, and now with offices in Dubai (2013) and Hong Kong (2017), Holland Park Tuition & Education Consultants helps hundreds of pupils prepare for and enter British schools and universities. Holland Park work with over 800 families per year and in 2017 students have won places at schools such as Westminster, Eton and Cheltenham Ladies College, and universities including LSE, Oxford and Cambridge. Holland Park have over 300 highly experienced and trained British teachers. Through our online school, the Holland Park eAcademy, we handle students’ complete education with full A Level and GCSE courses, as well as enabling our teachers to prepare students anywhere in the world.

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