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How does the British Curriculum compare to the International Baccalaureate?
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Choosing the right school is one of the most important decisions you will make. You need to be informed about the quality of the school to which you will send your child and the curriculum they follow.
What are the advantages of the International Baccalaureate (IB) system and how does it stacks up against more traditional frameworks such as the British GCE A Level system? 

Internationally-recognized curriculum

The first and most apparent advantage of the International Baccalaureate is in the name – “International.” The IB is recognized worldwide in over 4,000 schools, while the A Levels are designed primarily for entry into British universities – though they also have certain international recognition. Even in the arena of UK university admissions, though, IB Diploma Programme graduates have an advantage – they have a 57% higher chance of attending one of the UK’s top 20 universities than A-Levels graduates do.

Academic success

Compared to A-Levels students, International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) graduates are more likely to exhibit improved success in academic fields. For example, 23% of IBDP students get a first-class degree, compared with 19% of their A-Levels counterparts. In addition, 30% of DP students attend postgraduate studies, in contrast to only 15% of A-Levels students. 

On average, IBDP students also earn more than A-Levels graduates. One example given is that of Mathematical Sciences degree holders – IBDP graduates with this degree earned a salary of £30,000, compared to £22,000 for A-Levels graduates.

Better prepared for the globalized future

IB students are well-prepared for a future in an increasingly globalized world. This is notable across all aspects of the curriculum. For example, in the International Baccalaureate’s Primary Years Programme (PYP), taught from ages 3-12 years, content in the curriculum is divided into “Units of Inquiry,” which are driven by a Central Idea that engages with real-world issues. This approach develops critical thinking, analytical skills, and knowledge and appreciation of world affairs.

Meanwhile, for comparison, the British GCE A Level system was developed for England and used by certain Commonwealth countries. It presents a more focused, UK-centric approach to education. Students taking the A Levels will find a more focused curriculum, outlined by taking “Advanced Levels” in each subject for which they desire qualifications. A Levels are typically found to provide more knowledge content than the IB and feature lots of textbook-oriented learning centered on memorization and examinations. In addition, examinations are administered and graded by external bodies rather than within the school, which is associated with a greater trust in the results.

As the A Levels are British-focused, they don’t provide as much of a global outlook as the IB. And even though the IB arguably provides less “knowledge” over the course of an education, it works better with providing students with the faculties for critical thinking and independent inquiry. Furthermore, the value of memorization, and textbook-based learning has been questionable as of late, with formulas, dates, historical events, and the like easily searchable on Google.

Open-minded, lifelong learners

Another advantage is that the IBDP program fosters a more open-minded and well-rounded student. It provides a broad education spread across six subject groups, a course on the theory of knowledge, a 4000-word essay, and a “Creativity, Activity, or Service” project that has students engage in real tasks outside the classroom. Similarly, the other programs for younger students include:

  • Various areas of study.
  • Collaborative nature of study.
  • An objective for students to become internationally minded.

This broad education has resulted in a marked difference in DP students versus A-Level students, as observed in a UK University Admissions Officers survey. According to them, the IB Diploma has a significant advantage over the A-Levels in:

  • Encouraging independent inquiry
  • Developing workplace skills
  • Nurturing an open mind
  • Developing self-management skills
  • Encouraging a global outlook
  • Developing intercultural skills

A Great IB School in Bern

A solid curriculum isn’t the be-all and end-all of education. It must be paired with a quality school to have the maximum effect on students. The International School of Berne (ISBerne) is a fully accredited International Baccalaureate® (IB) World School providing education for students aged 3 to 18 in Switzerland’s capital. Since 1961, our private day school has had a long-standing reputation for innovative and highly qualified teachersworld-class facilitiesa diverse community, and excellent academic results.


Learn more about our curriculum




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