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International Baccalaureate School: How It Differs From the British Curriculum

International Baccalaureate School: How It Differs From the British Curriculum


Education is a crucial part of a child’s development. Not only does it serve as the foundation for their careers, but it also affects how well they can handle the “real” world.

You’ll have many great options when choosing a school for your children. However, your decision will begin with selecting the curriculum you want them to follow.

This article discusses the International Baccalaureate (IB) educational framework, providing an overview and explaining how the curriculum differs from the British schools.


What is international baccalaureate education?

The International Baccalaureate program is a globally established curriculum that specialises in teaching students to become ready to immerse in the international scene.

It is a high school framework that also serves as a widely respected college prep course that inculcates broad thinking and open-mindedness beyond geographic boundaries.

In essence, the IB curriculum teaches young people to see themselves as members of the international society. As such, it focuses on six areas of learning:

  • Language and Literature
  • Language acquisition
  • Individuals and societies
  • Experimental sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Computer science
  • Arts

Aside from these, IB schools also have three core elements that make the program more well-rounded than other curricula:

  • The Theory of Knowledge (TOK), a course that tackles the nature of a subject
  • Creativity, Activity, and Service (CAS), which involves outside-the-classroom learning
  • The Extended Essay (EE),which is a 4,000-word piece that reflects the student’s ability to self-direct, plan, and complete a research project

Out of the six foundation subjects of the IB program, three are studied at a higher level. This is considered equivalent to university work, which explains why the curriculum is also deemed a college prep program.

To get college credit, IB students must get five out of seven points on their exams. Once they do, they gain recognition from most colleges, thanks to the academic strength of the educational framework.


What is the British curriculum?

As the name suggests, the British curriculum is a school program first introduced and used across the United Kingdom. It begins with the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), equivalent to the American school’s kindergarten and preparatory levels.

From there, students progress through Key Stages (KS), each divided into Years. After Reception at age 3, pupils gradually move up through each Year and KS, as shown below:

  • Key Stage 1
    • Year 1 – 5 to 6 years old
    • Year 2 – 6 to 7 years old
  • Key Stage 2
    • Year 3 – 7 to 8 years old
    • Year 4 – 8 to 9 years old
    • Year 5 – 9 to 10 years old
    • Year 6 – 10 to 11 years old
  • Key Stage 3
    • Year 7 – 11 to 12 years old
    • Year 8 – 12 to 13 years old
    • Year 9 – 13 to 14 years old
  • Key Stage 4
    • Year 10 – 14 to 15 years old
    • Year 11 – 15 to 16 years old
  • Key Stage 5
    • Year 12 – 16 to 17 years old
    • Year 13 – 17 to 18 years old

Upon reaching Year 7 (KS 3), students between 11 and 12 years old begin their secondary education and until the age of 16 (KS 4, Year 11). At this stage, the students take the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) exam that covers eight to 10 subjects.

If they pass, they can proceed to the Advanced Level (A-Level) test at KS 5, which is a crucial certification for their college education.


What are the advantages of IB education?

If you choose among the IB schools in Abu Dhabi for your child’s education, you can look forward to the following benefits:


International recognition

This is probably the most obvious advantage of the International Baccalaureate curriculum. After all, it’s already stated in its name.

The IB framework is recognised across more than 4,000 schools across the globe. Although the A-Level also has a certain level of global acknowledgement, its primary focus is to usher a student into British universities.


Global preparedness

Graduates of IB schools also tend to be more prepared for an increasingly globalised world. This is the very core of the curriculum.

Although it is more famous as a college preparatory program, IB education can begin as early as three years old. In fact, schools following this framework can also offer the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP), which engages students in real-world issues. Doing so develops students’ analytical and critical thinking skills and teaches a deeper appreciation and understanding of world affairs.


Open-minded learning

The broad education offered in IB schools helps students become well-rounded individuals with open minds. This is achieved across all six subjects the educational framework covers, as well as its theoretical and real-world learning courses (TOK, CAS, and EE).

A survey of university admission officers in the United Kingdom even shows IB’s advantage over the British A-Level program in certain aspects, including:

  • Independent inquiry
  • Workplace skills
  • Self-management skills
  • Global outlook
  • Intercultural skills


What does the British curriculum entail?

The British curriculum may have a more UK-centric approach to learning, but it does provide a robust and balanced education to its students.

Even if it was developed for England, the British GCE A-Level system tends to offer more knowledge content to its students compared to the IB. It also has more textbook-oriented learning, which incorporates graded tests that are administered by external bodies for greater trust in the results.

Moreover, England’s national curriculum is lauded for being student-centric, thanks to the variety of options and the nurturing environment given to the pupils. It encourages the children to choose focus subjects upon reaching a certain stage that they can specialise in, which is also an effective way of preparing them for higher learning.


Make an Informed Choice

While both the IB and British curricula are rigorous, there’s much debate about which program is better. Choosing between these educational frameworks can be tricky since both have their own advantages. The only way you can is to match it with your child’s preferences, needs, interests, and goals.

Excited about the online enrolment in Gems World Academy Abu Dhabi? Make sure you have all the information you need to make an informed choice. Let this article guide you through the decision-making process.


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