Students entering the competitive, 21st-century workplace are facing an increasingly complex set of expectations from employers. However, traditional academic routes are leaving them unequipped to meet.
The rapidly digitalising world creates both opportunity and uncertainty. Schools and universities must produce graduates who can adapt to the changing world. They must also understand how to apply the skills they’ve learnt to real-world, work-related challenges.
Educators are waking up to this discrepancy. With the launch of the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme (IBCP) in January 2016, students welcome a more holistic educational experience that aims to create well-rounded, career-ready learners. More than 141 schools in 23 countries now offer the IBCP – so what makes this course so desirable?
What is the IBCP?
The IBCP is a two-year programme for students between the ages of 16-19. The IBCP draws on the academic rigour of the core IB model in combination with career-related study and real-world experience. The programme comes in three parts: courses from the IB’s Diploma Programme (DP), the CP core and career-related study.
Students must take a minimum of two courses from the IB’s traditional Diploma Programme (DP). The idea behind this is to provide a theoretical basis to the CP, giving a solid grounding in the IB’s core academic subjects, including sciences, mathematics and the arts, among others.
To complement and provide context to students’ DP courses, the CP core emphasises experiential learning to develop their personal and professional skills. In addition, it aims to equip students with the necessary interpersonal and problem-solving abilities, which are desirable in the workplace and ensure their adaptability to an ever-evolving world.
Which elements does the IBCP Involve?
- Personal and professional skills: This focuses on developing students’ attitudes and interpersonal skills in readiness for the workplace.
- Service learning: A research-based module where students apply what they’ve learnt to a community need.
- Reflective project: An in-depth piece of work to help students analyse and relfect their career-based learning. They base this around identifying and analysing an ethical issue which has arisen during the course.
- Language development: This module demands that students develop their communication skills in a second language. This is in-keeping with the IB’s international status
The third part is the vocational career-related study, in conjunction with an external study provider. For example, schools might offer study choices such as Marketing, Business, Hospitality, or Art and Design. As a result, students have the freedom to explore industries in which they may already have an interest. They have opportunities to gain practical, insightful exposure to the working environment.
This varies considerably from school to school, as most schools develop bespoke IB-accredited courses together with local institutions. For example, at the College du Lèman, students have a choice of Hospitality, taught in collaboration with Les Roches in Valais. Or, Sustainability Management, taught in collaboration with the Sustainability Management School (SUMAS) in Gland, Vaud. For both career-related courses, students spend five weeks during the two-year programme at the partner institution.
At Les Roches, students study and practice the basics of hospitality, including working on the service desk, catering and banqueting and hotel services, and visiting local businesses that supply the luxury hospitality industry. At SUMAS, students follow lectures around sustainability, including eco-tourism, conservation and management of wetlands, international business and biodiversity, alongside participating in nature conservation projects around the Suisse Romande area.
Schools assess the IBCP programme internally over the two years, predominantly through project-based coursework and traditional IB-assessed examinations.
Why choose the IBCP?
The IBCP offers students a plethora of advantages through its personalised, interdisciplinary approach to learning. The course factors in students’ interests and strengths, encouraging self-confidence and fostering enjoyment in learning.
“It really allows students to play to their strengths, focus on the things they are good at, and really access success.”Alexandra Juniper, DP and CP coordinator at the International School of Geneva’s Campus des Nations (Ecolint)
The course teachers play an active role in guiding students in their course selection. They base it on their interests and objectives. IBCP course holders believe that when students choose subjects they love, they are more likely to excel.
The natural outcome of this is that students feel more engaged and in tune with their studies. Students can emerge from the course having created their own sunglasses or having created art in Augmented Reality (AR). Students can really enjoy the wider variety of options on offer under the BTEC course umbrellas.
“You have more freedom with the IBCP, with only having Business or Art and Design you can choose what you actually like doing.”Clara – currently halfway through her CP programme
This focus on student-centric learning is embodied through the programme assessment, which is mostly in the form of project-based coursework. Again, this allows students to tailor their studies to issues and areas that they enjoy, rather than pigeonhole them into learning subjects by rote for examinations. In addition, the course takes a progressive step in recognising that not all pupils respond well to traditional exams; many are more likely to excel through project work.
Personal Input and Exploration
Students welcome the flexibility this offers.
“The advantages of the IBCP are definitely having more coursework and the length of time given to complete a project. The way they teach and assess the course is so much more open to interpretation. You can also put a lot more effort into your work, and I really liked that.”Freya – Former Ecolint Student
Students’ exposure to real-world situations develops an understanding and appreciation of the workplace and their chosen industry more generally. Linking academic-based classes with practical examples means that students see their learning as relevant to the problems and issues of the outside world and their future life, helping to broaden their horizons. It also exposes them to areas of work that they may realise they have a talent for.
“It has helped me to explore and develop my art skills. I’ve discovered many things that I didn’t know I was good at and skills I didn’t know I had. I now know that I want to do something related to art.”Clara
The beauty of the IBCP course is that it can prepare students for a wide variety of options after high school. The programme develops a transferable and life-long skillset that prepares students for further education, apprenticeships, or straight into employment. The duality of the IBCP course and the breadth of experience offered will be an advantage for students seeking to go on to university.
“Students who have already decided that they would like to go on to further education in their field will have a broad experience in both the practical and theoretical side,” she says.Julie Hutchins, CP Coordinator at Collège du Léman
What are the options after the IBCP?
As a result of the IBCP programme, graduates have found that universities and higher education institutions value the skills, experience and qualifications gained during the course. Universities recognise the academic rigour of the DP aspect of the programme. At the same time, the international outlook and vocational teaching give students a portfolio of relevant skills which they can continue to grow.
In keeping with the aims of the course, most graduates of the IBCP go on to continue in an area that they were exposed to (and inspired by) during their studies. Examples of graduate paths from Ecolint include further education in a diverse, international mix of practical, artistic and academic courses, including Film at the Met Film School London, Fine Art at Ecole Condé Lyon, Hospitality Management at IHTTI Neuchâtel, Business and Management at the University of Reading and Cyber Security at Highline College Des Moines (WA).
Sam, who has been offered a place to study at the prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design, saw the IBCP as the first stepping stone in the journey towards his dream job. It also allowed him to access financial help to study.
“My next step is to further develop my skills in graphic design and film and hopefully get a job in the film industry,” he says. When I was applying to university, I found out that the IBCP programme is eligible for scholarships. Just by attending the classes”.Sam – Savannah College of Art and Design student
Do universities accept IBCP qualification?
A strong focus on building relationships with world-class local institutions as qualification providers has meant that many IBCP students have gone on to study further with the organisations that they undertook their career-related studies. These institutions have already invested in producing high-quality high-school graduates. This means that they can ensure the student’s calibre, experience and skill set for ongoing education. So, for example, while Sam went on to study at Ecolint’s partner organisation in providing BTEC Art and Design qualifications, other graduates have been offered places by Les Roches School of Hospitality Management and SUMAS.
Graduates from the IBCP also find that they are well-equipped for further learning.
“The BTEC and IBCP course really prepared me for university. I’ve got a 2:1 in my first year, and I’m hoping to continue learning and improving. Maybe even go on to do a master’s degree”.Nat – studied at the College of Art in Plymouth after studying BTEC Art and Design.
On the more practical side, graduates have found that they are confident in understanding work-related requirements.
“The BTEC really was the right choice; it really prepared me in the business aspect, including CVs.”Nat
Is the IBCP a good curriculum?
It may still be slightly too early to give a full picture of how these graduates will fare in later life. However, the course creates engaged students with enthusiasm for learning, and an eagerness to develop themselves. This is already a huge step forward in addressing the challenges of modern education. Narrow specialities are being disregarded in favour of broader, more adaptable skills. This will surely equip graduates to address future problems from a broader, more imaginative perspective. The IBCP is a bold, progressive step, and it’s encouraging to see world-class schools, universities and employers leading the way.
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