Exams & Curriculum

The International Baccalaureate

In a country where educational choice is increasingly varied and far-reaching, many students and parents consider the International Baccalaureate option over the French Baccalaureat, Swiss Maturité or English A-Levels.  A myriad of factors affect the decision-making process. Certainly, as a parent to three girls, I am looking to provide them with a learning environment where they are most likely to succeed whilst promoting their mother-tongue language and developing additional languages. We talk about ‘third culture’ children and can empathise with those students growing up in an environment that is not that of their parents.  This is where the International Baccalaureate Diploma becomes particularly pertinent to today’s teenagers.

An increasing number of schools have begun to offer the International Baccalaureate Programme in the Lake Geneva region, evidently responding to the expectation of students to have a well-rounded international education.  To gain insight into the International Baccalaureate and discover more about the International Baccalaureate learner profile, I met with Lisa Raffy, International Baccalaureate Diploma Coordinator and International Baccalaureate English Literature teacher at the Institut International de Lancy.

What is the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme?

The International Baccalaureate Diploma is a six subject course.  Students must choose three subjects at Higher level and three at Standard, that is to say, one subject from each of the five groups as shown in the diagram and one-sixth subject of choice.  The whole IB carries a maximum score of 42 points, seven points for each subject.

In addition to this, students must also follow the Theory of Knowledge programme (TOK), designed to promote reflective learning and develop the students’ critical thinking skills.  This accounts for three bonus points, culminating in the International Baccalaureate maximum total of 45. Finally, a personal research project on a subject of their choice (Extended Essay) consolidates the learning process.

Lastly, in line with the International Baccalaureate ethos, students must fulfil 150 Creativity Action Service hours (CAS).  Students at IIL have been to Sri Lanka to help in an orphanage; they have actively participated in local conservation and aid events and have organised several charity balls for children in India.  An average International Baccalaureate timetable amounts to 42 contact hours per week with staff at IIL.

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How do you do well in the IB Diploma?

Success is readily attainable with a motivated, positive attitude and healthy work ethic.  Teachers motivate students to perform to the best of their ability.  The teaching team and the pupils form a learning community where the teacher is a guide.

A student willing to put the requisite effort into their studies will succeed.  Nevertheless, students are encouraged to work to their strengths identified in several ways; counselling, psychometric profiling, and IGCSE results contribute to providing an individual learner profile. At IIL, highly experienced and trained staff plot a pathway for each student.  We offer over 100 possible subject combinations and cater to a wide range of academic and linguistic aptitudes.

What workload can students expect in the IB?

A lot!  Students who can keep up with the workload and obtain commendable results may have to adapt their social life temporarily.  Work comes in peaks and troughs during the two International Baccalaureate Diploma years. The most important thing is not to become overwhelmed with work. I always say to students: ‘Spread your workload and stay on top of deadlines. Don’t wait until the last minute to begin!’

Where can students study once they have passed their International Baccalaureate diploma?

Everywhere! The Diploma Programme is a good predictor of success at university. The skills that students learn during their Diploma years prepare them for further studies and life in general. Nevertheless, before moving on to Higher Education, students are encouraged to research their choice of university as different countries have varied criteria.

For example, Geneva University does not recognise Business Management or Mathematical Studies.

I want to study in Switzerland afterwards. How many points do I need to get in my International Baccalaureate?

Much will depend on where in Switzerland you plan to study.  Each university website will have an

‘Admissions’ page, which states the entrance requirements. For example, UNIGE asks for a minimum of 32 points (with bonus points) and insists that students study Science or Maths at Higher Level.

How difficult is it to obtain a good pass?

You can obtain a good pass with a mindful and realistic selection of the six subject groups, often influenced by the students’ IGCSE results (International General Certificate of Education). Nevertheless, without student commitment, they may compromise their predicted grade.  Family support plays an essential role, and we encourage parents to show an active and engaged interest in their child’s studies, particularly regarding IAs (Internal Assessment coursework).  Staff at IIL are readily available to discuss any concerns parents may have about their child’s progress and results.

Do all students who wish to attend a UK university have to apply through UCAS?

Yes.  UCAS stands for ‘The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service’.  It is a centralised admissions system for British institutes of higher education, and every student must follow their rigorous enrolment process.

I want to study medicine in the UK.  What do you recommend?

To study Medicine, a student really should be very good at Sciences. Therefore, the more renowned UK universities will expect to see HL Biology and Chemistry.

How does the International Baccalaureate help prepare a student for the future, whether that is in Tertiary education or in professional life?

The International Baccalaureate prepares students for success at university and life beyond. It provides a well-rounded education designed to enable students to gain confidence in their abilities.  IB students become free-thinking and enjoy excellent preparation for peer collaboration and teamwork.  Students are encouraged to become reflective learners with multiple skilled approaches to life.

John Prince, English International Secondary Principal at IIL, sums up the International Baccalaureate global approach by reminding me that school provides a context for academic, social and emotional development. However, the real work comes from the student. And therein lies the secret to every students’ success.

The International Baccalaureate appears to tick all the boxes.  In addition to the breadth of Upper Secondary education offered, their mission statement encourages students to become ‘inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.’ What more could any parent wish for?

For further information, please refer to the International Baccalaureate official website at:
http://www.ibo.org/diploma/

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