The International Baccalaureate

April 2, 2014

The International Baccalaureate

Natalie Adams Perrin & Lisa Raffy – Institut International de Lancy

The International Baccalaureate Buzz (and beyond)

In a country where educational choice is increasingly varied and far-reaching, many students and parents are considering the International Baccalaureate option over the French Baccalaureat, Swiss Maturité or English A-Levels.  A myriad of factors affect the decision making process, and 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.  After all, here in Geneva, you will be hard pushed to find a teenager who ‘only’ speaks two languages.  We talk about ‘third culture’ children and can empathise with those students who are growing up in an environment which 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 increasing demand for 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.

Can you provide us with an outline of what the International Baccalaureate entails?

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 total is marked out of 42 points; seven points for each subject.
In addition to this, students must also follow the Theory of Knowledge programme (TOK) which is 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.  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).  In the past, 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.

A special kind of education

With a motivated, positive attitude and healthy work ethic, success is readily attainable.  Teachers motivate students to perform to the best of their ability.  The teaching team and the pupils together form a learning community where the teacher is guide.
A student who is willing to put the requisite effort into their studies will succeed.  Nevertheless, students are encouraged to work to their strengths which are identified in a number of ways; counselling, psychometric profiling and IGCSE results all contribute to provide 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 are able to cater for a wide range of academic and linguistic aptitudes.

What workload can students expect over the two years?

A lot!  Students able to keep up with the workload and obtain commendable results may find they have to temporarily adapt their social life though.  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.  It is recognised and respected by the world’s leading universities.  The skills that students learn during their Diploma years not only prepares them for further studies, but for life in general. Nevertheless, prior to 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.  Careful research is required as universities demand different thresholds for points.

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 Science or Maths is studied at Higher Level.

How difficult is it to obtain a good pass?

A good pass can be obtained with 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, their predicted grade may be compromised.  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. 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 very well-rounded education, designed to enable students to gain confidence in their own ability.  They think outside the box and are exceptionally well prepared for peer collaboration and teamwork.  Students are encouraged to become reflective learners with a multiple skilled approach 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 but 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 to 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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