Over the last few years, International Baccalaureate (IB) schools have sprung up in every nook and corner of the country. From one IB school in 1976 (KIS, Tamil Nadu), today there are over 80 schools offering the IB programme.
So, what makes the IB curriculum different from the state and central boards and other international qualifications? Evolving as an independent thinker (over rote learners) is the key to success in this globalised world. With out-of-box subject matters such as TOK (Theory of Knowledge) and CAS (Creativity Activity Service) the IB curriculum revitalises these very skills in students.
23-year-old IB student, Prateek Kaul, reflects, “The extended essay, which is required by every IB student is parallel to a mini thesis, and lets the college rank you beyond your abilities to take a test. This kind of system also works well for students who have disabilities.”
Similarly, the A Levels are known to be more comprehensive and provide better understanding of subjects as compared to local state boards. “A Level stands for Advanced Level which is your plus two qualifications from UK offered by the University of Cambridge International Examinations. A Levels are accepted in more than 160 countries worldwide including India. The global acceptance of A Levels is due to its high standard of education which is application based and upgraded from time to time. It caters to today’s generations, maintaining the uniformity in the curriculum world-wide. Students of A Levels study career focussed subjects (three subjects and English language) which have a smooth transition with a link to academics to their further education to the universities for various undergraduate programmes,” states Dr Kishor Pillai, Principal, RIMS International School, Mumbai.
If studying abroad is on your agenda, you would get advanced college credit when you arrive at a US university. For instance, the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will waive college level Calculus I or Physics for students who achieve a six or seven in their IB Math or Physics subjects. (There are also a few colleges which would give you college credit for even a score of five in your IB subjects). So besides the quality of education and learning experience, if you manage to do well in all your IB subjects you could just shrink the four-year US degree into three or three and a half years. Furthermore, many universities abroad will view students in a more competitive light if they have taken three or more A Level subjects and do exceptionally well in them.
Colleges abroad, predominantly in the US, are well aware of the evolving and elevating curriculum of IB and A Levels. As a result many colleges give special preference to students who study in IB schools or take extra A Level subjects. “Students who opt for A levels and IB are generally more hardworking as they voluntarily opt for a more challenging curriculum. Besides, we are more confident of the quality of the education imparted as we know these boards have to meet certain prescribed international standards,” mentions an admission official from Columbia University, New York. There are universities across the UK that refrain from enrolling students who have studied at local state boards, and such colleges will only accept the A Level or IB qualification. For example, the London School of Economics, Oxford University and Cambridge University clearly state that they will not accept students from India who have done local boards but will instead prefer candidates who have A Level or IB scores. Hence, if any of these places is your dream school, then you really have no choice but to pursue IB or A Levels.
It is important to understand that not everyone who studies the IB or A Levels goes abroad. There are many students who pursue their high school (11th and 12th grades) through these boards and then opt to study in India itself. Many of the Indian universities will recognise these qualifications and let you join them for the Bachelor’s degree. However, your choice of subjects will be very important because you cannot choose geography and economics and then try to join an engineering college in India. Hence, play it safe and choose subjects which will have value in India as well as abroad.
Since there are around 80 schools in India offering the IB programme to students, it’s safe to assume that around 3,000 Indian students appear for the IB Diploma each year. The number is similar for students appearing for the A Level exams. In stark comparison we have around 13.3 lakh students (in Maharashtra) appearing for the HSC local exams each year. Naturally, the cheaper and more easily available HSC exams are a convenient choice for students. There are around 20,000 or more undergraduate students applying to study abroad each year and hence a majority of these students are from the HSC background. So, even if you land up with the HSC curriculum, you will have ample choice when you decide to study abroad. The IB curriculum or A Levels qualifications are great options for students who have done very well academically in their past and can handle the pressure from these demanding and challenging boards. No matter which board you choose – an international board such as the IB or A Levels or the local Indian boards like the HSC or ISC, make sure you do your homework well and don’t just follow the herd.
Oxford University and Cambridge University clearly state that they will not accept students from India who have done local boards but will instead prefer candidates who have the A level or IB scores
Name of School City Fees
Ecole Mondiale School Mumbai Rs. 8.90 lakh
Kodaikanal International Kokaikanal Rs. 7.62 lakh
RIMS International Mumbai, Pune Rs. 4.00 lakh
British School New Delhi Rs. 6.71 lakh
The International Bangalore Rs. 6.70 lakh
Mahindra World Pune Rs. 9.00 lakh