IB, A levels or Maturite?

IB, A levels or Maturité?

International Baccalaureate was originally introduced to cater for the growing number of international students, who did not want an education tied up to any national system. Since its establishment in the sixties, it has been gradually gaining popularity and in 2016 almost 150,000 students graduated with IB Diploma or from the career related programme. The trend reflects a change in perception that IB is not just for the children of constantly moving diplomats, but for any student who wants a broader education.

To complete the IB Diploma programme, students need to take 6 subjects, three of which at the higher level. The subjects are chosen from 6 subject groups: studies in language and literature, language acquisition, individuals and societies, sciences, mathematics and arts.

In addition, students take the course in the theory of knowledge, write an extended essay and participate in the non-examined “creativity, action and service” module, which focuses on the art, sport and community service. Each subject is graded out of maximum of 7 points. Further three points can be awarded for combined theory of knowledge and essay.

Thus, IB provides a broad, rounded education, designed to equip its students for demands of increasingly global world.

In contrast, for A-levels, a UK qualification, students study only 3 or 4 subjects, which can be chosen from the same area of knowledge. For example math, further math, physics and chemistry. The subjects are studied in a lot of depth and allow students to specialise quite early on. The downside of this approach is that it narrows the choice of university degrees afterwards. Having done A levels in humanities, a student will not be able to do a science degree.

Swiss Maturité, on the other hand, gives a very broad education. Federal Maturité consists of 12 subjects, including 3 or 4 languages, chemistry, physics, biology, maths, history, geography and a project. Only approximately 20% of Swiss population have Maturité qualification. Failure of one of the subjects means that all 12 subjects need to be re-taken the next year. Students who pass the Maturité, even with the low scores, get admitted to the university of their choice without entry examinations (some particularly popular subjects, like medicine, may still require entry examinations). However, 20% to 50% of students fail their first year at university.

Swiss Maturite is the best qualification for entry to the Swiss universities, but it is less known by the universities abroad. Many universities find it difficult to navigate the cantonal differences and often require very high marks for the entry.

Thus, for students aiming to apply to universities abroad, but still wanting to avoid over-specialisation, International Baccalaureate is an excellent option.

This is not the only advantage of the IB. The beauty of IB approach is that it encourages inquiry based teaching environment. The students are allowed to explore areas of particular interest and are motivated to make insightful connections between different areas of knowledge.  It enables students to develop their analytical, creative and critical thinking skills.

In the world where the knowledge is instantly available at a single click, the ability to simply memorise a lot of facts has lost its value. It is the ability think critically, apply the knowledge to solve specific problems that will become necessary to succeed.