A Levels / IB or Abitur..... decisions decisions

(18 Posts)
doradoo Mon 19-Aug-13 12:27:10

Wondering if there are any admissions tutors about as we have reached a bit of a crossroads re education choices for our DCs.

We live in Germany - and at the moment DCs go to an International school here with a view to sending them home to public school when they reach 13.

Now - having a few wobbles about whether that is really best - in terms of letting them go away so soon, being able to afford it properly etc etc

What are the current views when applying to a UK university - which of the following qualifications are seen as better? Which would you think would give the best chance of a good University place - and which produces the most well-rounded student?

Traditional A levels (could do this at public school / current Intnl School)

IB (stay at current IS)

Abitur (transfer to German grammar school system)

We're not planning to move from here in the near future if that helps.

doradoo Mon 19-Aug-13 16:28:33

meant to also say that the local Gymnasium (grammar) is German/English bilingual if that has any bearing. We'd need to apply for that this academic year for DS1.

Trix2323 Wed 21-Aug-13 14:38:02

Any of the options that you are considering can lead to a place at a good university. Given the kind of courses that you are choosing between, it makes sense to pick the course that best suits the child. For example:

* If you have a strong or medium-strong all-rounder, the IB is (in my view having watched DD) an excellent preparation for university-level work.

* If you have a science-specialist that wants to go on for medicine, the IB would be a disadvantage compared with being able to do three sciences and maths at AS level.

* If you have a weak student who cannot manage the breadth of the IB, such a student would be do much better in a UK school where they do just the three - or even two if they are very weak - A-levels.

Personally I value bilingualism quite highly - if you are staying in Germany forever, it is good if they grow up there and have local friends. However, if they struggle to work in two languages, then I wouldn't consider this approach.

As a final consideration, if you want them to go to one of the top public schools, then unless you have connections and have applied before they are age 10, you may have to send them to prep school at 11 or 12 rather than 13. Do they want to go to the UK for school? If they do, it is no problem.

I am not an admissions tutor but work in higher education on the continent and have three DCs, all of whom are doing different things in secondary education.

doradoo Wed 21-Aug-13 15:01:43

Thanks for your reply - we have applied and have family connections to the school we want - but that's no guarantee of a place....

I suppose there's no 'right' answer to my question and without a crystal ball it's very difficult to know which route would be best as we need to make the decisions for DC1 this year - at age 9...... things could change hugely over the next few years of course.

you say your work in HE on the continent - how are A Levels viewed where you are - are they comparable to the nation's own qualifications and just as straight forward for a university place there?

I don't know where my DCs would want to go to university so seeking the most 'international' or 'portable' route is also important.

Trix2323 Thu 22-Aug-13 18:54:56

If you value Oxbridge above everything, you have more chance of getting them in if you go via a good UK school.

It is certainly easier for a top public school to place a student at Oxbridge, compared with an international school on the continent that does IB. Firstly, the IS is just that bit less geared up to targeting Oxbridge.

More importantly, it is undeniably easier for a good student to get very high grades at A-level than it would be for the same student to get a 7 or even a 6 at IB. If you look at the UCAS tariff equivalents, a 7 at IB is higher than an A* at A-level (130 points for a 7 compared with 120 for the A*).

Where I live now, a student offering A-levels needs A2 maths to be admitted to university. No maths, no admission, even for arts subjects, which is a bit harsh.

For various reasons, I would almost always recommend the UK for a first-degree in preference to a Continental university.

I am pm-ing you with a bit of extra info.

doradoo Fri 23-Aug-13 06:53:31

Useful information - thank you.

UptheChimney Fri 23-Aug-13 09:32:36

I've seen the French Bacc, Abi, and A Levels in my family. They both have their strengths and weaknesses. A Levels are very narrow in comparison with the Bacc and Abi, and TBH, I think that the Bacc and Abi are of an equal standard to A levels, and stretch the pupil.

But for top UK universities, an applicant with Bacc/Abi will need quite high points -- 33-36 for IB, and for example, for Engineering at a RG university, around a 1.something in the Abi (I think the German average is about 3/2.7). Very high.

OTOH, in my experience, UK universities do offer a better UG degree experience: small classes, as opposed to the Continental seminar of 50 students and lectures of several hundreds, where you're lucky to get a seat. I've worked at several RG universities an even in these straitened times (you don't think £9,000 actually covers the full cost of an undergraduate, do you?) we limit seminar and tutorials to 15 students. I'm not sure how many Continental EU universities manage that at undergrad level.

But again, in my family, young people have made choices that stick with their national systems, even though they're all bi-lingual. My DS preferred to stay in the UK for university although he had residency rights in the US and Australia, as well as France. He's travelling in those places now, though, so he may well stay for postgrad work somewhere outside the UK.

JustBecauseICan Fri 23-Aug-13 09:35:06

I teach English, but to abitur and bacc students and agree with every word UptheChimney says.

UptheChimney Fri 23-Aug-13 09:43:15

Meant to add, members of my family (we are extended across the world over two generations) have stayed in France and Germany to do their degrees, although they are bilingual, and -- like my DS -- could have gone to the UK or the US for university.

Look, I think that if your DC are still young (under 15) you don't necessarily need to panic. If they are bright they will do well anywhere -- that's a truism that's mostly (but not always) true.

But even if things go a bit off-course, what I've seen (I'm almost old enough for Gransnet now!) over the last 25 years of working in HE is that young people find where they need to go, even if the route they take isn't what they or their guardians anticipated or planned.

IB, Abi, or A levels are all excellent if taken seriously with good teaching and an enriched home life. It may be a matter of seeing what suits the temperament and abilities of each individual child.

Although I have a bi-lingual family, I am not bi-lingual myself (bad German, and I can understand French & Spanish but not speak them), and I really really wish it had been my parents' rather than my generation that had all the bi-lingual children! I would love to be like my DS and his cousins, switching from language to language quite naturally. So there is a lot to be said for finding a good Gymnasium, and giving your DC that amazing opportunity!

Somethingyesterday Fri 23-Aug-13 10:03:00

Trix2323 May I take issue with part of your otherwise helpful post?

if you want them to go to one of the top public schools, then unless you have connections and have applied before they are age 10, you may have to send them to prep school at 11 or 12 rather than 13

I would be reluctant to say that this is wrong on every level... You may have insider knowledge that overrides my own experience. But that passage would be extremely misleading for anyone who is not actual royalty. For non - royals "connections" are not enough to get a child into any decent school. Some schools may look kindly on a child with siblings already there - but only if the child reaches the required entrance standard. Every school has its own registration cut off point - so saying before the age of ten is much too vague. Some children successfully apply to public schools from their state school, others from a prep school. Prep school alone is neither necessary nor sufficient for public school entrance - the child had to pass the entrance exam. And, while you can send a child to prep school at 11 and hope for a successful transition, moving a child at 12 would generally be a terrible decision. They would have no time to acclimatise and would be plunged straight into CE revision.

I'm happy to be corrected of course!

rightsaidfrederick Sun 01-Sep-13 15:41:36

I know this seems like it's rather far off in the future, but you will have to account for student finance, if you plan on them going to a UK university.

The situation is that it is residency not nationality that determines student finance status.

As they are currently residing in Germany, they would qualify for EU fee status. This means that they are eligible for a student loan for the £9000 fees, but no help with living costs. The only way around this is if the reason you are in Germany is a temporary job posting (something that often seems to be determined based on whether or not you've maintained a home in the UK), or you are there because you were posted there by the Armed Forces.

Unfortunately, if you were to send them to a boarding school in the UK, then they would still count as EU students, because they would be counted as residing in the UK wholly or mainly for educational purposes.

The only way to change this is to have them residing in the UK for three years prior to the start of their course, for reasons that are not wholly or mainly related to their education.

LoopyLoopyLoopy Sun 01-Sep-13 15:45:20

Are you forces? In which case, the uni cost thing I think isn't an issue, as your base would count as UK (I think).

If your children a bright, I would go with IB every time, without a second thought. I have no experience of Abitur, but have taught IB and A level, and believe the IB is far more rigorous (but harder).

VenusRising Sun 01-Sep-13 16:12:56

Keep them in the local gymnasium school, and let them go to a uni in Germany.

Fees in German unis are about one grand a year Vs 20, and they can make a change of course without financial forfeit if it doesn't suit. I'm sure they can do a term or two in the uk if it suits them on an Erasmus programe.

It's a no brainer for me, but then I'm not in the uk, and have perhaps (!) a broader view of Europe.

Oxbridge and uk unis are very overrated, with kids ending up as pretty useless specialists ime.

Imo the three subject a level doesn't prepare kids for life, whereas the six plus subject ib is a much broader education for the wide world.

I took eight subjects for my ib and got three As, and was accepted with a scholarship to study in uni (for free).
I had a much broader education than those who I met and studied with (at post grad) from the uk who had only studied a small section of my courses in not necessarily greater detail, and had no, even, background knowledge of subjects they didn't study for A level.

I wasn't impressed with the A level and uk uni systems at all: fine if you think your kids will stay in the uk I suppose, but not very useful from a broader (or even just European) perspective.

doradoo Mon 02-Sep-13 12:21:02

Thanks for the other thoughts. It certainly raises more things to discuss with DH.

We're not forces - and are settling here for the foreseeable future - thinking min 10yrs at the moment.

I am aware of the university fees etc - and that it would be free for them in Scotland for example - but that's really not an issue.

I don't even know (nor do they) what the DCs want to do - they are fairly balanced allrounders schoolwise so it's a real stab in the dark to work out what university and what course we would be aiming for.

I'm not sure how much weight to give to the language situation in our decision. How much more useful would being truely bilingual be (Eng/German) as opposed to only being very strong in German. I suppose if we plan to stay permanently then they would need better language skills.

I seem to just keep talking myself round and round in circles........

LoopyLoopyLoopy Mon 02-Sep-13 14:06:04

IMO opinion being truly bilingual is worth far more than the difference in awarding bodies offer. (But I'm a languages teacher)

UptheChimney Mon 02-Sep-13 17:42:49

I'd agree.

And I'm thinking of the life-enhancing nature of having more than one language, not just the narrower concerns of employment or educational advantage.

JGBMum Tue 03-Sep-13 07:25:12

I'm struggling to see what advantage moving your DC to any English school could bring you. You have the option of A levels, IB or the German qulifications were you are now, and your children at home with you.

doradoo Mon 09-Sep-13 08:29:35

JGBMum I think that the push for the UK school was that it is so much better than the international school here - one of the top in the UK, it's also DHs old school and he'd love for our boys to have the same opportunities/extras/networking etc that you just dont get here.

However, we actually managed to discuss it fairly rationally yesterday and have adjusted our thinking somewhat and will be seriously considering the Gymnasium/Abitur options as that seems to be a real goer now.

The language issue is a real biggie for us as neither in the UK or the Int'l school will the DCs get enough depth of German - and seeing as we seem to be settling here that is becoming more and more important.

We're waiting on some feedback from an acquaintance who is a UK university admissions tutor as to what their take on the IB/Abi/Alevel situation is - but in the mean time will be looking locally at schools again.

Thanks for all your comments - it's been really helpful.

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