how portable are US-based 'IB' qualifications? Hoping to return to UK.

(16 Posts)
Thrice Thu 08-May-14 08:58:34

Hi there

DS1 is 12, we live in the USA as of 2012 but are not residents/are on visas. Do not have the funds for private/'British' schools. Our city runs a 'selective enrollment' programme whereby children can test into various schools. DS qualified for two middle schools (mostly because he was a year ahead anyway as they start school later here), one of which offers an IB programme - we jumped at the chance. We rent, and given the location of this school we would move to be closer to it so it is a big deal especially as that would impact the education of younger DCs.

Ultimately we would like DS1 to return to the UK for any further education, and hoped that the IB foundation would stand him in good stead, however when we visited his new school their actual knowledge of the IB programme seems spotty at best (they are 'due to be accredited for the IB Middle Years Program'), and we are wondering if it is all it's cracked up to be? Will this programme actually port home and help him when it comes to A-levels/uni?

MinusculeAtBest Thu 08-May-14 09:10:37

Hi Thrice, I unfortunately don't have an answer for you but I am quite interested in hearing what people have to say. We are asking ourselves a similar question as we will be moving to the US soon: should we choose an IB school (and there are not that many where we would be, so really limited options) or should we go with one good local US middle school?
So looking forward to reading comments!

Thrice Thu 08-May-14 09:32:29

Hi Mini (please excuse the contraction, it is 3am here) - I am so glad not to be the only person in a dither about this! HOPEFULLY someone who actually knows something about the US/UK system will comment - I did my due diligence, truly, but it is so different when you are 'on the ground' here.

We always knew a fee-paying school was a no-no but researched a lot and our younger DCs are in 'very good' neighbourhood/general admission schools so if you have any questions I could help you with about that, let me know! I would say, though, that moving here (don't know where you will be - I have intimate knowledge of IL, FL and NY), has been amazing for our family. So don't let the whole education thing scare you too much. I will try to take my own advice hey ;)

SheherazadeSchadenfreude Fri 09-May-14 22:09:50

I think the question is when do you come back to the UK? How old will your children be? DD1 was in an American/IB international school, we came back to UK when she was 15. Our view was that it was too late for her to go back into the UK system, as all of her year group would be half way through or starting their GCSE syllabus, so we have kept her in an international school, where she will do the IB, and possibly a couple of AP exams (AP is accepted for entrance at a British university). DD2 was 13, and slotted back easily into the UK system. She was way ahead of her peers in maths, French and Spanish, and had developed better analytical thinking (the American school was very strong on this) as well.

I would say, if you feel that the local school is better than the IB school, and gets good results in AP exams, stick with that. But it does need to be AP at the very least - a high school diploma is not worth the paper it is printed on in the UK.

mathanxiety Sat 10-May-14 08:23:26

I have a bit of knowledge (second hand) of a student in an accredited IB programme in a private (RC) girls' high school in IL to a private girls' secondary in SW London that is something of an international school. The move was very smooth on all fronts. She started the IB programme in her first year of high school and transferred to London after two years.

My own DCs went through RC elementary and public high school in the US, both well regarded schools. I echo Sheherazade's assessment of the strengths of American schools. An American student who goes all the way through to HS graduation taking honours classes and pretty much all APs for the final two years is imo a superior student to a British one, and not only because of the breadth of courses required (math, science, English, humanities, language, electives) but because of the depth at which the really good students work (those who get a 4 or 5 in AP courses).

My oldest three DCs were all accepted into highly selective US universities. They did almost all AP courses for their final two years of HS and found themselves very well prepared for third level courses. Foreign language was the only course they didn't do at AP level because they all dropped Spanish and took another language instead, starting from scratch. Honours level proved enough for them to pass their university language requirements easily.

If your local public schools are well regarded, then they will stack up well against anyone else in the world. I would be leery of an IB programme that is not yet accredited. Middle school is only three years after all. Or at least it is around here. I would prefer to join a programme that was already tried and tested.

Every year a few students from the RC elementary who lived in the nearby very large city applied for admission to the extremely selective city college prep public high schools and they all got in. The RC school was very strong in all areas except math, but those students wishing to overcome that enough to pass the city selection exam went to summer school between 7th and 8th grade in a local RC high school. DD3 also had to endure the dreadful math teacher in the RC elementary, but was able to go to summer school in our local public high school in the summer before her freshman year and the next summer too so she is now on track for (AP) BC Calc in her final year like the rest of the DCs. My advice is not to overlook summer school as it can give a huge boost if there are areas where a DC is struggling or is badly taught. And don't overlook RC high schools' summer school offerings.

The reason I focused so much on DD3's math is that our HS places students in science levels based on where they are in math. Students not taking honours math did not get to take honours science courses.

I know two families who moved house specifically to get into a really good middle school (its top maths grads tend to start high school at pre calc and just take various AP math courses every year for the next three years to while away the time) -- so another nugget of advice smile would be 'where are the local Russian families sending their children?'

SheherazadeSchadenfreude Sat 10-May-14 09:19:03

One thing I will say is, don't stay in the US until your DS is 16 and then come back for A levels, as, if he is not doing the IB, he will need to show he has some knowledge of core subjects that he isn't doing for A level, but would have done for GCSE (if you see what I mean!). Fine to come back at 16, but then I think it would have to be IB or AP for uni entrance.

Math - DD1's international school has lots of Russians and Kazakhs!

marcopront Sat 10-May-14 13:06:06

One of the main plus points of IB is supposed to be that it makes it easier to move around.

MYP however is the newest of the three programmes. It has just undergone a major overhaul. The final documents for the introduction were published this week. If a school is about to be accredited it should have all documentation ready though. We just went through the evaluation process done every five years after accreditation and the documentation needed is similar.

How long will you be in the states? MYP is also not as common as the other two programmes so it might be hard to find a school in the UK following it.

I do think IB can be a fantastic programme. I have taught DP for years in a number of places, MYP for the last four years and I am so impressed by what my DD gets from PYP.

Thrice Wed 14-May-14 21:11:21

Sorry to have abandoned this thread for so long!

Okay, thankyou! That is very helpful! If DS went back to the UK it would be for the IB version of before uni (UK unis accept IB quals, right?!), not A-levels. I don't think IB and A-levels are terribly compatible? If he returned to the UK it would be to complete/continue the IB not switch to UK quals.

That is immensely helpful. THANKYOU ALL.

The IB he is up for is middle years rather than HS-age - the IB quals are considered above AP ones at High Schools here apparently! But if he decides he wants to live with his father (which I have to accept the possibility of), I don't want him to have the additional struggle of being massively behind academically at what will be a crucial time for his further education.

Thrice Wed 14-May-14 21:13:38

(sorry, I accidentally deleted the bit where I said that his bio father lives in the UK! Deary me, I need to practice this mumsnetting thing!)

We would like him to attend a UK uni but he might decide he wants to go back to the UK before then, basically.

mathanxiety Thu 15-May-14 16:19:12

Better quality results are of course more acceptable than mediocre ones. But the IB is definitely acceptable. I don't think you could easily switch from IB to either A levels or the American AP track. I'm sure it's been done, but not necessarily with ease.

mathanxiety Thu 15-May-14 16:28:26

Look out for details of what qualifies as UK residence for the purposes of university fees if your DS chooses to apply to a British university.

It is more expensive a proposition for US residents than EU students. This article doesn't mention the IB, and I assume since it isn't mentioned the students featured did not do it but the universities seemed happy to accept them all the same. This may be because they pay more (cynical) but as one university spokesperson said, they are very good students.

Thrice Fri 16-May-14 04:55:07

I believe that currently he would need to be resident in the UK for 3 years before attending a UK uni to be classed as a home student currently, though of course that could all change!

So the vague thinking at the moment is that IF it is an easier transition, he begins IB here and then moves over to live with his father to complete his education and look at further education (if he still wants to), in a few years. But if the US and UK IB programmes don't have much in common it would not be the 'easy' solution we thought! Thanks all for the info etc.

kickassangel Fri 16-May-14 05:07:53

I'm a teacher, not IB qualified but a lot if IB around this area. If the course is IB certified that that is the same around the world.

IB to 16 allows students to transfer straight into A levels. IB to 18 allows students to transfer straight into Uni. But check the fees you'd have to pay.

Most US unis are fully aware of IB an see it as equivalent to full AP courses. UK unis will not accept a standard US diploma as high enough so a student would probably have to do A levels for 2 years before being accepted at Uni if they had no AP or IB

I would say there is not much point in middle school IB if it isn't going to be continued , unless you think the school is a good fit or you could relocate to anywhere in the world. A child switching from US to UK at end of grade 8 or year 9 should be able to start GCSEs no problem even from a standard US middle school.

Pm me if you have questions. I teach 8th grade so have seen a lot I students heading into different high school programs.

marcopront Fri 16-May-14 13:07:46

IB should be the same anywhere. In MYP it is more about skills and an attitude to learning rather than content. So transfer should be easy.

I'm tired and not really thinking straight now. i will try and post tomorrow.

mathanxiety Fri 16-May-14 19:12:41

The whole point of the International Baccalaureate is that it is an international programme and standardised all over the world. DD2's friend who moved from the US to UK two years into the high school IB programme she was in slotted straight in.

I agree with Kickassangel 'there is not much point in middle school IB if it isn't going to be continued, unless you think the school is a good fit or you could relocate to anywhere in the world. A child switching from US to UK at end of grade 8 or year 9 should be able to start GCSEs no problem even from a standard US middle school.'

kitkatsfordinner Fri 23-May-14 14:03:35

Hey just to support what everyone else is saying. I did the IB and then went to university in the UK. I had no problem with it being recognised. In fact I live in the South East now and some of the comprehensive schools round us are now choosing to offer the IB over A-levels.

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