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IB vs GCSE help please!(16 Posts)
I have 2 kids living in Switzerland and attending a private international school (which is expensive). For the middle primary to 6th form to gymnasium/college the school is teaching the Cambridge IGCSE curriculum which is great but the school facilities are very very substandard. No proper science lab, no sports fields, just shared use of a local sports hall, very small classrooms, no canteen just a small room with a kettle and microwave for lunchtimes, no cups medals etc showing inter school championships cos they 'dont do that in switzerland'. The only other international schools have great facilities but only teach the IB curriculum. My kids are 11 and 9. What should I do/what would you do? Would love to hear any comments please as these are crucial years that they will never get back if MUM gets it wrong. We come from London and work brought us here 3 years ago.
Are you expecting to stay long enough for them to both be at least 16 before you move on or leave before they are 13. The transition could be very tricky otherwise.
We are now here for the duration and need the international qualification in case they want to go on to uni either back in the u.k. or stay here for their full education. If we were in the u.k. the eldest would be starting a different school, secondary, after summer so it is easier to make the change, if needbe, now as I don't want to keep changing schools. The decision we make now will remain until they leave at age 18/19. Sooo, is it Igcse with poor school facilities or IB certificate with great school facilities?? Fees for the schools are about the same costs.
what is the track record on igcses? tbh I think iiwy I'd go for IB but it doesn't suit every child (ds would have struggled , dd been fine)
Would your DC have to move on to IB anyway after IGCSEs if you stay in Switzerland ?
What a great question! I will now find out what the preferred qualification is for Swiss employees thank you.
In the UK, GCSEs or iGCSEs are taken in the year that a child is 16 whereas the IB is taken when children are 18 years old so these are not comparable qualifications. There is also an international A level that pupils can take aged 18 that will be accepted by UK universities but they would also offer places to students with IB qualifications as well.
The IB qualification works best for pupils who are good all-rounders as you have to study a greater variety of subjects compared to A levels. Pupils have to take English, Maths, one MFL, one Science and 2 other subjects whereas you only study 3 subjects for 2 years at A level (an additional subject may be studied for one year).
Personally i would go for the school with the better facilities (assuming the teaching is also good) at secondary level imo you really need Science labs and sports facilities.
There are IB primary and middle years programmes too, not just the 16-18 diploma.
But yes, I'd go for the one with the better facilities and not worry about IGCSEs.
IB is a perfectly acceptable qualification. It is accepted at Universities around the world (and I've known students with IB at Oxbridge 20+ years ago, who did very well even in Science).
ACS in London often do reports on its acceptability.
I would look at what kind of exam results the IB school get. I would look at what kind of results the IGCSE school get. I would look at what the IGCSE school does post 16, and especially what the student numbers are like - I was looking at one recently where most students seemed to leave and go to other international school or boarding schools in the UK.
I would also probably pay a subscription and look at the International school review, which is a private service for teachers to post reviews of private schools they work in - it might give an indication of how teachers feel about a school.
But all things being equal I'd go for an IB school.
I think I would move regardless to the IB school. In my experience, it suits students who are stronger in the arts/humanities and probably suits girls slightly more than boys as they tend to be a bit more organised and self-motivated. The IB is very much about exploring a subject across the disciplines. It did not suit my DS who went through the primary years programme at all as he is a) a boy and b) a budding engineer (Lego, model railways, airfix etc). For that reason at age 10 I found a super duper prep school in the UK, and he is now in the 3rd form of a boys boarding school learning all about engineering-y type things. He has friends who will stay with them forever, and both his prep and his senior school had fantastic facilities.
Overseas schools are a bit of a lottery. It sounds like the two that are local to you aren't really spot on. Would either you or your DC be comfortable with the idea of a boarding school? It gives them that connection with the UK, they have stable friendship groups and the classes aren't taught at the level of the lowest level English speaker.......
If boarding is not something you would consider, then I would say move to the bigger IB school which not only has the facilities, but will almost certainly attract the better teachers and other, better students which will motivate your two.
I fully acknowledge that, as a teacher of IB Maths, I am biased. But I would go for the IB every time.
It is a very demanding course, but teaches pupils some essential life skills about time management and critical thinking.
You state that the fees are about the same, what's stopping you?
Here is another biased comparison:
IB - assuming that your dcs have the same broad range of ability through all their subjects.
GCSE, IGCSE and MYP are taken for 16 year olds, GCE A levels, international A levels and the IB Diploma are taken at age 18.
What exactly does the DCs current school offer at post 16? And what is the average grade and where do their leavers go?
You need to find this out and then get a list of university destinations and average IB scores from the other international schools to see what else is on offer.
Thank you so so much to everyone for taking the time to comment on my school dilemma.
I have made an appointment to take my kids to visit and tour the IB school next month during the day so that they can see the school environment AND the school does a trial week with no obligation to commit!
The school they are attending at the moment is small and new, it was great for an easy transition to a new life etc when we first arrived but as the girls have grown, sadly the school hasn't. Although only four kids starting p6/7 after the summer hols it would be great for their education but far too small to make friends to study with and again the facilities are insufficient.
All comments made have mirrored and answered my own concerns, girls will adapt better to an IB programme, the need for sufficiently equipped labs etc, green space for a 'brain break', larger classes as social friendship is important and most importantly the IB qualification is an internationally recognized qualification.
I will post again to let you know how my dd's get on, and feel free to keep adding advice and help.
Thank you soooo much.
Which Canton are you in ? We also live in Switzerland and our children are at private International school , which offers IGCSE, IB and Swiss maturities. There are lots of international schools in this country and they have to be competitive as it is a big return year this year allegedly . All our local ones Geneva / Vaud border offer a choice . we have been given feedback from colleges in USA and Universities in UK that an international education is highly valued in applications . Hope that helps
I went to the International School of Geneva 20 odd years ago and did IGCSEs and then the IB. Easy offers to all 5 British universities I applied to. Science subject, went to top 5 RG for undergrad, top 2 for Masters. IB has always served me very well CV-wise. I would definitely consider the IB school and don't see the disadvantage tbh - in fact, many people I know here in London/SE are considering IB for their dc instead of A levels and I may well do the same. My sister taught at another swiss int school and the kids all did IB and she says, as at my school, virtually everyone went to good UK or US universities.
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