Transition into IB Diploma .... advice, help!

(47 Posts)
Hecho Wed 23-Sep-15 09:00:42

We've got a couple of years yet to plan, but we've just started exploring pre-University options for our oldest DD (should she decide she wants to go), and have some questions about possibly entering her into the IB qualification.

We live abroad and our DCs are all in the local state education system in the language of our country (not English). There is a local-ish private school offering the IB syllabus from Early Years through to Diploma. Whatever we are able to afford for our eldest, we need to be able to offer to all three DCs .... which is flipping expensive. Because of this we wouldn't be able to afford 2 years prior to the Diploma as well as the 2 years for the diploma itself; which would be ideal in order to transition into such a different educational system which is largely taught in English.

So, my question ..... if we transferred her for 1 year before the Diploma (MYP 5) in order for her to settle in to her new school and become used to the new approach (current system very much based on memorising rather than investigating/individual study), could this be a compromise worth doing? We realise her results at the end of this year probably won't be great; but hopefully she'd be geared up for the final 2 years, which I understand to be very demanding.

Thanks for any advice, perspective, comments, reality checks.

Dunlurking Wed 23-Sep-15 10:58:45

Hecho as I understand it most schools in the UK who do the IB don't do anything related to the IB before the 2 year diploma. Students come to it from IGCEs and GCSEs and many wanting to do it transfer to the relevant schools only for the sixth form. I certainly came to it from O levels and changed schools to do it many many years ago. I personally wouldn't waste money on going to the school before the 2 year course. Others may feel differently.

Dunlurking Wed 23-Sep-15 11:03:50

Having said that it is a very tough course and I wouldn't recommend it unless your dcs are good allrounders. The thing about memorising applies to some extent to British children switching from GCSEs as well. I'm not sure about the English issue - I suppose only you can judge how well she will cope switching to studying in English. Is English her first language?

Hecho Wed 23-Sep-15 11:26:09

Thanks for your reply, Dun. This is my understanding too, and if she were transferring from I/GCSE I don't think I'd have the same concern. And I particularly like the thought of not waste money on additional fees! We're a British family, so she is mother-tongue English, reads a lot in English and is a good all-rounder (crikey, still not over the PFB stage then) which is what attracted us to the IB. My concern is going from a rigid, book-based syllabus with little investigation/active learning (to the frustration of the fantastic teachers here) to quite a different, far more proactive system with no run-up so to speak.

As you mentioned, memorising is universal in some ways, and a good skill after all. And with the suplemental work in English we try to do, I guess we'll be in a better place to judge once she's older.

A question, if you don't mind. Has the IB been a good thing for you? Compared to other options you may have had open to you? Thanks!

CaramelCurrant Wed 23-Sep-15 11:35:18

We are in a similar position. What is your view of (a) the kids continuing their education through the local system, and (b) how do UK universities value the local A level equivalent. For us, it would be easiest to get into a top notch university by continuing through the local system because UK universities give lower (and decreasing) credit to IB and have very patchy views on the local equivalent.

Hecho Wed 23-Sep-15 12:18:22

For us, as we live in the EU, in theory there is no barrier to entry for the national pre-U qualification here. And it would be an easier option in many ways. But I notice the lack of independent enquiry already, which is essential at degree level. And quite honestly I don't know how the local qualification is viewed in reality in UK unis. And I'm not sure how can I find out about it!

I'm interested, Caramel, in your view of the decreasing value given to the IB in the UK. Could you tell me more?

catslife Wed 23-Sep-15 16:03:41

* UK universities give lower (and decreasing) credit to IB and have very patchy views on the local equivalent.*
This isn't true have taught IB students and potential universities fully accept the IB as an alternative to A levels for most subjects.
The only potential problem could be for some specialist subjects as courses such as Medicine require at least 2 Science subjects plus Maths at Higher level (you can obtain an IB certificate with only one science subject plus Maths at standard level).
Also you need to bear in mind that UK universities require grade C in Maths and English language at GCSE or equivalent for entry. I don't think the maths would be a problem but you need a GCSE (or equivalent) in first language English and would recommend overseas expats to be entered for iGCSE English language as private candidates to reach this standard.
Would also suggest looking if any international schools close to you offer international A level instead of the IB as this closer to the A levels taken in the UK and requires fewer subjects to be studied.

Millymollymama Wed 23-Sep-15 17:16:33

It is not particularly good preparation for MFL either as a good MFL teacher will give lots of extension work behind A level. A lot if IB students would not have time for that. Also A levels allow for 2 or more MFL, with IB that is a problem. Children living abroad often have a big advantage on an MFL degree!

Millymollymama Wed 23-Sep-15 17:17:08

Sorry- beyond A level.

goinggetstough Wed 23-Sep-15 17:30:32

The IB programme does allow for two MFL and sciences. It just means that the student doesn't take a subject in group 6 (The Arts)

catslife Wed 23-Sep-15 17:50:41

It's not just the subjects offered it's the level as well. For most subjects there are 2 levels Higher and Standard so you need to take the subjects most relevant for university at Higher level (which covers them in more depth) rather than standard level. Some schools may not offer all subjects at Higher level so you need to check.
For Maths there is also Maths studies which is of a lower standard than A level.
As a Scientist am unsure about English, MFL or the Arts.

Hecho Wed 23-Sep-15 18:16:23

Thank you everyone, lots of aspects here I wasn't aware of/hadn't though of. As someone who is really quite ancient, it's very interesting finding out about possibilities now, besides what's best for my kids!

Next week I hope to visit another school which runs IGCSEs/A Levels and IB for the final 2 years (the other was exclusively IB). It'll be interesting to hear their perspective. Would be really interested to hear more from you guys too.

welshpixie Wed 23-Sep-15 20:29:37

My DD has just finished the IB in Europe. As some PP said if you are looking at the UK there are some disadvantages compared to A'levels. In the IB you must study 6 subjects including arts and sciences you must also do the Extended Essay, 4000 words, on a topic of your choice but preferably in a subject you are taking.
Uk unis do not understand the depth and complexity of the IB and often give very high offers in comparison with A'levels, e.g. my DD got the equivalent of A*AA in HL subjects and A* AB in SL subjects, she was however turned down for her first choice uni. Don't think I am bitter she is going to a great uni and will be very happy there. It just shows that UK unis do not understand how the system works.
On the other hand she is fully prepared for uni, she has looked at the work involved and said that it was totally doable while her friends who did A'levels are starting to realise how much work they will have to do, and it really does help them when it comes to analysis.

halvedfees Thu 24-Sep-15 11:30:48

My DS's school did both the MYP and IB programme in the UK. They have discontinued the MYP due to decreasing interest (only 40 this year) but, by contrast IB is increasing - coming up to 50% of the year group (250 in year).

They did get 2 people into Oxbridge having done the MYP/IB route as well as several into Med school. The school states that around 90% of IB students get into their 1st choice uni, as opposed to 75% of A level students.

My DS did the IGCSE /IB route. I agree that the IB students get harder entry requirements in general - he got 42 - the equivalent of around 4 A*s at A level - but was advised that due to his HL grades (775) not to try for Oxbridge again. He is going to Durham. However he would absolutely do the IB again, just a slightly different subject choice (HL Maths is infamous - hence the 5). Also friends of his in the year ahead who did the IB say that it prepared them better for Uni than their A level course mates. The IB is rigorous and will find out your failings much more than A levels.

My DD is doing IGCSEs this year is adamant that she wants to do IB over A levels - because of the breadth.

Personally I think the IB is a great course - maybe not for everyone. If you have an all-rounder it is the obvious choice.

Millymollymama Thu 24-Sep-15 11:51:48

Yes, definitely very good for the bright all rounder. I do think an individual student doing A levels who is a fast learner, competent, organised and works methodically can adjust to university well enough. Most young people do, don't they? I do not think the IB student is necessarily superior in being able to cope with university. It is also a qualification that the large majority do not have access to. Therefore it is reasonable that students who have should not feel entitled to step into the most sought after courses. Priviledge should not be an automatic selection criteria over state school pupils who have never had the chance of IB.

The reason that IB students get a high number of 1st choice universities is that they are mostly from independent schools (not all of course) and are probably pretty bright in the first place. They are in the group of students most likely to get their first choice, as indeed they would if they did A levels. Other students with B/C grade of A levels and less help from school may find it harder, hence the lower percentage. IB does not necessarily help if they do not write a decent Personal Statement or just are not the right fit for a particular course.

halvedfees Thu 24-Sep-15 12:34:01

Millymollymama the percentage comparison I gave you of pupils getting into 1st choice unis were from the school's own internal statistics - ie the same cohort. Therefore the statistic is entirely relevant and is consistent year on year (and very compelling!)

I agree most students get adjusted to Uni, it is just that the IB students say they found the transition to Uni easier due to the way the IB is taught and examined. Not scientific I know, but it is a statement I have heard several times,

Please don't drag this down to state v private argument....

RachelZoe Thu 24-Sep-15 15:23:20

My eldest did IB and one of my younger just started it. Their school does both A-levels and IB , they do a pre IB program too but mine both did GCSE's, they, and their classmates were absolutely fine. Yes, it's a big adjustment and is very full on (I highly, HIGHLY recommend not doing a creative subject for IB as it takes up so much time and there is so much to do, not just academically but the endless extra CAS stuff too). DS transitioned to university seamlessly as he had been prepped with such a high workload as have his IB mates.

Younger DS is finding the transition harder but not too bad, the pre IB kids and the GCSE kids are finding it equal, aside from the pre IB ones know the terminology and system a little better.

It's a wonderful program for the right child. DS who just starteds twin is doing A-levels as he wouldn't be up to it (not that he's stupid or anything, just very different, you have to be extremly disciplined and organized and diligent to do the IB, especially when people at your school are also doing A-levels and have less work, it's tempting to ignore your commitments). It has to be the right fit really.

MrsSchadenfreude Thu 24-Sep-15 17:41:10

I'll disagree on the MFL issue for IB. DD1 is doing IB French standard level this summer (a year early). She did a revision course at the Institut Francais over the summer, and was put with people who will be taking A level (A2) this summer. She was way, way ahead of them, in comprehension, grammar and spoken French.

We're looking at what DD1 might study at university now, and universities vary wildly in their offers for IB students, with some recognising that the mad grade inflation of A levels hasn't affected the IB in the same way, and others seeming clueless - eg the clueless asking for 42 points, when they are asking for AAB at A level and those who are a bit more clued up going for 33 points for AAB or ABB, which seems fairer.

DD1's school has done the IB for years and has no difficulty getting its IB students into med school, either here or overseas.

Millymollymama Thu 24-Sep-15 21:52:28

So she will walk into Oxbridge then Mrs S. How on earth do those poor A level students ever get into Oxbridge to do MFL? Must be well nigh impossible if they are so far behind! What a load of rubbish!

halfedfees. Honestly, if it is the school's statistics it is highly likely their best young people are doing the IB!!!! That just proves my point. They are the ones that would have got first choices if they were doing A level. Presumably the less able are consigned to A levels, being lesser mortals, and therefore not likely to do as well or indeed undervalued by the school. It is a self fulfilling statistic and is not compelling at all. The best get what they want. They usually do!

MrsSchadenfreude Thu 24-Sep-15 22:19:14

Why so chippy, Millymolly? I have no idea on what the A level French syllabus involves, but DD1 said, as one example, that none of the others in her group at the Institut Francais had learned the subjunctive, and they spent a whole day doing this. Perhaps this group was a particularly dim bunch, who knows? But I find it a bit odd that A level students, who had just done their AS levels, hadn't learned the subjunctive.

And no, she won't be going to Oxbridge - she has no interest (and probably wouldn't get in anyway) nor will she be studying French at university for the same reason.

halvedfees Thu 24-Sep-15 23:05:51

mmm I agree with Mrs S - why are you so chippy? You are also good at making assumptions without being in possession of the facts - that wouldn't get you a good IB score wink !

In fact the school gives a free choice to what you want to do in 6th form - A levels or IB, and support both equally. In my son's year only 4 out of the top set of 24 went for IB - the rest A levels. (70 out of 250 overall in the year - across the whole academic ability spectrum). The school were (and still are) frustrated that due to the conservative nature of some parents they could not get more of the academically able to take up the IB. But yet more of the IB students get into their 1st choice university as I stated earlier. That is a fact mmm whether you like it or not.

The IB is a bloody good, rigorous exam system that gives pupils a broad education and prepares them extremely well for university. In addition the IB system has not seen any of the grade inflation over the last 20 years that has happened with A levels.

As I said before - if you are broadly able, it's a no-brainer.

Millymollymama Thu 24-Sep-15 23:52:36

Obviously it can be a no brainier for some in a school that offers it! It still does not get away from my argument that if the brightest select it, as you believe your DC to be, then it is likely they will get into the university they want!

I have an inbuilt dislike of children and parents complaining about other young people and saying their DC is superior because they have done xyz and the others have not. I have no idea if the subjunctive is taught for AS! I just let my DDs teachers get on with it. Why does it matter so long as it is taught at some point?! Ah, yes, it is because A level students are badly educated and inferior. I do know, however, that children are perfectly well prepared by doing A levels to achieve well on MFL university courses without going to expensive courses in France! You are both coming across as frightfully superior. Doing a course in France seems something of an extravagance if your DD has no interest in French. Is it just something you like to boast about?

It is also really rather unkind to say that the other young people on the course in France must have been a "particularly dim bunch". How bloody rude! And you call me "chippy" whatever that means?

CaramelCurrant Thu 24-Sep-15 23:53:46

Hi OP, I think subsequent posts illustrated my point- university offers to IB candidates tend to be higher, as PP said A*AA equivalent, compared to AAB for actual A levels. If you go back five or six years this was not the case.

I think the best thing you can do is phone up actual admissions officers in some potential universities, both UK and in the country where you are now, and see what they say

viewwater Fri 25-Sep-15 00:37:35

if you are broadly able, it's a no-brainer
I don't think this is necessarily true. For example the A levels give more potential flexibility in subject choice. A bright pupil could do 2 languages, 2 sciences and maths with A/ AS levels or 2 languages and 2 art subjects etc but this is not possible with IB.
Pupils may also prefer to have more flexibility in how they fill their extracurricular time.

My impression is that the organisation and work load for IB is no more than an A level pupil doing 4 - 5 subjects with an EPQ, and a busy extracurricular life.

There is also the risk that since IB students are used to having their time filled for them by the programme, they may actually end up doing do less free reading around their subjects except of course when they have to for their essay.

halvedfees Fri 25-Sep-15 08:19:57

I agree - it's not a no-brainer - sorry just put that there to wind up mmm blush . My main issue with the IB that certain UK universities do not fully understand the IB and therefore give ridiculously high offers in comparison to their A level offers.

However, you can do 2 languages - just not with 2 sciences, but with a science and maths. I like the IB because it forces pupils to remain broad and therefore more agile in terms of Uni course choice. For example one of my DS's best friends thought he wanted to do Enginerring at uni and so in 5th form picked double science double maths. However he completely changed his mind a year later and wanted to do philosophy. This meant he had to drop one of his sciences and take up History - both AS. With the IB he would have been covered because he had to do a humanity subject.

But both systems are good - I just feel that A levels - if picked badly and not enough (ie 3) - can leave you dangerously narrow. I know it did for me.

PS mmm from oxford dictionaries online

adjective: chippy

(of a person) touchy and defensive, especially on account of having a grievance or a sense of inferiority.
"I thought she was hostile and chippy"

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