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IB PYP vs British Curriculum Schools

(5 Posts)
TheBossOfMe Sat 17-Nov-12 09:15:35

Does anyone have any experience of the IB PYP programme? I have a 4yo DD who is outgrowing her very small British Curriculum based school in Bangkok, and there isn't another one near us. There is a large IB school, NIST, which has excellent extra-curricular sport, music, drama and art facilities, which is very appealing, as well as the undoubted attraction of a superb Modern Languages programme as part of the IB Primary Years programme (8 hours of teaching per week in a 2nd language of our choice from age 5, 13 different language on offer, all teachers native speakers)

There is an excellent (and terrifyingly expensive) BC-based school in Patana, but we would have to move from our very central location and stunning apartment to a dull house in the boondocks, which would mean a long commute for both myself and DH, so a huge upheaval. One we are willing to go through, but only if the advantages are really there. Pros that I can see are much more rigorous drilling in the basics, Cons, not quite so good ECA programme, and no modern languages until aged 8, which is v late IMO, and then only for 2 hours a week.

With IB, I'm slightly worried that the IB programme can overlook fundamentals such as reading, writing and basic numeracy - have heard lots about parents needing to supplement learning in these areas at home because children don't specifically focus on learning things such as times tables, for example.

So two questions, I guess:

1. Does anyone have experience of this being true or not (IB being weak on fundamentals)?
2. If it is true, would you chpose the school that is lacking in the fundamentals but better in all other areas on the basis that you can easily teach fundamentals at home?
3. Or would you go for the school that is a huge upheaval because its better in the fundamentals and supplement the weaknesses with paid for out of school activities at Alliance Francaise, for example

Have also posted this in Living Overseas in case anyone there has experience of the specific schools.

cheeseandpineapple Sat 17-Nov-12 10:32:20

Hi, my children were born in Asia. My DS started reception level at an IB school. After that year we moved to another country in Europe to a British curriculum school and he joined year 1. It turned out he was very behind and had a lot to catch up on but he managed it within a term. That said he has a very good memory so he learned his key words fast, proved to be an able reader and the teacher was surprised by his progress. I was also surprised by how behind he was as he was considered quite an able child in reception but they just didn't focus on the literacy, numeracy in the same way. Had we stayed on, am sure it would have kicked in later.

On that basis, I think IB early years programme works fine if you're going to be in it for a certain period of time but if you think you might switch to British curriculum or head back to UK then British curriculum might be better to avoid any gaps in transfer.

I love what the PYP focuses on and I feel conflicted at times. My children are in a reasonably academic school and we love the school but I would also love them to have more of a bigger picture outlook and International scope.

The academic journey may start a little later and with a different emphasis in PYP but if you stay with the journey your child should get to where she needs to be over a longer period and in the meantime may gain a fantastic outlook and perspective, along with a good language base.

For me, the decision in part would be where I thought we might be based both short and long term. But also for primary, which school I felt most connected to and could see my child enjoying. Major disruption would put me off unless the school was unequivocally better in all the key areas for me and if no other strong local options. Home/family life pretty key too.

We have to make that decision again from year 6 -IB or British curriculum. Erring on side of an IB school in part for convenience (it's near us) and as it does IGCSEs (instead of MYP) and then IB diploma, so if we had to move countries before IGCSES were completed we could still make the transfer to either a British school or another IB school so long as they do IGCSEs which a lot of them do in place of MYP.

When I was in your shoes after leaving Asia, I opted for the British school instead of continuing with IB, as it had a lovely, smaller family atmosphere but it was also near where we had chosen to live. If it had been a long way off and caused disruption I don't think we'd have gone for it. If we'd stuck with PYP, I think I would have been more relaxed about the numeracy and literacy and just gone with the flow but if you think it will be something that you'll be anxious about then might be better to stick with British approach.

Given she's only 4, how has she outgrown current programme? Is she in reception?

Do you have any firm basis for thinking the IB school lacks the basic fundamentals, can you ask them about this if you meet with the Head?

On balance sounds like you would prefer the IB school? It does sound great so unless there is evidence they lack the fundamentals, I'd look into it a bit more?

If the head is from the UK, you can ask what type of levels the children achieve at each stage and how their progress is monitored. They won't use SATs but UK teachers will know what these equate to and how the kids are doing in equivalent terms within PYP. They will presumably have their own targets, might help you decide if you know what these are?

PeriPathetic Sat 17-Nov-12 10:37:25

My DD went from a BC system into a the final few months of IB PYP. She was somewhat older than your girl and, so far, it hasn't been a success.

However, this is purely down to a totally different learning system where the child has a huge amount of responsibility for their own progress. And my DD is... erm... 'unable to cope'. (Not entirely sure what's going on tbh, we're in the midst of some aggro that needs sorting out next week at parent/teacher meeting.) She's now in MYP.

Anyway. As your DD is much younger, I'd say go for it. It is a wonderful learning system and much wider and more relevant to life than the BC. IME the fundamentals are NOT ignored in any way at all. In fact at 'our' school (not UK) they are even stronger on it than anticipated.

The only consideration I'd take into account is whether you will be able to keep her in the IB school for her entire education. If you will be moving on, then you do need to look to the future.

Hope this helps a little.

TheBossOfMe Sat 17-Nov-12 12:02:32

Cheese - no evidence at all for thinking that the IB school is weak in basics. In fact, when I visited, I was pleasantly surprised by the standard of work the reception and year 1 equivalent pupils were producing. But the British expat community here in Bangkok seem to firmly believe that IB leads to root weaknesses in literacy and numeracy, even though few if them choose IB schools.

In terms of growing out if her school, it's very small indeed, with a very limited grass area for playing games on, a small outdoor jungle gym, and a fairly rubbish library with battered books with pages missing. So it's combination of physically having grown out of the space, since she now wants to play games that there is no space for, such as football, and also now that she is reading, being unable to access sufficient quality books to support her learning (she got a Dora book as her reading book this week that had only the first and last page in it, the rest were missing!). It's an amazing school for early years confidence building in a small family environment, but not so good as she progresses. We originally were planning to leave Thailand at the end of this academic year, so saw little point in moving before, but a promotion at work means we will be here for 3 more years.

I think a second visit to ask about some of the specifics that you and peri have suggested is probably a good idea.

I'm terrified of getting this wrong in case I screw up her whole life!

cheeseandpineapple Sat 17-Nov-12 13:55:18

You won't screw up her whole life!

If you go for the IB, it'll be for three years by the sound of it and aged 7 she should be able to slot back into a British school without any great difficulty. If you expect her to do the 7+ you may have problems but for non selection schools it shouldn't be an issue. In fact just sending to a British school overseas won't guarantee she gets into a selection school without some extra help depending on her ability but a British school overseas might be more geared up for entrance exams if early private schooling is on your radar for when you return to the UK.

If it's not on your radar, then you have more flexibility on choice at this stage.

My two children are very different. My oldest is more academic than my youngest. I think the youngest would particularly enjoy the PYP approach but the advantage of being in an academic school is that they are picking up some areas where she might need some learning support. I'm not sure if the PYP would be able to do that early on. I would ask about learning support and how they assess for this if you revisit the IB school. My daughter reads well so it isn't necessarily to do with reading ability.

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