A Fall in A-Level Top Grades? I'm Glad I Chose the International Baccalaureate

21/08/2013 11:16 | Updated 20 October 2013

As the 300,000 A-level students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland received their results, the media was quick to announce the fall in the proportion of A-levels awarded top grades, for the second year running.

With the government constantly looking to make changes, and the continuous debate on how A-levels are either getting harder or the exams are getting easier, I feel sorry for my A-level counterparts. For IB students, our grades have been consistent, and more importantly, good. However, it's clear we don't receive the same media attention as the more 'mainstream' examinations.

For the last 45 years, the IB has earned a reputation for its academic achievements and the development of independent, confident and successful students. It's reputation is not unfounded.

I chose an international school at the age of 16, where there was no choice but to do the IB, not only did it offer a truly global education but it also provided an international student body. Having completed the IB this year, I can honestly say that I've noticeably developed as an individual and I'm confident enough to take on my university, Duke University in North Carolina.

Though by no means do I believe the IB is for everyone, three years ago when I was deciding which route to take, I had a lot of weighing up to do. It is clear to me that the IB is a more challenging route than A-levels. I strongly believe its global perspective and broad curriculum base give students, like myself, an advantage in our future careers. As of yet I am undecided in what I would like to major in at University. Fortunately, the IB provided me with an excellent foundation education that is a platform for practically any subject I may choose to study. The IB allowed me to explore both my interests and also challenged me to excel in subject beyond my comfort zone.

Recognised as the leader in international education, the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme is said to foster the knowledge, skills and attitudes that enable students to excel at university.

But remember it's not just about becoming bankers and accountants. At UWC Atlantic College, where I studied, they are educating future leaders of medicine, charities and even countries, teaching aspiring diplomats, environmentalists, musicians and artists.

During my time studying the IB, I experienced a rigorous but balanced academic environment, resulting in an ability to draw on knowledge and an understanding of various cultures and histories. I learnt to think critically and apply my studies in many different contexts and across a number of disciplines.

In my opinion, the IB allows you to keep all your options open for another two years, during which time you gain an international qualification which is recognised by Higher Education Institutions and employers all over the world. Universities also understand the demands of the IB Diploma Programme and are keen to recruit IB students. UWC Atlantic College had top deans of admissions come and interview students, which seems appealing when you think of the current rush for clearing places.

So how is the IB different to traditional A-levels? An IB student takes six subjects: three at higher level and three at standard, which must include maths, a science, English, and at least one foreign language. Students aiming for degrees in the sciences, maths, or subjects with high science content, such as engineering for example, may well be better off doing A-levels, or looking at alternative routes into employment.

In addition to traditional written exams at the end of the two-year programme, we have extended essays and theory of knowledge components, which means I handle an enormous amount of research across a broad spectrum. Many say this is the part of the curriculum that better prepares us for university and independent thinking.

The IB also offers a co-curricular education, also known as CAS which stands for; Creativity, Action, Service. This is something unique to the IB. It provided me with a structured opportunity to develop myself as a person. I was a part of the Atlantic Outdoor Centre which provided outdoor activities to primary school children as well as children with disabilities. The activities offered included mountain boarding, climbing, high ropes course, archery, orienteering and so much more. My service was an integral part of my UWC Atlantic College experience and I really got to know the community in which I was living thanks to my service. This part of the IB has given me a taste and a passion for volunteering and community service which I will most definitely carry with me and pursue throughout my life.

Furthermore, at UWC Atlantic College I had the opportunity to help arrange and organise sustainability conferences and host debates. When conducted in an international student environment (for example Israeli and Palestinian students learning together), provided us with a much greater context of the bigger picture behind what we learnt in class. These debates and conferences allowed us to share knowledge and perspective as individuals but also to hear opinions and voices from worlds we have never previously experienced.

From studying in the mainstream education with GCSEs, it's hard to imagine how a curriculum can foster a shared purpose and common ethos; but it brings students and institutions around the world together. Sharing the last two years with students, who quickly became some of my best friends, from 90 different nationalities has taught me more than I could ever imagine.

The IB definitely provided me with something unique; I'm now ready to take on my next challenge.