For relocating families already following the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, an IB school in the UK offers the perfect transition. Leading IB schools in the UK include Sevenoaks and Oakham. If you choosing between IB and A level, read our tips below:
The key differences between IB and A Level
The IB offers a greater breadth of subjects. It is divided into six groups: language, second language, individuals and societies, mathematics and computer science, experimental sciences and the arts. In addition, pupils complete an extended essay, follow a Theory of Knowledge course (TOK) and participate in the CAS (Creativity, Action, Service) programme, which encompasses sport, arts and community work.
Are you a specialist or an all-rounder?
This broad spread of the IB will suit pupils who don’t want to drop from 9 or 10 GCSE subjects down to 3 or 4 A level subjects. So if you are an all-rounder, not a specialist, this will be best for you. If, however, you are desperate to drop some of your GCSE subjects, perhaps Maths or French, and to study only three subjects in depth, then you are a specialist. In this case, A levels are best for you
Weaknesses of both IB and A level
With the IB, all six subject groups must be completed.
The fundamental weakness of the IB is that one weaker subject can drag down an entire IB score. So a low result in an area of the curriculum that a student is not very interested in could have a poor impact. Conversely, we could argue that the weakness of the A level is that it can mean students specialise too soon and regret this later.
Your free time
The IB is much more time consuming. Although most IB subjects are not studied in the same depth as A level, there are more of them. Some students relish this extra time pressure but others would rather spend their time enjoying their hobbies such as drama, music or sport.
So perversely, the IB exam system designed to create a broader education can sometimes narrow down your free time.
University options- UK, US and Europe
Both IB and A level are accepted in all UK and European universities. It is true the European universities are more familiar with the IB as a qualification, but they also accept the A level. US universities are also happy with both and have the additional entry test of the ACT or SAT which all applicants need to complete.
So which one is for you? If we go by UCAS statistics, the vast majority of schools and students are opting for the A-level. But there is no doubt also that the IB can be perfect for certain individuals: genuine all-rounders who enjoy the broader IB curriculum. Our advice: think carefully about what would best suit you as an individual. Please contact us for expert support with applications to both IB and A level schools in London and throughout the UK.
When helping families relocate internationally, it is important that to consider needs of the whole family and their school-age children.
The greater the understanding of the key differences between global education systems, the more successful the assignment is likely to be. We take great care with our school placements and individually- tailored home-schooling programmes to take into account cultural, linguistic and education system differences. It is vital to ensure the happiness and wellbeing of the dependent family.
Bridging the differences between global curricula
Wherever a family is relocating, it is important that the differences between the education system in their previous home country and the curriculum of the host destination school of choice are recognised. This will allow the family and the school to plan accordingly.
A Comparison of 4 education systems
Here we compare four education systems with that of the UK and suggest steps to ensure a smooth transition.
US versus UK
As the US and UK have a shared language, it is often assumed that the education systems in the two countries are broadly similar. However, the differences are numerous!
Children moving from US to UK schools need to be prepared for the fact that the UK has more nationally-assessed exams to contend with. In the US, although children are assessed at the end of every school grade, the examinations are not national and for the most part, have little bearing on their progression from year to year. The standardized tests in the U.S. tend to be state mandated instead of federally mandated. In New York, many high school students take the Regents exams which test the core subjects- but the exam system will vary from state to state. Therefore, GCSE and A level exams of the UK are a culturally different experience for US children.
In addition, the US system is more generalist whereas the UK is more specialist. In US schools, as in the French Baccalaureat, students have more opportunity to study a wider range of subjects for their High School Diploma. There is more focus on sport, music, drama and art and as a result, a move to the UK can seem restrictive at first to US students. Mathematics in both countries is also taught very differently and this must be taken into consideration when settling a US family into a UK school
Culturally, children in US schools tend to be praised more- which is a positive attribute. Children who have previously studied in the US system should be prepared for the fact that recognition of achievement in UK schools can be less effusive.
China versus UK
Chinese citizens often view what are considered strict schools in UK, as positively Bohemian. When selecting the best education solution for pupils who have previously studied in the Chinese system, you should bear in mind that they will be unused to some UK teaching styles. For example, class discussions and individual research methods may be unfamiliar to students who are more used to receiving information that teachers impart to them.
Another key area of support for Chinese pupils will be English language learning. The Chinese language has a logographic system – with symbols representing the words themselves as opposed to the UK alphabetic system. Stress and intonation patterns are also different as Chinese is a tonal language. Because of these fundamental language variations, Chinese learners may require extra time to read English texts. Organising the right English language support for Chinese pupils, with the school, specialist tutors or the Local Education Authority (LEA), is essential.
The GCSE and A level exam system should present no problems for a child moving from the Chinese system as students in China are accustomed to a rigorous national testing system, being mostly graded on a standardized national exam and the National Higher Education Entrance Examination. Children educated in the Chinese system will usually be more advanced in Mathematics than their UK counterparts, and we always consider arranging additional support to enable them to maintain their level.
France versus UK
Like the US system, the French is less specialist than the British and children have a very rounded education up until the age of 18. For students working towards the Baccalaureat in the French system, there is the option to select one of three specialist streams: Scientific (sciences), Social and Economic (Economique et sociale) or Literary (litteraire). For all three streams, though weighted differently, students study foreign languages, sciences, mathematics, humanities and the arts.
For families moving from the French system to the UK, we consider recommending schools which offer the International Baccalaureate to maintain the breadth of subjects. For families relocating with small children, it is worth noting that in France, children start learning to read at six years old, as opposed to four or five in UK Reception classes. Families who would be uncomfortable with the earlier school starting age, may also opt to enrol their children in an international school which follows the French education system.
Russia versus UK
Like France and many countries in Southern Europe, Russian children do not start formal school until six or seven years old, so enrolling in a UK Reception class at aged four or five is unusual. In Russia, children continue in secondary until the age of 15, or 17 if they wish to continue to university afterwards. Final examinations in Russia vary in content to UK A levels and GCSEs- pupils are examined in at least five subjects, including two compulsory written exams (composition and Mathematics) and three elective exams.
At 15 years old, students in Russia take examinations leading to the issue of the State Certificate and at 17 years old, they work towards the Final State Certificate which qualifies them to take entrance examinations for higher education.
As in the case of native Chinese speakers, we ensure that Russian-speaking students have specialist support in place to further develop their English skills. The main challenges to language learning for Russian pupils include the differences between the Cyrillic alphabet and Latin alphabet and the difference in phonology which makes pronunciation of some English vowels challenging.
Transferring to a different school system can be mystifying and confusing for both children and parents.
When settling a family, we draw on our knowledge of different education systems, and linguistic and cultural differences to ensure our client’s relocation is both happy and successful.
With attention to detail, the social and educational barriers can melt away and it is much easier to secure a happy outcome.
Please contact us for expert support with applications to both international and UK schools in London, throughout the UK and globally.
Children perceive relocation differently
Many people assume that children, being young and adaptable, are more resilient to relocation than adults. This is not the case. In some children, feelings of anxiety and sadness can be very strong- even in expat kids who have moved many times. Relocating with kids can be challenging but you can prepare for the top six worries that typically arise- making your child’s relocation smoother and easier for the whole family.
1)Not feeling prepared
In our mad dash to sort the new job, new house and new school, are we forgetting to prepare our kids? We need to ensure that we give them sufficient mental preparation and enough details about their new home. Because we are so close to every detail of the move, we can lose sight of the fact that our children are not so well-informed. Adequate preparation can help to allay these fears. Take time to explain all the details about the new country and your new job. Show your child photos of their house and read through the school brochure with them.
2) Fear that they will not make new friends
Expat children worry about having to make the effort to find new friends. You can reassure your child that other kids will want to hang out with him. If you kid has relocated several times, you can tell him that this experience has helped him to develop great communication skills. Many expat kids are very adept at making new friends and establishing positive relationships.
3) Worry about being the new kid at school
No child likes being the new kid- and expat children will experience this often. They can worry about other children disliking them, not knowing the school rules and eating unfamiliar food. For some children, arranging a period of home-schooling in their new city, can help them slowly acclimatise to the new culture, before starting a new school.
4) Fear of an unknown place
Children worry about a place that they are not familiar with. Reassure your child by giving him lots of information about their new destination, focusing on the positives- perhaps it is near a beach, has great cinemas, the opportunity to learn a new sport or to go sailing.
5) Feelings of loss
Many children experience great loss and sadness. They may be anxious about leaving their friends, their girlfriend and their cosy home. You can tell your child that these feelings of loss are completely normal, especially in expat children who have moved many times, and reassure him that you understand that he will miss his friends and his old home
6) Anxiety about communication
Kids worry that no one will understand them, especially when relocating to a country with a new language. They become anxious that they might get lost and they won’t be able to explain themselves to anyone. You can prepare your child for this by organising language and culture lessons, before you move. Get your kids excited about experiencing a new culture and a new language.
Preparing children, as much as possible, in advance of your move, can help to ensure a happy and successful relocation for the whole family.