International Baccalaureate and Cambridge Curriculum – What’s the Difference?

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Any parent looking to send their child to a good school will have to make a tough decision; which curriculum to choose? The International Baccalaureate and Cambridge Curriculum are both available in schools around the world and are favoured by thousands of universities as entrance qualifications. But is there really a big difference between the two? Which one would give your child the best chance to get into an acclaimed university? All in all, it really depends on your child’s strengths and aspirations.

The International Baccalaureate Curriculum
The International Baccalaureate (IB) was founded in 1968 as a non-profit educational foundation in Geneva, Switzerland. Today, there are 6,311 IB programs being offered worldwide across 4,786 schools. The IB offers three programs, the Primary Years Program for children of ages three to 12, the Middle Years Program for ages 11 to 16, and the Diploma Program or the IB Career-related certificate for ages 16 to 19.

The IB curriculum is flexible and teaches students using a global approach. Students are required to be holistic through participating in different extracurricular activities that involve physical, creative, and humanitarian work, and do projects and assignments on a topic of their own choice. There is an emphasis on independence for IB students, and teachers constantly challenge students to learn a wide variety of subjects.

For the Primary Years Program, IB focuses on six themes: who we are, where we are in place and time, how we express ourselves, how the world works, how we organise ourselves, and sharing the planet. Students are moulded to become inquirers and take responsibility for their own learning. These values continue into the Middle Years Program, where students learn the usual middle school subjects, plus technology and a foreign language. At the end of the program students do a personal project based on their interests.

As for the two-year Diploma Program, high schoolers complete courses from six subject groups, three at higher level and three at standard, which must include mathematics, a science, English and at least one foreign language. Students must also complete a 4,000-word extended essay on any topic, a Creativity Action Service which requires engagement in the arts, physical education and community service, and studying Theory of Knowledge, which tests students on different types of knowledge through an oral presentation and a 1,600-word essay. IB also offers high schoolers the Career-related Program for those who wish to focus on career-related learning. It combines the Diploma Program with practical and real-world approaches to learning.

The Cambridge Curriculum
Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) is an arm of Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. The Cambridge Curriculum offers programs at all levels and is offered in 10,000 schools around the world. It is divided into four stages: Cambridge Primary for children of ages five to 11, Cambridge Lower Secondary for ages 11 to 14, Cambridge Upper Secondary for ages 14 to 16 which will require the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) qualification, and Cambridge Advanced for ages 16 to 19 which will require the Advanced Subsidiary (AS) and Advanced (A) Level qualifications.

The Cambridge Primary and Lower Secondary teaches students English, English as a second language, mathematics and science as a core curriculum, which provides a clear teaching structure. As the students reach the Cambridge Upper Secondary level, they are required to take the IGCSE exams at the end of tenth grade. Students have to take exams of a first language, a second language, mathematics, and one or more sciences. They have 70 subjects to choose from.

After passing the IGCSE exams students can then go on to the Cambridge Advanced, where they study a one-year course in a chosen subject for the AS level, and a two-year course for the A level. Students have a choice of 55 subjects and can choose to specialise in a particular subject area or study a wide range of subjects.

Which Curriculum Should You Choose?
There isn’t a better choice when it comes to either curriculum. They are both recognised by universities worldwide, and both educate students in a very effective manner. The only differences are the focus on subjects and the projects required to graduate. What you have to figure out when choosing a curriculum is if your child excels in particular subjects, or if they do better with a more general education.

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