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KES becomes an IB World School

26 January 2010

In January King Edward's was granted the status of an IB World School by the International Baccalaureate Organisation. As a result this September the school will become the first major independent school to move, in one go, from A Levels to the International Baccalaureate Diploma.  John Fern, the new Director of Studies, tells us more about how the IB works.

The International Baccalaureate was created in 1968 as an attempt to bring together the best elements of various educational systems and create a new and independent qualification that is not subject to interference by any individual state or government. It aims to create a truly international education that maintains very high standards and it is now taught in 2,867 schools in 138 countries. Today there are over 220 schools in the UK teaching the International Baccalaureate Diploma.

The IB Diploma embodies an entirely different educational philosophy. Whereas the A Level system tends towards specialization the IB Diploma takes a more holistic approach which means that boys study six subjects which are built around six Groups (see image above). Boys have to choose one subject from Groups 1 to 5 and then one additional subject either from Groups 1 to 5 or Group 6. They take three subjects at Higher Level (equivalent in standard to an A Level) and three subjects at Standard Level. The Groups and subjects at KES are:

  • Group 1: Language A - English
  • Group 2: Second Language - French, German, Spanish, Latin, Greek, Italian.
  • Group 3: Individuals and Societies - Economics, Business and Management, Philosophy, Geography and History.
  • Group 4: Experimental Sciences - Chemistry, Biology, Physics or Design and Technology.
  • Group 5: Mathematics
  • Group 6: The arts - Visual Arts, Music and Theatre Arts.

The IB Diploma is bound together by three common core elements. These are:

  • Theory of Knowledge (ToK): This is a fundamental part of the course, designed to provide coherence by exploring the nature of knowledge across disciplines, encouraging an appreciation of other cultural perspectives.
  • Extended Essay: Every IB pupil has to write an essay of 4,000 words on a subject entirely of their own choice.
  • Creativity, Action, Service (CAS): This programme encourages students to be involved in artistic pursuits, sports and community service work, thus fostering students' awareness and appreciation of life outside the academics arena.

IB works on a points system rather than a grading system. The maximum number of points available is 45: 7 points for each subject and 3 points for the Theory of Knowledge and Extended Essay. The CAS element is not marked but boys do need to complete this part of the course. The pass mark for the diploma is 24 points but it is more significant that at 38 points candidates are achieving the offers that are likely to be made by the best universities.

King Edward's feels that the IB is the right programme for us for a number of reasons. In particular we feel that the greater range of subjects will prepare the boys better for a world with increasingly complex and inter-disciplinary problems and careers that are more likely to change. The international component also makes it very valuable to a school like ours with a 40% ethnic population and a rich cultural diversity. Again we feel this will prepare the boys well for today's multi-cultural world. We also feel that A Levels have, over time, become devalued and lost their intellectual rigour. We believe the IB, with its extended essay and focus on independent learning, will bring back something of the standards and ethos and also prepare boys better for university. There is an increasingly strong message from universities that the IB provides a significantly better preparation than A Levels. Finally the school's declared purpose is to provide:

‘an educational experience that is the richest, most diverse, and most exciting possible in an atmosphere that provides support, encouragement and care for everyone, pupils and staff, here. We want our pupils to love coming here and to go from here prepared for all that human life has to offer.'

We strongly believe that the IB Diploma is the best way to do just that.

You can find out more information about the IB, including answers to frequently asked questions, here.