International Curriculums Explained


International general certificate in education (IGCSE)

An international qualification is a very useful one to have on your CV these days, with more and more people choosing to work and study abroad either in a gap year, after university or as a main education choice. Cambridge IGCSE is probably the best known provider of this qualification, which has been developed with the input of schools from all over the world. The Cambridge IGCSE gives an excellent grounding for the Cambridge Board International AS and Levels for the 14-16 age group and includes some really interesting subjects - especially in the choices of languages available - which are probably not to be found elsewhere.

One of the most interesting plusses in the IGCSE courses is the attention given to frequent updates. So many courses tend to be a little stagnant and pupils and teachers alike can become bored. Apart from keeping up to date in modern trends - particularly welcome in science based subjects - the courses are essentially enquiry based in tone. This is a very good element in any course for this age group, as it will prepare them for university or other higher education which is typically not teacher led. One of the strongest criticisms of many GCSE courses is that the teaching practices are rather 'stand alone' which is not a criticism which can be made of the Cambridge IGCSE.

Cambridge IGCSE courses are also - perhaps as may be expected - very tailored to the international aspect of learning. Many courses teach subjects such as comparative religions and foreign policy, but the Cambridge IGCSE course has internationalism embedded in the very core of the curriculum so an understanding and knowledge of other cultures and the needs of other people is inculcated throughout all subjects. In today's shrinking world and especially with so much ill founded fear of the foreigner, to have an understanding of global neighbours has never been so important.

Unlike some newer courses, the Cambridge IGCSE is widely recognised and is taught in 650 schools in the UK and 135 countries worldwide. Some schools choose to teach just a few of the 70 subjects which are available and this is quite all right - all subjects stand alone and are equal to others for the same age group, meaning that students still build up a portfolio of results to take them on to the next stage of their education. Exam results are made up of a combination of written and oral examinations, with coursework and practical work where appropriate. Teachers can choose to have external exams only, but the coursework element is more usual. This is set and marked by the classroom teacher, but is externally moderated against peers from all over the world, ensuring that an IGCSE pass means the same wherever the student has studied. For any student planning to live abroad or for teachers considering teaching in a foreign country, this equitable marking system is a very valuable element of the IGCSE.

International Baccalaureate

The International Baccalaureate is a truly international education for pupils from the age of 3 right up to nineteen. The programmes all contain their own challenges, depending on the age of the child but there is no need to feel that a child must follow it lifelong - any programme will stand alone and will give any child a wonderful educational opportunity.

The Primary Years Programme for 3 to 12 year olds focuses on the child's holistic development, not only in the classroom but in the world outside. Moving on to the Middle Years Programme, the 11-16 year old will move into a more academic arena including traditional subjects but continuing the whole person, wider world outlook of PYP. In the final programme, the Diploma level, the 16-19 year old will be thoroughly stretched by a demanding two year curriculum, leading to a qualification which is accepted worldwide.

The International Baccalaureate has a unique set of criteria which defines international education. It firstly aims to develop citizens of the world through culture and language but also through teaching young people how to live together. It aims to build upon the sense of identity and cultural awareness of every individual child. Human values are important in an international qualification and the IB seeks to foster this in each student. An enjoyment of learning through natural curiosity and inquiry will set any child up for life and this is something very important to IB and is naturally linked to their next important criterion, of giving students the tools to learn across a broad range of subject areas. Despite its international slant, the International Baccalaureate seeks to also respond to local needs and interests. Flexibility and diversity in the teaching methods employed in delivering the IB means it works in any country. Finally, an internationally peer compared form of assessment means a truly worldwide benchmark that everyone will understand.

Although not all schools will choose to teach all three programmes, they are nevertheless designed to provide a seamless taught experience. Although the emphasis on the academic side increases with the age of the student, they all essentially share the same ethos. At all levels, the subjects are drawn from a wide range and focus on the international theme. Perhaps the most important area is languages and acquiring and developing language is a high priority. Cross curricular learning is very important and this leads on naturally to learning how to learn effectively; possibly the greatest gift any teacher can pass on to a child.

The IB first two stages can be taught in any language. The curriculum documents are published in English, French, Spanish and, for the MYP, Chinese. Subjects which need to be validated must be in those languages. The Diploma Programme must be taught in English, French or Spanish as these three languages are used for the examinations. These last two years of the IB Programme are the only ones with a strict language requirement.

International Primary Curriculum

The core values at the heart of the IPC are simple. The main focus is of course on learning and seeks to combine innovative and exciting ways to learn with growing an interest in the wider world and the academic awareness of the primary school age child. Many younger children, especially in a multiracial school setting can have a confused self-image and the IPC seeks to reinforce a sense of the student's own cultural roots whilst inculcating an understanding of and respect for the beliefs and culture of others. Also important in the curriculum are the qualities needed to be a good citizen in today's world. A lifelong love of learning is the ultimate result at the end of following the IPC through the primary years.

Teachers of the IPC are given a hugely powerful set of tools to make their teaching experience as fulfilling as the child's learning experience. A sense of satisfaction is the final reward for any teacher involved in delivering this curriculum and because they are so well supported they gain precious time which can be given to more one to one contact with the individual child. Creativity can flourish in child and teacher alike and everyone walks away with something meaningful having been gained.

When a school becomes an IPC member, a whole raft of information and support becomes available to all staff, from non-teaching staff to senior members of the teaching team. IPC is all about team work and delivering a seamless learning experience for all. Starting as young as three years old, children are presented with a holistic educational experience designed to stand them in good stead in the rest

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