Where two parallel systems of education — Matric/Intermediate and Cambridge — are already producing vastly different students, a third system is ready to join the race.
Starting September, Beaconhouse School System is going to offer International Baccalaureate (IB), a two-year equivalent of A’ Levels that promises its students a more wholesome experience. Currently, Beaconhouse is offering the diploma at its PECHS and Defence campuses.
“The diploma programme enhances the abilities of the students,” said the IB programme manager for Beaconhouse PECHS campus, Umair Yahya.
“To introduce IB in Pakistan is like building a school from scratch,” shared the IB programme manager for its Defence campus, Maria Asim. “It took [us] two years to attain authorisation for the programme.”
Taste of everything
Yahya explained how the experience of IB students will be quite similar to a freshman year at a liberal arts university. He gave examples of how this is so. The students will have to take a total of nine elements, six of which are academic courses and three are additional core requirements. “Each student must take one subject from the six subject groups to complete the diploma.”
This is where the variety of subjects comes in. The subjects are grouped under language and literature, individuals and societies, experimental sciences, mathematics and arts. Moreover, the core requirements are Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge, and Creativity, Activity and Service. On average, an IB student will spend 28 hours a week, roughly six hours a day, at school.
As the diploma is currently in its early stages, Beaconhouse hopes that students, who would have otherwise opted for the CIE Advanced Level this year, will be willing to give IB a chance. “In CIE, a student has to take specific subjects while in IB they can get a taste of all faculties,” said Yahya.
“The subject criteria prepares the students for university education and help them gaining knowledge of every group of studies,” explained Asim.
For example, a student of science will not only take physics and chemistry but will also have to study arts and French. “Studying all the subjects help the students decide their majors in university and make him understand what they want to pursue as a career in the future,” she added.
Beaconhouse is introducing the two-year IB diploma at its PECHS and Defence campuses, which have been equipped with state-of-the-art facilities. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS (TOP) & BEACONHOUSE (BOTTOM)
One of the IB’s core subject, Theory of Knowledge, also helps students understand the value of what they learn, pointed out Yahya. For this subject, students will sit for a few hours every week and discuss why they learned a certain topic in the other courses in IB, how it affects them and its value in terms of their knowledge development, he explained. With this subject, IB hopes to make its students critical thinkers.
Unlike A’ Levels in which students take the AS’ level exams in the first year followed by A’ Level exams in the second year, IB diploma testing is carried out only at the end of the two years. But the marks for these programme-end exams, which are conducted by external examiners, comprise only 60 to 65 per cent of their overall grade. The rest is given by the students’ own teachers based on internal examinations. The IB teachers have been given special training and will be available on campus for after-school sessions as well.
“The language acquisition assessment is done orally and, for visual arts, an exhibition will be organised at the end of year two,” said Asim.
“The IB grading is done numerically, with a maximum grade of seven and minimum of one for each academic subject,” she said, adding that the marks for the three core requirements add up to three, making the total points for all nine elements to be 45. Students need a minimum 28 to pass the diploma. Some universities, such as LUMS and Habib University, accept IB grades directly but for others, students need to obtain equivalency certificates from the board office, pointed out Yahya. “Grade seven in an IB subject is equivalent to 90 per cent, according to the IBCC equivalence,” said Asim.
The success of the programme can be gauged somewhat from The International School (TIS), which introduced the IB diploma as early as 1996. When TIS introduced IB in Pakistan, very few people accepted and believed in this programme, TIS founding head Taimur Mirza told The Express Tribune.
“Today, the increasing number of IB schools from one to eight, with more in the pipeline, shows that it will grow,” he said. “Parents are accepting this system for their children to meet the needs in the world.” Mirza admitted, however, that the IB programme is a much more attractive option for students who want to move abroad.
The diploma is more challenging than Matric or Cambridge. “Our students are more open towards research and learning than in any other system,” said Mirza.
Do you have what it takes?
Beaconhouse has stared accepting applications for the IB diploma at both its PECHS and Defence campuses but the school is planning to enrol only those students who show they can handle the IB diploma.
Candidates will be shortlisted in August and will be called in for interviews during which they will be scrutinised on their ability to qualify for the programme, said Maria Asim. The academic year will start from the first week of September. Apart from having good grades, IB candidates should show they are good at public speaking, are active in sports and other activities.
The school is particular about not exceeding the student-teacher ratio of 25:1.
“The fee structure for the IB programme will be slightly above the fee that Beaconhouse is currently charging for its A’ Levels right now,” she shared.
The online application can be accessed at: www.beam.to/bssibdp
Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2015.