The IB, or International Baccalaureate Diploma Program is an international 2 year secondary curriculum. The IB diploma is recognized as one of the most difficult high school programs in the world known for its interdisciplinary, liberal-arts style subjects and learning outcomes (in contrast to the HKDSE).
Theory of knowledge (TOK): students learn how to think about knowledge formation, justification through philosophical thinking and perspectives.
Extended essay (EE): a 4000 word independent research paper on a subject of choice.
Creativity, action, service (CAS): the IB’s way of encouraging students to pursue creative avenues, maintain physical health, and engage with their local communities.
Students have to take 6 courses, one from each group below, 3 in higher level (240 hours) and 3 in standard level (150 hours). Keep in mind some schools may not offer all of the subjects listed.
Group 1: Studies in language and literature
This is typically a class in the student’s native language with a focus on analyzing literary works and presenting their ideas effectively.
Group 2: Language acquisition
This class focuses on learning an additional language, however, some schools require students to take Mandarin in this place, emphasizing the social-emotional and cognitive benefits of bilingual learning.
Group 3: Individuals and societies
Students can choose from a variety of humanities and social science classes such as business management, economics, history, psychology, etc.
Group 4: Experimental sciences
Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Computer Science, and Design Technology are offered at standard level and higher lever.
Group 5: Mathematics
There are two math courses offered in standard level and higher level: Mathematics application and interpretation (Math AI) and Mathematics analysis and approaches (Math AA). Math AI focuses on modelling and statistics whereas Math AA focuses on algebraic methods and mathematical thinking.
Group 6: The arts
Dance, theater, film, music, visual arts, and foreign languages make up the arts. However, students can decide to take an additional class from groups 1 – 4.
Scoring, scoring, scoring
Each subject is scored from 0 – 7 with 0 being the lowest and 7 being the highest. 7 is often considered equivalent to a 5 in AP or A* in GCSE. A key difference with the HKDSE is that the final grade does not solely rely on exam scores. Depending on the subject, around 20 – 30% of the final grade is determined by assessments throughout the year.
Is the IB right for my child?
From our experience, the IB is more suited towards students who:
- Have a broader range of interests and are willing to explore more subjects
- Are organized, have good time management, and capable of self-study
- Prefer active learning, research, and exploration instead of passive learning and rote memorization found in the HKDSE
- Plan to study overseas (as the IB is more recognized internationally)