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Exploring the value of an IB education

The IB (International Baccalaureate), the fastest-growing qualification in the world, has been an integral part of the ISA curriculum since 1996. Having celebrated full marks in last year's exams and achieving a remarkable 100% IB pass rate, our staff and students stand behind the success of the programme.

While the IB is not a new approach in schools globally (with over 100 state and independent institutions offering the IB in their curriculum), notably, ISA is the only school in the North East of Scotland to offer the prestigious qualification.

Founded by Kurt Hahn in response to the need for an international education system, the IB emphasises teaching fundamental tools of thought, fostering a diverse and multicultural community, and integrating creativity, action, and service projects at its core.

But what exactly is the IB Diploma?

Designed for students aged 16-19, the Diploma aims to develop robust academic, social, and emotional characteristics through its curriculum. Students are encouraged to think critically, solve complex problems, explore their own learning, and develop an understanding of the rapidly changing world to become global citizens.

The IB offers a balanced curriculum with six subject choices – three at Higher Level, three at Standard. However, to obtain the full IB Diploma, students must complete 3 core segments: Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge, and Creativity, Activity, and Service (CAS).

The Extended Essay provides an opportunity to research and address issues beyond the curriculum, allowing students to choose a topic of personal interest. This independent learning journey, supported by teachers, leads to UK university admissions officers ranking IB students at 91% for self-management skills, as opposed to 47% for A level and 28% for Scottish Highers.

The Theory of Knowledge module challenges students to consider issues from empirical, ethical, and logical perspectives, nurturing flexibility, and creativity in their academic skills. Universities acknowledge this by rating IB students’ open-mindedness three times higher.

The third component, CAS, encourages the connection between thought and action. Students engage in activities such as volunteering for charities or organising events, reflecting on the issues they encounter and assessing their own effectiveness through self-reflection pieces. This module improves the creativity in all IB students and research shows their creativity rates more than double compared to A-level and Scottish Higher students.

The statistics above indeed speak for themselves, but let's hear from ISA alumni who have experienced the transformative power of the IB Diploma.

Andrew, a second-year Mechanical Engineering student at Glasgow University, found that 40% of his credits came from math, and he was pleasantly surprised to discover that concepts from IB HL AA math and IB HL physics overlapped with his engineering coursework. Despite the advanced nature of IB content, Andrew noted that the problem-solving expectations in university exams were simpler compared to IB exams. He reflected, "Even with the content itself getting more advanced, the required level of problem-solving on the exams was much simpler than IB. Needless to say, I had a far easier time in my first 2 years at university than some of my peers. The reality is, the IB will leave a lot of students capable of second-year direct entry to Uni."

Similarly, Eve, a second-year Psychology student at Heriot-Watt University, shared her experience: "Although the psychology content is entirely different from the IB’s, my writing skills from the IB greatly aided my academic writing compared to my peers, some of whom had never written an essay in secondary school."

In the nurturing environment cultivated at ISA, we prioritise the development of students' skills, recognising the value of the IB approach in fostering their growth. The core aspects of the programme are teaching key skills that set students apart, including independent study, time management, critical thinking and open-mindedness. These foundational qualities not only enrich students' educational experiences but also strengthen their personal statements when applying for university, demonstrating to the admission offers their readiness for complex academic challenges and their capacity for independent thought and growth.

At ISA, no child is left behind, and every student is challenged to progress and develop their strengths. We celebrate the achievements of our students, whether they attain full marks in the IB Diploma and pursue university education or choose alternative pathways.

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International Baccalaureate Council of International Schools Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Cambridge International Examinations CNED