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The IB: as good as it gets!

It’s the time of year where as a school we gear up to admit a fine cohort of sixth formers for September 2019. Bryanston has always welcomed a pleasing number and quality of candidates at this point, and the existing yeargroups, year on year, enjoy and benefit from the injection of new ideas, talents, and energies.

One of the attractions of Bryanston (and there are many) is that we offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) alongside the now very traditional A levels. This provides the school with a varied offering and one which attracts really interesting pupils who study one or the other programme.

What is it about the IBDP that means it’s worth offering?  And how do schools convey that to 16 year olds and their parents without seeming to diminish the national A level programme?

I think there are some very key reasons for offering the IBDP that fit right into our Bryanston profile of all we do.  And that’s why Bryanston is a great place to study the IBDP.

1.      The Bryanston model of education is  and always has been all about producing independent learners and learners who will contribute their own particular talents to the world.  The tutorial system here of one-to-one support and guidance is a jewel in the crown for all pupils, whatever they are studying.  But in terms of a pupil managing the IB and learning fast the techniques of research and independent study, this tutorial approach is ideal.

2.   Bryanston rejoices in pupils with a wide range of talent.  They do not necessarily want to confine themselves to three subjects at A level (though some do) nor to follow necessarily an entirely ‘traditional’ system.  They may want to study Film or Psychology, both of which subjects have a strong syllabus at IB.  They may want to study English Literature which is not focused mainly on dead white males.  They may want to keep up a level of Maths to make them ready for their life in work, but not wish to study it at a higher level. They may be bilingual and wish to study both their best languages as a Language Av.

3.   The pupils enjoy the Core in the IB as much as they do their main subjects.  The extended essay allows them to research at a level which university admissions offices find compelling;  the CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service) element is a key part of the diploma making sense of the world beyond their immediate walls; the ToK (Theory of Knowledge) component might be the best bit of their week. The IB is in other words a diploma; the six subjects interrelate and the Core pins them together.  The diploma is about producing young adults who are ready to learn for the rest of their lives and to be part of a global world not just a small and self-referential slice of it.

4.   Bryanston has always prided itself on pupils leaving the school ready to live happy and purposeful lives, and ready to contribute to the wider world.  This is closely aligned to the IB’s mission. After Bryanston, pupils tend to study at university and importantly to study at the university which suits their interests and abilities in terms of providing the best degree course in that subject and for that pupil.  There is an increasingly international flavour in that respect from Georgetown to Melbourne from Cambridge to Berklee.  The world’s an exciting place and the IB prepares pupils for that beyond our foggy Brexit-obsessed island.
This is not to say that you cannot perfectly well achieve most or all of that whilst studying A levels. You can, but the IB insists upon it; has a mission and a vision; marries in its educational provision the rigorous with the comprehensive; promotes critical thinking throughout all subjects and the core; encourages cultural awareness, global responsibility, and resilience. It is as their motto states: ‘education for a better world’.
It’s hard to argue with. There are reasons for not studying the IB of course, but it’s hard to accept the one that A levels are ‘easier’. For two good reasons: (i) why is that in any way a good thing? And (ii) it’s not true. A levels are harder than they were, have no coursework and will not, in the next few years, be anywhere near as accessible to all as they once were. This may not be a bad thing, but it only reinforces the fact that they are not the ‘easier’ option. 
So, at this time of thinking about the sixth form and future choices, I heartily recommend the outward looking, active and participatory, critical and creative IB diploma. I honestly think it’s as good as it gets.