For a holistic education, should you take the A-Level or International Baccalaureate?
14 Aug 2018
Few would disagree that a good education means more than just exam results. The benefits of non-academic experiences – from sports competitions, charity events, or school plays – have been shown to lead to more than just happy memories.
Research in the US also found that attending extracurricular activities improves relationships with peers, parents, and teachers. Such experiences can also help to develop a host of skills which may interest employers and help university application forms bristle with interesting extras. But the amount of extracurricular activity available to post-16 students will depend on their course of study.
A-levels vs IB Diploma
A-level students tend to focus on three or four academic subjects studied in depth. Extracurricular activities are arranged at the discretion of individual school or colleges. The International Baccalaureate, on the other hand, takes a different approach. In the IB Diploma programme (IBDP) for 16 to 19-year-olds, six academic subjects are complemented by a core which includes a compulsory experience-based element. This is known as Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS).
Students are encouraged to examine global issues from local perspectives while undertaking enjoyable and significant experiences in each of the three CAS strands. They then combine two or more strands in a CAS project. Music, arts, or theatre, for example, can count towards fulfilling Creativity, while sports and exercise meet Activity requirements.
For Service, students engage in volunteering at school or for charities. As well as their studies, students may end up writing for the school newspaper, doing Zumba, and raising money for socially just causes. The important point is not what students do for their CAS activities, but that CAS is compulsory. This reflects the IB’s commitment to provide a holistic education that goes beyond learning “stuff”.