Sunday, July 1, 2018

Out of the box : A Levels, International Baccalaureate

While grade 11 by far is the most popular option for Secondary Education Examination graduates in Nepal, there are other alternatives for those who want pursue an international degree after completing the 10th grade. In recent years, A Levels, International Baccalaureate (IB) and Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) programmes have become increasingly popular among students. Records show that among the three international degrees, A Levels remains the most preferred option among students, followed by the CSBE, while there is only one institution offering the IB course in Nepal. Despite legal provisions in place which envision not allowing foreign-affiliated courses at the school level, the recent trend have shown that students are increasingly opting to enroll into such courses instead of the traditional plus two route.

A Levels
Initiated by Budhanilkantha School in the 80s, the GCE A Levels is the most preferred course among Nepali students, after Higher Secondary Schooling under Nepal Government Board. And with the demand among students growing, currently around 40 colleges are offering the degree under the affiliation of University of Cambridge. Today the A Level degree is also offered outside the Kathmandu Valley in Biratnagar, Chitwan, Butwal and Pokhara.

There is growing demand for A Levels in the country as it provides high-quality education after 10 years of school. Affiliation with the University of Cambridge means that

students can take pride in joining a course on par with international standards in Nepal itself. A Levels qualification not just boosts knowledge students but also develops their ability to

apply the gained knowledge in thinking independently, in analysing and solving problems, educators say.

The course is a two-year pre-university degree—of which the first year called AS Level and second year referred to as A2 Level--that is accepted by over 500 universities across the globe. A major component of the course is that it nurtures creativity in students and promotes their critical thinking and reasoning abilities. A Levels, according to students, helps them become more confident, imaginative and reflective.

Unlike grade 11, the diverse choice of courses, which includes English, Chemistry, Economics and Literature, is a further pull for students. Similarly, the blend of an international curriculum with the local contexts is another attractive factor. The A Levels is internationally recognised for providing excellent preparation for university education and is offered in over 160 countries. Every year, thousands of A Level students gain placements at good universities worldwide.

Students who want to take the A Levels can register for the May/June and October/November sessions in January/February and July/August respectively. The A Level exams in Nepal are conducted by the University of Cambridge under the supervision of the British Council.

International Baccalaureate (IB)
The IB or International Baccalaureate diploma, which was initiated in Switzerland, is a two-year course for students who have completed their grade 10 and are looking to pursue higher education with international accreditation. Despite its ever increasing charm internationally, the diploma course is offered only by the Ullens School in Nepal.

The curriculum of the IB degree is designed for students who want to excel in their chosen fields and are looking for a course structure and design that is different from prgorammes like the A Level or grade 11 courses. According to Dinesh Shrestha, Ullens’ IB coordinator, the diploma course not only provides intellectual challenges but also encourages creativity, independent critical thinking and international-mindedness with tolerance to different perspectives and cultures through various co-curricular activities.

The IBDP curriculum contains six subject groups together with a core made up of three separate parts. Students study six subjects selected from the six subject groups. Normally three subjects are studied at higher level (240 teaching hours per subject), and the remaining three subjects are studied at standard level (150 teaching hours per subject). At Ullens, students have the option of studying either English or Nepali as part of their ‘Group 1’ study. ‘Group 2’, on the other hand, is more focused on linguistic and functional aspects of any given second language. Other groups are categorised as ‘Group 3: Individuals and Societies’, ‘Group 4: Experimental Sciences’, ‘Group 5: Mathematics and Computer Science’ and ‘Group 6: Arts and Music’

 With analytical and practical learning at the core of its flagship course, IB can be an interesting alternative to enterprising students. While the course is certainly more expensive than other high-school diplomas being offered in the country, its international credibility and all-inclusive syllabus make an attractive proposition. Among its six compulsory courses, students can opt for three high-level and three standard-level courses.

The three core subjects taught as part of the IB course are categorised as the extended essay, TOK (Theory of Knowledge) and CAS (Creativity, Action, Service). Since all students need to make sure that they attend all three courses, they partake in activities such as drawing, painting, outdoor sports and social service, besides the conventional classroom education. Students who do not fulfill the given criteria will not be able to graduate.

Sherstha further said that the IB programmes are recognised around the world and ensure an increased adaptability and mobility for students. Its curriculum and pedagogy focus on international perspectives of learning and teaching, while insisting that students fully explore their home culture and language. The IB World Schools must undergo an exhaustive authorisation process in order to offer one or more of the programmes, which includes a study of the school’s resources and commitment to the IB mission and philosophy. The teachers too participate in a wide variety of professional development opportunities to constantly update their knowledge and share their expertise with colleagues around the world. Many students graduating from the Diploma Programme find that it enhances their opportunities at tertiary institutions. The core components of IB programmes encourage students to participate in creative and service-oriented activities, while at the same time emphasising the importance of reflection on a personal and academic level. v

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