We often get asked “What is the best international curriculum?” Our standard reply is that it depends on the local context and the needs the school is aiming to satisfy. In truth all curricula are good. It is the people that drive it that make the difference and it is the clients, families, students and parents who drive the need. The following list aims to provide a very simple summary of each. In truth the explanation and analysis is much more complex. The curricula are driven by structures including “what” but they are also driven by a philosophy of “how.” Each school also has characteristics that reflect the country of origin that need to be explored, unpacked and understood. Before you decide on international curriculum options Please contact us for more detail.
The International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) offer the Primary Years Program (3-19), the Middle Years Program (11-16) and the Diploma Program (16-19). Generally speaking, IB programs are designed to be flexible enough to accommodate national or local curriculum requirements, e.g., they can be studied in the UK and the US incorporating their curriculum. The focus is on an overriding philosophy and teaching methodology including interactivity, inquiry, cross-disciplinary connections, and international awareness.
PYP: The Primary Years Program (PYP) is a curriculum framework that adopts a transdisciplinary approach that aims to make learning authentic and relevant to the real world. Learning is not confined by traditional subjects and each transdisciplinary theme encompasses a broad range of universal understandings that embrace a variety of content areas. It also adopts a learner profile that encourages children to adopt a number of character traits essential to becoming a successful global learner and citizen. The program’s “inquiry-led approach” allows students to be active participants in their learning by asking questions, exploring ideas, and sharing knowledge with their peers.
MYP: The Middle Years Programme (MYP) is specially designed for children aged 11 to 16, and follows courses in the eight subject groups of: Language A (English or mother tongue); Language B (a learned language or English as an Additional Language); Mathematics; Sciences; Humanities (History, Geography, Economics, Global Issues); Technology (Information, Design); the Arts (Visual Art, Music and Drama); and Physical Education.
IB Diploma: The IB Diploma (DP) contains six subject groups, together with a compulsory core that is central to the ethos of the programme and made up of three elements: Theory of Knowledge, Extended Essay and Creativity, Action and Service. Six subject choices are made, one from each subject group. Normally, three are studied at Higher Level (HL) and three at Standard Level (SL). Each subject is graded from one to seven, with a further three points being awarded for the ‘core’ elements of the programme. A maximum of 45 points is available and a total of 24 points is needed for pupils to achieve the full IB Diploma.
There are three mainstream providers of UK curriculum internationally: Cambridge, Pearson/EdExcel and Oxford.
UK curriculum is internationalised for overseas schools and covers Early Years (from 5 years) through to IGCSE (14-16 years) and A Levels (16-18 years). There are wide and varied opinions about which group might be the best provider but to be fair these opinions are most often quite subjective. Teachers of specific subjects may prefer one model over another but in truth all are equally credible and of the same accepted standard.
IGCSE: The IGCSE is not a “certificate of education,” rather it is a qualification based on examinations in individual subjects of study, with IGCSE qualifications and grades issued for each subject taken. Typically “core” subjects include a first language, second language, mathematics and one or more subjects in the sciences. As in the UK, students will then choose a number of additional programs with a typical full load comprising 8-10 total subjects.
A-Levels: A-Levels are designed for learners aged 16 to 19 who are looking to prepare for higher education. The programme is two years in length for the full International A-Level and one year for the International AS. Similarly, students choose specific subjects and they are an advanced study that may provide extra standing at tertiary level.
As curriculum in the United States is supervised by individual states, those international schools around the world that do offer U.S. style international curriculum tend to emphasise ‘principles’ and ‘standards’ of the U.S. education system. The international curriculum emphasises a broad, generalised education that encourages students to continue their studies in as many major disciplines as possible, rather than specialising early (like the UK secondary system). Students will typically work towards earning a High School Diploma, based on the accumulation of credits.
US AP programs: The Advanced Placement Program (AP) enables students to pursue tertiary-level studies prior to beginning university study. Students choose specific subjects and the programmes may also grant advanced credit for introductory university courses.
A key feature of the Finnish school system is to ensure equal opportunities for all. Individual support measures are in place to guarantee that every pupil and student can reach their full potential. There is less focus on homework and standardised testing and an increased focus on teacher training, collaboration, student and parent involvement. The integrated interdisciplinary system provides personalised and purpose based learning allowing students to learn at their individual level. Educators are more like mentors and they adopt a competency-based approach to learning 21st century skills for life.
“IPC” Schools (Field Work Education)
Fieldwork Education provides access to its curriculum through a membership of its network.
Although still often referred to as “IPC” The International Primary Years Curriculum, it is now offered at the International Early Years Curriculum (IEC), Primary (IPC) and Middle School level (IMYC). The program focuses on specific learning goals and promote a sense of international mindedness. The curriculum is theme based and holistic. Within each theme, the programmes suggest a variety of ideas and strategies for collaborative learning, active learning, learning outside the classroom, as well as role play.
In Australia, education is administered by each of the country’s states and territories and therefore each state and territory has its own system of schooling. The curriculum sets out what and how your child should learn across a range of subjects and the measures used to assess their achievement in those areas. Like America, Australian curriculum is now supported by some national standards that aim to ensure similar benchmarks across the nation. The Australian Curriculum is made up of 8 key learning areas. These learning areas are English; Mathematics; Science; Humanities and Social Sciences; The Arts; Technologies; Health and Physical Education as well as Languages. The programme also focuses on a set of key 21st century capabilities as well as cross curriculum priorities.
Canada does not have a national curriculum as the provincial governments are responsible for establishing the curriculum for their schools. However, the Ministers of Education from each province have joined together in the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC), in order to establish best practices in a collaborative effort. In addition to traditional compulsory subjects such as language, math, science, social studies and art, all provinces include citizenship education in the curriculum at both the primary and secondary levels. All provinces develop their own assessments. Most have province-wide examinations in numeracy and literacy at select grade levels and then some have core-subject tests for high school graduation.
Hybrid Schools and International Curriculum
It is not uncommon to develop a “hybrid school” that embraces more than one curriculum. Many countries require international schools to adopt local characteristics and standards in core curriculum areas, language or religion. Some schools are bilingual, trilingual and they may even offer multiple pathways. A school may describe itself as British but also offer the IB Diploma. Some schools may offer AP, IB or A Level options to its upper secondary students. There are a range of reasons for doing so. These models are not simple and they require careful planning, tracking and coordination but they are very effective in cases where diverse populations exist as well as students many many and varied destinations.
SAT, IELTS, TOEFL and other Testing Programs
Although not curriculums as such, there are many tests that international schools may help students prepare for. They are often essential requirements for entrance to university.
SAT: The SAT is an entrance exam used by most American colleges and universities to make admissions decisions. The purpose of the SAT is to measure a high school student’s readiness for college, and provide colleges with one common data point that can be used to compare all applicants. There are two sections covering Math and evidence based Reading and Writing.
TOEFL: The Test of English as a Foreign Language is a standardised test used to measure the english language ability of non-native speakers wishing to enrol in English-speaking universities, particularly in the US.
IELTS: The International English Language Testing System is a standardised test used to measure english language proficiency or non-native english speakers, particularly for Australia and the UK universities.
Who is Global Services in Education (GSE)
Global Services in Education is a full service education management company led by education experts. They are proven education and business leaders who know how to set up and manage international schools in unique cultural contexts. GSE lead education projects from the initial idea to set up and full management. Kindergarten, Primary, Middle and High School, Universities and Adult education.
School Acquisition: GSE represents investors looking to acquire schools or evaluate potential of school group expansion.