Fundamentally, global study allows students to develop greater international awareness and cultural understanding, something which is enormously valuable to employers in the 21st Century.
The US, the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia are all key destinations for Thai students – and foreign students in Thailand – looking to pursue higher education study abroad, but how easy is it for students to secure university places overseas? For those serious about studying abroad, the standard of their education and the international recognition of their upper secondary academic course are key considerations.
A popular option for students aspiring to study at university overseas is the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP), which is widely recognised and highly respected by the top universities around the world. The DP prepares students for academic success at university in a unique way, helping them to become active participants in a global society – qualities well respected by university admissions officers in any country.
IB programmes have been offered in Thailand since 1984, and there are currently 24 IB World Schools in the country, of which 19 offer the DP. Phuket is home to two IB World Schools offering the DP to their Grade 11 and 12 pupils: UWC Thailand (UWCT) and British International School, Phuket (BISP). Both schools have an impressive roster of alumni who have gone on to study at some of the highest-ranking universities in the world.
BISP graduates from the Classes of 2015 to 2018 are now attending 123 different institutions in 23 countries, including: Imperial College London and the London School of Economics in the UK, Monash University in Australia, the University of Toronto in Canada and Duke University in the US.
BISP Headmaster Neil Richards says, “The IB Diploma is probably the most challenging pre-university programme offered in the world today. But, of course, it is much more than this: at its heart it is about compassion, contribution and resilience, qualities that are so desperately needed in the complex world of the 21st Century.”
At UWCT, graduates have been accepted at equally respected institutions around the world, including: the University of Cambridge, King’s College London and University College London in the UK, Stanford University, Cornell University and Yale University in the US and the University of British Columbia in Canada.
Jason McBride, UWCT Head of School, explains: “Success at university in any country requires students to have a profound level of skill in time management, organisation, independent learning, presentation, research, writing and analysis, and critical thinking. These skills are all trademarks of an IB learner. Offering the IB Diploma Programme at our school has been enormously valuable – we take great pride in the fact that our students leave school well-prepared to pursue their goals, whatever they may be.”
The IB Diploma Programme is a busy course, which challenges students to balance a wide range of subjects and encourages a breadth and depth of knowledge. DP students must choose one subject from each of the five groups: studies in language and literature; individuals and societies; mathematics; sciences; and language acquisition, and must also choose either an arts subject or another from the five groups.
In addition to disciplinary and interdisciplinary study, the DP features three core elements that develop vital life skills, broaden students’ educational experience and challenge them to apply their knowledge and skills: theory of knowledge, creativity, activity, service, and the extended essay. The extended essay is of particular interest to those aspiring to study at university as it challenges students to work independently to research, analyse and write a 4,000- word essay on a topic of choice. During the extended essay, students develop invaluable research skills which prepare them for the heavy research requirements of many university courses.
When it comes to assessment, the IB emphasises critical thinking and application of knowledge, instead of knowledge recall. This style of education and examination – learning to apply knowledge and skills, rather than simply recall facts – offers skills that will last a lifetime; preparing students for university success, career success and life fulfilment.
Being a global citizen is not just valuable to university admissions officers around the world, but it is of increasing importance to 21st Century employers too, in Thailand and beyond.
As well as being well-prepared for university study, DP graduates are taught to be internationally minded, considering both local and global contexts. Students are required to study at least two languages, which enables them to increase their understanding of several cultures, including their own, and explore globally significant ideas and issues through different languages. This approach to international-mindedness, which runs throughout all of the IB programmes, fosters a true intercultural understanding in students.
The route students take before progressing to the DP varies. Where some students have no experience of the IB before studying the DP, UWCT is an IB Continuum school which offers the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) for ages 3-11, and the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) for ages 11 to 16 years. An IB continuum education can be highly rewarding, as students benefit from a clear and coherent philosophy, running through all stages of the curriculum. This philosophy encourages IB students to think for themselves and act effectively in any given national or international context.
Where the value of teaching essential life skills and nurturing globally minded citizens is something other curriculums are moving towards, these values are the foundation of the IB approach, and have been for more than 50 years.
– Stefanie Leong
Stefanie Leong is the Head of Development & Recognition, Asia Pacific, based in the IB Global Centre in Singapore. For more information, visit www.ibo.org