A little research on the internet reveals that International Baccalaureate or more commonly known as the IB system was implemented in 1968 in Geneva, Switzerland, and is definitely not a new educational system.

The idea was simply to make way for a globally uniform curriculum for globe-trotting students whose parents are constantly on the move. This revolutionary system has since then caught up with rest of the world as well. Fairly recently, even the most conservative of educational setups such as the one in the United Kingdom, began seeing it as a possible alternative to existing education boards. Top universities from around the globe including Oxford University, University of Cambridge and Imperial College London accept the IB system rather than the traditional O and A Levels system.

The system made its debut in Pakistan in 1996 when it was adopted by the International School in Karachi. Nearly three decades after its inception, the system is still not quite as popular as the O and A Levels system or the Aga Khan Board in Pakistan but it is making inroads. Schools such as Lahore Grammar School and Learning Alliance and TNS have taken the initiative of implementing the International Baccalaureate as an option alongside the O and A level system.

The IB system offers programmes for three different age groups: the Primary Year Programme (PYP) that is meant for the younger lot up to the fifth grade; the Middle Year Programme (MYP) for students between 11 to 16 years of age; and the Diploma Programme (DP) for the 16 to 19 years age bracket. As the stages advance, the content matures, teaching and learning methods become more refined and assessment becomes more rigorous. Yet the underlying principles of learning through inquiry and experience along with research remain constant. Each student prepares a 4000 word essay based on an original piece of research and there is a compulsory Theory of Knowledge course which is also assessed. Finally, the IB involves a compulsory programme known as CAS (Creativity, Action and Service) Which involves a minimum of 50 hours each of any Creative and Action activity along with a Community Service.

Flexibility in subject choices also means that it is possible to take biology, chemistry and mathematics – if you want to study medicine – plus literature, a language and a social science subject. It is also possible to take unusual subject combinations – Italian, English, chemistry, mathematics, psychology and art, which would be difficult to replicate in an A Level school. It is possible to fail the diploma as only 78% of students who take the diploma each year pass it and comparing this with the A Level where hundreds of schools and colleges are able to report that their students achieving a 100% rate implying a lower standard of testing. Many like to refer to this system as being for the ‘global citizen’ – a much needed entity for an increasingly inter-related and co-dependent world facing many common threats and challenges.

–The writer Kamran Baig is a student of A-2 (A-Level final year) at Aitchison College.