Michael Carslaw: International course opens doors
I was delighted to read in last Saturday's Scotsman of the exam successes of students at the independent schools of Scotland.
However I was disappointed to see no mention of pupils studying the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma. This respected qualification is now on offer at four institutions in Scotland, three private, including St Leonards, and one state, Motherwell College. Instead you focused on difficulties with the completely different Scottish Baccalaureate.
There are few similarities between the two. Pupils at St Leonards have been studying the IB Diploma for a number of years now and it has proved a great success. The breadth and rigour of the qualification has been opening doors not just to all Scottish and UK universities but all over the world. The IB is the most globally recognised pre-university course.
It has been established for 40 years, is studied in more than 3,000 schools, including 210 in the UK, and is growing rapidly. It is offered in as many state-funded schools as independent.
Pupils study the theory of knowledge, have to complete 150 hours of creativity, action and service, complete a 4,000-word undergraduate standard extended essay as well as study six subjects, three at an equivalent to Advanced Higher level. This is a huge challenge, but the achievement is unquestionable. The assessment standards have remained unchanged for 40 years –there is not the grade inflation that has so discredited A levels and, to a certain extent, Highers.
Pupils whose interest is in the sciences know how to write; those whose interest is in the arts and humanities have an awareness of the scientific world. The IB Diploma opens up horizons for school leavers instead of prematurely limiting them.
This year's 63 leavers from St Leonards achieved an excellent average of 32 points, well above the world average, and are now fully prepared for whatever life and university throws at them. Universities have no need to provide catch-up courses.
• Dr Michael Carslaw is headmaster of St Leonards School, St Andrews
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