In the past, only international schools, such as Li Po Chung United World College (LPCUWC), Po Leung Kuk Choi Kai Yau School (CKY) and English Schools Foundation (ESF) schools, tended to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) in Hong Kong. However, more and more local schools have been offering it as an alternative to the local HKDSE programme, including Diocesan Boys’ School (DBS), Po Leung Kuk Ngan Po Ling College (NPL), St Paul’s Co-education College (SPCC) and St Stephen’s College (SSC). Although all of these schools offer IBDP, IBDP is a 2-year only programme intended for students between the ages of 16-19 as a pathway to university. Before the start of the IBDP, schools offer a variety of different programmes that lead up to the IBDP, namely the IBMYP, IGCSE and Pre-IB.
The IB Middle Years Programme (IBMYP) was also introduced by the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO). It is a 5-year programme (or in several abbreviated 2-, 3-, or 4-year formats) for students between the ages of 11 to 16 and is intended to prepare students for the 2-year IBDP. International schools like Canadian International School (CDNIS), Victoria Shanghai Academy (VSA) and Renaissance College (RC) offer the full 5-year programme. In the final year of the programme, each MYP student must develop a personal project which is externally validated by the IB. This could help prepare them for the multiple projects that the IBDP ensures. Schools can also register for an optional external assessment for the programme that include both examinations and course works which give students the experience of undertaking a public exam. However, since it is optional, not every school that offers IBMYP would partake in the external assessment.
The International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) is essentially the international version of the GCSE, a qualification undertaken by a majority of students aged 14-16 in the United Kingdom. IGCSE is offered by several well-established examination boards based in the UK, including Cambridge Assessment and Pearson Edexcel.
Most ESF schools, such as South Island School (SIS), King George V School (KGV) and Sha Tin College (STC), offer preparatory programmes for the IGCSE exams. IGCSE is designed to be a preparation for further international study, including the IBDP. Besides, having been developed in 1986, IGCSE has a long-standing reputation and as such, many universities around the world will take into account IGCSE results when offering placements. The assessment is also held under exam conditions, giving students the crucial experience of sitting public examinations. A downside to it, however, is that it involves little to no course work, which is a huge part of the IBDP.
The Pre-IB programme is a 1-year programme for students in Form 4 (aged 15-16) designed to help students in local schools, such as DBS, NPL and SPCC, who study the HKDSE syllabus from Form 1 through 3 (aged 12-15) transition to the IBDP syllabus. The Pre-IB programme focuses mainly on the development of skills that are required in the IBDP but are not as well-developed trough the HKDSE syllabus. Inherently, it gives the students a head-start in and a taste of the IBDP syllabus. However, all assessments are internal.
Overall, in terms of preparation for specifically the IBDP, Pre-IB and IBMYP should have an edge over IGCSE in terms of the syllabus and course-works. Yet, IGCSE gives valuable public exam experience and would be considered by universities. Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to education, thus the choice should be based on what the student needs most.
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