Indonesia Expat

Advanced Placement vs. International Baccalaureate ? A Parent’ Dilemma

Group of Teenage Students | Photo Courtesy of Istock

Parents want a non-biased review of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB) from the International Baccalaureate Organisation, Genève, Switzerland, and the Advanced Placement (AP) International Diploma Programme from The College Board, New York, NY, USA. According to educational consultants and journalists in the US, the IB and/or the AP are both acceptable programmes to get students into great universities.

Dr. Mark Montgomery, instructor at Harvard University, stated the following:

In my opinion, both the AP and IB programmes are equally valuable, in that the exams associated with those courses provide an external measure of quality. Any student who does well on the end-of-course assessments associated with either program can genuinely claim to have done college work in a high school setting. The structures of the two programs are very different, however. Think of AP and IB this way: AP is a smorgasbord: pick the courses you want, leave behind those that tempt you less. IB, by contrast, is a ‘prix fixe’ menu: you get all or nothing. There is a range of choice within IB, but the entire high school curriculum is dictated by those initial choices.

I agree with Dr. Montgomery as I have been involved in international schools for 30 years and have worked in both AP and IB programmes around the world. There are a number of differences that parents and high school students might be interested in besides the smorgasbord vs. prix fixe mentioned above.

The College Board, founded in 1900, not only offers the Advanced Placement International Diploma, it also offers the SAT®, SAT Subject Tests™, AP®, PSAT/NMSQT®, PSAT™ 10, PSAT™ 8/9, ACCUPLACER®, CLEP®, SpringBoard®, Services for Students with Disabilities and CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE® programmes. The IB offers the PYP, MYP, DP and CP programs. Over the years, the IB has added good co-curricular components to the curriculum, but the rigidity and rigor can be too difficult for many students and less than desirable to students who need more flexibility and creativity.

Thinking of creativity, what I find very interesting about the AP programme is that The College Board has recently added new offerings besides the honours college-level courses being taught in AP schools around the world. The traditional college-level courses include Arts; AP Art History; AP Music Theory; AP Studio Art: 2-D Design; AP Studio Art: 3-D Design; AP Studio Art: Drawing; AP English Language and Composition; AP English Literature and Composition; AP History & Social Science; AP Comparative Government and Politics; AP European History; AP Human Geography; AP Macroeconomics; AP Microeconomics; AP Psychology; AP United States Government and Politics; AP United States History; AP World History; AP Calculus AB; AP Calculus BC; AP Computer Science A; AP Computer Science Principles; AP Statistics; AP Biology; AP Chemistry; AP Environmental Science; AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism; AP Physics C: Mechanics; AP Physics 1: Algebra-Based; AP Physics 2: Algebra-Based; AP Chinese Language and Culture; AP French Language and Culture; AP German Language and Culture; AP Italian Language and Culture; AP Japanese Language and Culture; AP Latin; and finally, AP Spanish Language and Culture.

What is new and creative to AP is the AP Capstone Diploma Programme, including AP Seminar and AP Research. This is very exciting as it finally brings project-based Socratic methodology, with student-led real world problem-solving into the high school experience.

AP Capstone is an innovative diploma programme that provides students with an opportunity to engage in rigorous scholarly practice of the core academic skills necessary for successful college completion. AP Capstone is built on the foundation of two courses — AP Seminar and AP Research — and is designed to complement and enhance the in-depth, discipline-specific study provided through AP courses. It cultivates curious, independent, and collaborative scholars and prepares them to make logical, evidence-based decisions. –

I was honoured to have worked with Head of School, Ted Hill and the faculty at Chadwick School in Palos Verdes, California. They are one of the first 10 schools authorised to pilot this programme, and, from what I have heard, it is very compelling.

There are other, less comprehensive diploma programmes available for parents and students to consider such as IGCSE and A-levels, yet these are mostly test-based, quite rigidly-structured and, I believe, not increasingly irrelevant. The owner, Cambridge, has seemingly weakened the brand by allowing for non-standard, non-accredited ‘international schools’ to pop up all over the world, watering down the exclusivity while making the learning process really a test-taking process. This philosophy, arguably, does not actively support creativity nor support the joy of learning for the sake of good test scores. They are an OK alternative for students who do not have sufficient resources to afford a well-rounded, liberal arts educational programme, including the fine and applied arts and sciences like the AP or IB, but are less than ideal for the 21st century needs for core competencies, such as world view, emotional intelligence, academics in balance, creativity and technology (WE ACT).

To ensure that the school is of high quality no matter which diploma programme chosen, colleges and universities look for external accreditation by five regional accreditation agencies as reported by the US Department of Education. In East Asia and the western states of the USA, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accredits only the finest international schools, colleges, and major universities (UCLA, Stanford, etc.). Only WASC-accredited international schools are allowed membership into the East Asia Regional Conference of Schools (EARCOS). Any school that has EARCOS membership also has WASC accreditation and offers AP or IB as a choice. You can’t go wrong attending any of the hundreds of EARCOS schools. Look for the EARCOS/WASC logos, and you can be sure that the school has the proper programme for entrance into colleges and universities world-wide.

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