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Malvern College Exams 2022: A-levels v IB

Keith Metcalfe, Headmaster, Malvern College

As thousands of young people up and down the country prepare to sit their exams, there is still debate amongst educators about which qualifications best prepare pupils for life after school.

A-levels may be the traditional route to higher education or the world of work, but increasingly the International Baccalaureate is being seen as an alternative which offers a wider world view.

When the International Baccalaureate was founded in 1968, it was intended as a global “passport” to “provide an internationally acceptable university admissions qualification.

Over five decades later, it is a prestigious educational brand offered in over 100 schools in the UK and in 5,400 schools in 159 countries worldwide.

Malvern College in Worcestershire is this year celebrating offering the IB to its pupils for 30 years.

Keith Metcalfe, Headmaster, said: “Here, we actively promote a set of values which we call the Malvern Qualities. These help equip our pupils for life’s challenges, enabling them to adapt and succeed in a rapidly evolving world. 

“The IB Philosophy, and its focus on developing ‘inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world’ is perfectly aligned to these Qualities. We particularly like the Theory of Knowledge element of the IB, which develops pupils’ critical thinking skills and teaches them to interrogate how they know what they know.”

But, said Mr Metcalfe, the IB is not right for everyone.

“The pupils the IB attracts are those who have a greater interest in the world around them and who wish to study a wide range of subjects aligned to that interest. We offer 26 subjects both for A-levels and IB, providing every pupil with a pathway to suit their individual requirements and wider aspirations.

“A-levels enable early specialisation, which may suit some pupils wishing to apply for university courses in, for example, engineering or medicine. The IB also provides a good route to study for these careers, albeit with a broader focus.

“Pupils might pick the IB over A-levels to enable them to pursue those interests, because the IB curricula look beyond the national to the international. They may choose IB because they like that it includes coursework which allows focus on an area of interest, or because they have heard that the Programme will prepare them well for university study. 

“At Malvern, we have a pretty even split between our Sixth Formers choosing A-level or IB. Although all major university systems recognise and support both A-levels and the IB, those pupils wishing to study in the US will find that the breadth provided by the IB is particularly well suited to the US ‘liberal arts’ approach to university education.”

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