International Schools struggling against the International Baccalaureate (IB)


Editor: Emil Aaby

We have all been there, its your last year of high-school. Every single one of the people you grew up with are going through the same trials and tribulations known as exams. These exams are important, these exams are going to decide which university the students are going to attend. Choices of universities are important in Hong Kong, with the unemployment rates being as low as 1% in the top tier universities, with the lower tiered universities having 12% unemployment.

The Hong Kong local exams, called the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education, are very competitive. Only the top few percentile achieving grades high enough to compete with other applicants to enter universities such as: The University of Hong Kong (HKU), The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST).

But how does competition to enter local elite institutions fare for International School students doing international cirriculumns such as IB and A-Levels? Hong Kong students enter local universities through the Joint University Programmes Admissions System (JUPAS) with around 80% of the seats given to them. However, non-JUPAS students only take up 20% of the students. Non-Jupas students include: students from the mainland, foreign students and students taking international cirriculumns. So competition is tough, the pressure is high as the school fees for international schools arent cheap. With the cheapest international schools in Hong Kong costing 150,000 HKD a year, these students really do not want to dissappoint their parents.

For international school kids in Hong Kong the majority of the students take the IB diploma program. A 2-year program equivalent to the A-levels, however IB requires students to be well-balanced in all subject areas. Students are all required to take a subject from any of 5 subject categories: a first language literature/language course, a foreign language course, mathematics, humanities, arts or science. Mathematics and the languages are required courses.

On top of being examined thoroughly in their 6 subjects, they also have to complete thesis papers in each of the subjects. Often times students find the exams and course work very challenging “compared to my friends doing A-Levels, I have to take a lot more courses along with a lot more depth and academic rigor “Allison a student at MG Study Hub comments, as deadlines are usually coupled to school tests which contribute to predicted grades they send off in applications for universities. To top it all off to the amount of pressure and work, the students are also required to write a thesis paper on philosophy, do a piece of independent research and perform 120 hours of creative, action and charitable activities. All just to pass.

Each subject is out of 7 points, totalling 42 points for their core subjects along with 3 extra points awarded for their philosophy and independent research essays. Competitive universities around the world require a minimum of at-least 38 points.”It is really difficult to achieve a 7/7 in any course, in order to get a score more than 36 points you atleast have to be performing at a 6 level which is equivalent to an A in A-Levels.” Eugenia another student at MG study Hub commented. Each point is hard to gain as each subject is equivalent to a freshman university course.

In order to get the top grades the student has to study, day in day out whilst holding all the other commitments. Therefore, the whole experience is very challenging.

The exam season starts now, as May elapsed students begin to take their exams. With some having 3 subjects on the same day. They would have to perform at their peak levels whilst sustaining a full days worth of exams being 6 hours.

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