A-levels or IB?

August 4, 2010

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Even in public schools, students around the world have to decide between educational systems. For instance, state institutions in the UK (and the US) are now offering the International Baccalaureate (IB); in fact, over 63% of the IB schools in the UK are state funded schools. Well, which one is better? At School Choice International, we believe each system has its benefits and it really depends on the particular student.

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Listen to a student and experts discuss the pros and cons, as well as the type of pupil best suited to each program.

~ Woman’s Hour on BBC looks at this important issue ~

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Here are some of the topics:

A-Levels

  • Standard: Most students in the UK take the A-Levels
  • Specialized Study: A-level students narrow their academic focus quite early
  • UK Focused: Like most state programs, the A-Levels tends to be focused on British topics, for instance British literature and economics
  • Curriculum 2000: The current A-levels have changed to 4 modules, so it is not the same program the parents took

International Baccalaureate

  • A Liberal Arts Approach: IB students must take a broad range of subjects, allowing students to keep options open
  • World Perspective: Students must study world literature, foreign languages, global economics
  • Strong Work Ethic: In order complete this challenging program, students have to develop strong study skills
  • Privileged and Academic Elite: The IB program is no longer only for the financially privileged or the academically elite

Report Cards from Around the World: Bangkok, Thailand

January 30, 2010

For the next several weeks, we’ll look at report cards from around the world.

~ Here we come! ~

~ 9th Stop ~ Thailand ~

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Thailand is a popular tourist destination as well as a popular expat post. As a newly industrialized country, Thailand has a lot to offer in terms of modern commodities, as well as a rich history and culture. Thailand has a developed educational system and a high level of literacy. Education is compulsory until Grade 9 and free to Grade 12.

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Report Card Basics

  • Type of School: British Standard International School
  • Academic Year: 1994-1995
  • Year: 4

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Here’s the report card! The blue numbers highlight a few interesting aspects of the report and the numbers correspond to notes below the image.

1. Reading, Written Language, Maths… and Thai!

This school incorporates the local language as a mandatory subject. Courses include reading, written language, maths, topic (though the actual topic isn’t written), P.E. (physical education), art, music, computer and Thai.

2. Good job Son, I think you got a, um… a 1 in Thai Class

The box at the top of the report card says “Marking Symbols Reflect Achievement Only.” Using this statement, paired with the smaller-than-small “marking symbols” (numerical grades – 1 stands for excellent, 2 for good, 3 for satisfactory, etc.), parents can safely assume the comments hold more weight than the number grades.

3. Comments, comments and more comments

This report card has plenty of room reserved from comments from the teachers, allowing the parents to get a good sense of their child as a student.

4. Grade for Courses… and Study Skills

Along with grades for the courses, students receive grades and comments for the Work and Study Skills they should be picking up. Skills include “works independently,” “works well with others,” “participates in class,” “follows directions and rules” and “attitude.”

See Report Card from: Ontario, Canada; Mexico City, Mexico;    Zomba, Malawi; Sydney, Australia, week 1;    Sydney, Australia, week 2;   Dalhousie, India; Kathmandu, Nepal;    Soro, Denmark


Report Cards from Around the World: Ontario, Canada

December 12, 2009

For the next several weeks, we’ll look at report cards from around the world.

~ Report Cards, Eh? ~

~ 8 th Stop ~ Ontario ~

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The most populated province in Canada, Ontario has a multicultural background with relatively high immigration rates. The largest minority groups in Toronto include South Asians, Chinese, African Canadians, Latin Americans and Aboriginal peoples. Unlike most other national public systems, Ontario has four publicly funded school systems: English-language schools, French-language schools, English-language separate schools (“separate” refers to the inclusion of religious studies), and French-language separate schools. The Canadian educational system has a great reputation all over the world.

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Report Card Basics

  • Type of School: English-language local public school
  • Academic Year: Current model
  • Class: Primary School (Years 1-6)

Here’s the report card! The blue numbers highlight a few interesting aspects of the report and the numbers correspond to notes below the image.

1. A Standard Format for Report Cards

Students in Ontario public (secular) schools receive the same report cards, which are available on a government website. The system creates a standard which makes transferring schools easier, but also some rigidity. On the other hand, the report card includes lots of space for teacher comments and individualized assessment.

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2. Promotion Status

This is a first for us! This section tells the child and parents whether students are progressing well towards promotion. Each child receives one of the following: progressing well towards promotion, progressing with some difficulty towards promotion or promotion at risk.

3. Expectations… What does an A- means anyways!

This report card clearly explains the meaning of each letter grade… An A isn’t just better than a B; a B suggests the child has required knowledge and meets provincial standards, while an A represents knowledge and skills that exceed provincial standards.

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4. English, Second Language and Mathematics…

A half page (of two pages total) is dedicated to English, the second language (French or the native language) and mathematics. This illustrates the importance of the three fundamental subjects. Each subject is broken down into a few components (for instance, English is composed of reading, writing and oral and visual communication). Notice that half the grading space is dedicated comments from teachers. This shows some flexibility in a relatively rigid reporting system.

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5. Learning Skills

Besides, class and subject grades, students receive grades on skills they should be learning throughout the curriculum: independent work, initiative, homework completion, use of information, cooperation with others, conflict resolution, class participation, problem solving and goal setting to improve work. This list reflects provincial values as well!

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6. Response Form

We haven’t seen this before! The Ontario report card has a whole page dedicated to responses from parents and students (I condensed the page for ease of viewing). Parents and students can write about student achievement, goals and support. This page can be an excellent venue to communicate with the teachers.

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See Report Card from: Mexico City, Mexico;    Zomba, Malawi; Sydney, Australia, week 1;    Sydney, Australia, week 2;   Dalhousie, India; Kathmandu, Nepal;    Soro, Denmark


Report Cards from Around the World: Sydney, Australia

October 23, 2009

Sydney Opera HouseFor the next several weeks, we’ll look at report cards from around the world.

~ Hold on to your hats! ~

~ Fourth Stop ~ Sydney ~

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australiaSydney, the largest Australian city and state capital of New South Wales, has a population of about 4.3 million. Known for landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the multicultural city attracts tourists from all over the world. Sydney also boasts a well-established educational system, including public, denominational and independent schools as well as several universities. An Australian degree is recognized and well-regarded around the world.

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Student Report Basics

  • Type of School: Local, Catholic school
  • Academic Year: 2002 (Did you know? Australian schools run January to December)
  • Grade: 2

Here’s the report card! The blue numbers highlight a few interesting aspects of the report and the numbers correspond to notes below the image.

1, introduction

1. Descriptions, Definitions and Instructions

Unlike any other report card we have seen so far, this evaluation is 11 pages long (for instance, the report cards from Dalhousie and Kathmandu are two pages and consist primarily of numbers, rather than words). While many other educational systems attempt to summarize a year’s worth of work into a page or two, this report card include descriptions of the child’s performance, definitions of expected “outcomes” and provides the parents with instructions for interpreting the report card. (Note that this is the first Elementary School report card we have analyzed). Parents, grab a cup of coffee and find a comfy seat, this might take a while!

2. Key Learning Areas determined by the New South Wales Board of Studies

Australians base the educational system and curriculum on Key Learning Areas, which consist of English; mathematics; science and technology; the arts; health and physical education; and study of human society and its environment, which includes languages other than English. The Key Learning Areas and “outcomes and guidelines for indicators” demonstrate the government’s involvement in upholding a certain standard of education.

3. Children are Different

“Children can have different learning needs and may be working towards outcomes at an earlier or later stage.” Translation ~ parents, don’t worry if you’re child is ahead in some areas and behind in others!

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2, scales

4. Progress on a Scale!

These scales show this student’s progress for the areas of English and Mathematics. This student has reached the targeted outcomes for Grade 2 (which is the second year of Stage 1), and is ready to begin Grade 3. This visual representation of progress is a relatively unique aspect to report cards!

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3, writing

5. English and Mathematics… whole numbers, volume, time, chance…

About 5 pages are dedicated to English and Mathematics and each area is broken down to the subsections listed below.

English

  • reading
  • writing
  • talking and listening

Mathematics

  • working mathematically,whole numbers, fractions and decimals
  • addition and subtraction, multiplication and division
  • chance, data
  • patterns and algebra
  • length, area, volume capacity, mass
  • position, three dimensional space, time, two-dimensional space

6. Your child is Competent… Developing… Needs Support…

Each area listed above includes a list of “indicators.” The teacher then marks the child’s achievement for each indicator as competent, developing or needs support. Note that these categories are stated in the positive form of the meaning (rather than, “is behind the rest of the class”). For instance, in writing, this child:

  • Is competent to: write a simple statement or short text for different purposes,
  • Is developing to: usually use full stops at the end of sentences,
  • Needs support to: use correct pencil grip and maintain correct body position.

Consider how this differs from JUST a letter or number grade for mathematics in general; in comparison to all the information provided, the letter or number illustrates only the child’s standing in relation to the other students in the class. This process explains the child’s progress in relation to each task.

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4, Social Development

7. Social Development… at a 2nd grade level

Besides English and mathematics, students receive an assessment for Religious Education, Science and Technology, Human Society and Its Environment, Creative Arts (Music, Visual Arts, Drama) and Health and Physical Education. Teachers also assess Social Development and Work Habits. Looks like this student is “developing well” in some areas and is “highly developed” in others. Well done!

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5, General Comments

8. General Comments

This section allows the teacher to comment on the child’s social and academic development, noting areas that may need attention.

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See Report Card from Dalhousie, India; Kathmandu, Nepal; Soro, Denmark

Report card analysis to look forward to: Palestine, Malawi, Australia, Canada, Mexico and more!


Report Cards from Around the World: Kathmandu, Nepal

October 9, 2009

Nepal-Flag_0

For the next several weeks, we’ll look at report cards from around the world.

~Fasten Your Seat Belts~

~Second Stop ~ Kathmandu~

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himalayan_peaks_nepal_photo[1]Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, which is home of the mighty Mount Everest. Though troubled by unrest in the last few years, Kathmandu remains a popular tourist destination, especially among the adventurous. As a developing country, Nepal has made enormous strides, though life expectancy (at 63 years) remains low and infant mortality rates highest in the region. Although Wikipedia suggests a 98% literacy rate in the city of Kathmandu, the World Bank reports a literacy rate of 48.2% for the country, and highlights gender disparity (female: 34.6%, male 62.2%). Regardless, Kathmandu has many schools that offer a quality education.

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Pupil Progress Report Basics

  • Type of School: Local, English-standard school
  • Academic Year: 2000 – 2001
  • Class: X (10)

Here’s the report card! The blue circles highlight a few interesting aspects of the report and the numbers correspond to notes below the image.

Nepal Report Card, Page 1

1. Population and Environment

Some schools offer Population and Environment, a class that may be equivalent to Human Geography (offered as an Advanced Placement class in the American system).

2. Percentage and Position in Class

This student received 70s in her classes (which would be a C average in the United States), however this is considered “Very Good to Excellent” in the Nepali education system. Her high achievement becomes evident in her position in class: 2nd, 3rd or 4th out of 19 students. Speaking of which, the class rank would rarely be reported in most American classrooms, except for the valedictorian at graduation. This illustrates differing values in competition within the educational system.

3. Division

In the Nepali system, students are separated into three divisions, a sort of “streaming.” Here’s a break down of the divisions:

explanation of marksHere’s the second page of the progress report:

Nepal Report Card, Page 2

4. Teacher’s Comments… “Try harder and do better”

Unlike the report card from Dalhousie, the Nepali progress report includes teacher’s comments (which covers about 50% of the card). The general theme, even for one of the highest achieving students, seems to be “to do better,” “prove her worth,” and “aspire higher.”

5. “She should shed her over confidence”

This statement clearly demonstrates a cultural difference in the value of confidence versus, perhaps, humility? Has your teacher ever said you were over confident?

explanation of marks and to parents_2

See Report Card from Dalhousie, India; Soro, Denmark

Report card analysis to look forward to: Malawi, Australia, Canada, Mexico and more!


Report Cards from Around the World: Dalhousie, India

October 2, 2009

Dalhousie, snowcapped peaks

For the next several weeks, we’ll look at report cards from around the world.

~All Aboard !~

~First Stop ~ Dalhousie~


The British Empire founded Dalhousie (named after a British official) as a hill station in the 1850’s. Nested the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, Dalhousie remains a popular tourist destination with incredible views of the Himalayas. Though a small city, with a population of about 7,500 people, residents are relatively well educated

Dalhousie, India

Report Card Basics

  • Type of School: Local, Catholic, English-standard school
  • Academic Year: 2000
  • Class: X (10)

Here’s the report card! The blue circles highlight a few interesting aspects of the report and the numbers correspond to notes below the image.

Report Card from Dalhousie, Page 11. G.K. ~ A Course Called General KnowledgeGeneral Knowledge Textbook

Students take a class called “General Knowledge,” from text books like the one at the right (which is available online). This course focuses on countries and capital cities, language, literature, plants, animals, sports, entertainment, science and the arts. Do you know the capital of Yemen? (answer below)

2. Numbers Everywhere!

While some report cards feature the teacher’s notes on a student’s progress in class, this report card focuses on numbers. This correlates to the test-based culture of the Indian educational system; tests can easily be converted to numbers.

3. Here are your marks… here are the highest marks in the class

The Indian educational system tends to be competitive (possibly an understatement), and teachers consider the highest marks* as the standard of achievement. Compare this to the American educational system where students may compare their grades to the average.
* Indians refer to “grades” as “marks.”

4. 78’s… A C-average Student? Nope!

This student achieved high 70’s in the three terms. That’s not great in the United States, but it’s fantastic in India. This student ranked 5th in her class! The pupil should be proud of her achievements.

Report Card from Dalhousie, page 2

5. Academics
This section of the report card gives the letter grade equivalent of the percentage grade. While a 78 would be a “C+” in the United States, it constitutes a “B” in India.

Here’s a chart to interpret the grades

90-100

A+

80-89

A

70-79

B

60-69

C

50-59

D

40-49

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6. Self-Confidence and Personal Hygiene
When is the last time your teacher rated your self-confidence… or your personal hygiene? This section of the report card deals with soft skills and the rating system is more flexible as well (letter grading, rather than the numbers that were so prevalent on the first page). When teased about her less-than-perfect hygiene scores, this student responded that the score included… handwriting! Obviously “Hygiene” has a different meaning in the Indian educational system than it does in the U.S., and includes personal presentation both in person and in work.

7. Very Good and Congratulations
“Very good and congratulations” are the only comments from the teacher (though this may be different for a trouble student). This differs greatly from report cards that concentrate on comments rather than grades (examples to come!)

Report card analysis to look forward to: Nepal, Malawi, Australia, Canada, Mexico and more!

* The capital of Yemen is Sana’a.


You See, in India, Handwriting is Very Important…

September 4, 2009

I recently interviewed an American family about their experiences while living in India and sending a child to a local school. They told me a fascinating story (I’ve taken a few creative liberties, but the issues are the same).

Students in IndiaMom and Dad attended the parent-teacher meetings at an English-medium, independent school in India. They spoke briefly to each teacher: the “maths” teacher, the science teacher, the Hindi teacher and finally the English teacher. The English teacher said, “You’re daughter is lovely, but her accent is so thick that no one understands her. Also, she speaks too fast.” Well, Dad was perplexed, “Accent? What accent?”

Then the teacher went on to talk about writing. She said, “Your child’s handwriting is very messy and I always have to take points off.” Mom and Dad were not too concerned about handwriting and asked instead about the content of her writing, but the teacher continued to speak about handwriting. “Your daughter must use a computer at home?”

“Well… yes,” Mom replied.

“Does everyone have a computer in the United States? In India, children do not have computers, so handwriting is very important.”

Not sure what to say, mom replied, “But what about the subject matter of her writing?”

The teacher continued, “You see, in India, handwriting is very important because we are preparing our children for The Boards*, and their handwriting must be legible in order to be graded.”

“But she won’t be taking The Boards.”

“She won’t?”

“She will be moving back to the United States.”


The parents ended the story with a laugh, “well, she had much better handwriting when she returned to the United States!”

In a way, the tale is funny, but it’s also telling of educational values. While the parents were trying to find out about the content of their child’s writing, which usually constitutes the most important aspect of writing in the American educational system, the teacher showed much more concern for her handwriting, crucial for passing exams that can open or close doors to higher education in India. The parents and teacher reached an impasse.

This anecdote illustrates important cultural differences in education, that can make an international education challenging. While the value may be a relatively small matter (who spends much time thinking about handwriting in the United States?), it can have serious implications (computers per capita definitely marks wealth disparity on a national level) and serious consequences (failing the all-important exams). These are the small factors parents might not even think to consider when choosing to send a child to a local school.

That being said, this particular child had an overwhelmingly positive, life-changing experience. School Choice International will post a video of the interview soon… tune in to find out more about this fantastic family.

See a video interview on the same family!


* Final exams given at the end of Class 10 and 12 through out India.