Understanding Different Curricula
Amongst the plethora of decisions parents make for their children, a critical and paramount one is what school would be best suited to their child. An important factor to consider when choosing a school is the curriculum that is offered in that school. ‘Curriculum’ does not only refer to textbooks and courses, those are integral parts of a whole. A curriculum is a complete solution with suitable instructional strategies and relevant approaches to testing and assessments along with choice of textbooks and variety of courses.
The three most prevalent and popular curricula in the world today are the following:
- British Education system that predominantly follows the National Curriculum
- American Education system that follows the Common Core Standards
- International Baccalaureate
It is important to realize that every curriculum is designed to impart age-appropriate content and knowledge to the students however the sequencing of topics, teaching philosophy and methodologies may vary.
Typically the curriculum for the primary years is focused to prepare students for the secondary level or High School. For the British System this means preparing students for the A-Level Examinations ( Yr. 12-13 ). For the American System it means getting students prepared to excel in high school and the Advanced Placement tests ( Grade 12 ).
The International Baccalaureate (IB) is the youngest of the three; it was established in the year 1968 and follows a more holistic approach to learning. Children begin with the PYP (Primary Years Program) moving on to MYP ( Middle Year Program ) and then the IB Diploma Program ( Yr.12-13 ).
The British system is by far the most test/examination intensive. Students take the I/GCSEs (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) standardized tests from Year 9 till Year 11. Students are tested on core-concepts in each elective subject. Students studying in the British System do become good test-takers as they are able to handle pressure and develop better systems of exam preparation compared to students enrolled in other systems.
The American system places greater emphasis on class participation and term projects. Also American schools tend to focus more deeply on extracurricular activities. The curriculum is based on Common Core Standards that are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that young people need for success in college and careers.
The IB system differs from both the British and American systems. The IB is mainly project-based and interdisciplinary in nature. This means students have less flexibility in choosing subjects. Pupils are not able to specialize in a couple of subjects, as is the case in American High School and A-levels. Students are not only expected to but also required to dedicate a fixed amount of hours towards community service. IB students also have to write a 4000 word extended essay as part of the IB diploma. This endows them with many important skills such as: critical thinking, research, and analysis.
Amongst other reasons to pursue an education, a common aim and purpose of schooling is to ensure college and real-life readiness in students. All curricula manage to address this requisite, however it is worthwhile to understand that different type of learners maybe better suited to a particular curriculum.