British international schools offer globally-recognised qualifications which can be a passport to prestigious western universities.
In fact, the British curriculum is the “gold standard” of international education, according to Eddie Liptrot, chairman of British Schools in the Middle East and principal of Dhahran British Grammar School.
Over one-third of 8,600 international schools globally follow a UK-based curriculum and the National Curriculum of England (NCE) is used by more international schools than any other. “The British education system is thriving internationally,” Liptrot says.
The reasons are not hard to find
English is the most widely-spoken second language and British international schools offer globally recognised qualifications, which can be a passport to prestigious western universities. “The British curriculum is recognised internationally and is a gateway to leading universities around the world that accept GCSEs and A-levels,” says Mark Thomas, principal at The British School of Guangzhou in China.
These qualifications are also valued by employers across the world. “They recognise the British education system and hold it in high regard,” says Andy Puttock, The British School of Beijing, Shunyi’s principal.
“The ongoing development of the curriculum to encompass skills that employers are seeking – such as leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, global awareness, digital literacy, breadth of thinking and creativity – gives the NCE a high standing.”
Personal development is at the heart of the curriculum
Students studying the British curriculum begin at Key Stage 1 and go on to read core and foundational subjects including English, mathematics and science, along with humanities and social sciences, art and technology, computing, foreign languages, music, and physical education. By Key Stage 4, in the final years of school education, students can choose from of a wider suite of other disciplines, such as economics, psychology or drama.
“The British curriculum places a premium on personal, social, health and economic education – which ensures personal development is at the heart of education,” says Puttock.
This nurtures students, not just academically, but also morally and culturally, he says, “The curriculum focuses on delivering exceptionally high academic standards whilst at the same time ensuring that students also develop the wider life skills that are so crucial for applications to top universities and life in the future.”
British curriculum and IB?
While the British curriculum is the most widely-followed, the International Baccalaureate is also popular. Many international schools opt to use the IB Primary and Middle Years Programmes. “They are both good, well-established qualifications,” says Puttock.
“However, they are in essence theme rather than subject-based. They rely very heavily on the quality of the individual teacher, so there can be massive variations in quality.”
The other drawback is that they do not have an established international examination programme to back them up, he says. Students may leave school at 16 with nothing to show for it except grades – a currency with limited value.
What about the US curriculum?
The US syllabus on the other hand, offers qualifications that are increasingly accepted by universities and employers across Europe, according to Dhahran British Grammar School’s Liptrot, who will become head of the cross-syllabus International Schools Group next year. “They are considered to be a standard of excellence,” he says.
The bottom line: when delivered well, all three curriculum offer outstanding opportunities for students.