There are plenty of things that high school students in international schools are concerned about. Aside from coming to terms with their transition to adulthood and the changes and responsibilities that this entails, they are also expected to choose their program of study.
This, in turn, will greatly affect their academic and career options. Stamford American School, for example, is the only school in Singapore that offers high school students the opportunity to take Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), or Business and Technical Education Council (BTEC) courses. Choosing the best match among these 3 options can be a daunting task, considering that this decision will play a crucial role in how high school students will shape their future.
An Overview of AP, IB, and BTEC
The first step in finding the right match is understanding exactly what the options are. Taking Advanced Placement courses means attending college-level classes while the student is still in high school. Earning AP credentials is equivalent to getting A-Levels in Singapore, and high school students who can complete AP courses are able to demonstrate to admission officers that they can succeed in college.
Conversely, completing an IB Diploma Programme serves as proof that a student has met the requirements needed to gain admission to an institution of higher education. The IB diploma is recognised by many universities across the world.
Last but not least, BTEC courses equip students with practical skills and technical knowledge that will allow them to prepare for building a career or attaining higher levels of education.
Here are some of the points that students should consider when making this decision:
1st Consideration: When the Student Should Make the Decision
Students who want to take AP courses can make the decision to do so earlier than those who want to acquire an IB or BTEC diploma. This is because AP courses are available to students between Grades 10 and 12, while IB and BTEC courses only accept students who are in Grades 11 and 12. Now, it’s perfectly fine if a student wants to start taking AP classes after passing Grade 10. However, those who want to acquire as many AP credentials as they possibly can are better off using as much of the 3 years that they have to complete the courses and pass the corresponding AP exams.
2nd Consideration: The Student’s Plan of Action after High School
While there are definitely students who have their eyes set on a particular career or lifestyle goal, there are also many others who have not yet decided on the path that they want to take after completing high school. Students who want to enroll in a college or university in Singapore or overseas often find that taking related AP courses is a solid step in achieving their goals. In some academic institutions in the United States, earning AP credits in high school is equivalent to earning college units and having the opportunity to get into more advanced college classes without going through foundational courses. At the same time, students who have passed AP exams can skip the entrance exams in countries like Australia and the Netherlands that require exam-based university admissions.
The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, on the other hand, is designed to provide Grades 11 and 12 students with a well-balanced education that prepares them for both university and life, and the diploma one earns from completing the IB program is recognized in many universities around the world.
Then, the BTEC program offers students more room to explore their options and prepares them for post-secondary education in Singapore. Post-secondary education options include enrolling in a junior college or the Millennia Institute. These programs can be completed between 1 to 3 years, at the end of which the student has the option to acquire an IB diploma. BTEC courses can focus on academic and career-related programs and equip the students with the skills they need to continue their education or kick-start their careers in their chosen fields.
3rd Consideration: The Areas That Demonstrate the Student’s Strengths and Weaknesses
Students who are keen on honing their research skills and interdisciplinary learning will find plenty of opportunities to do so by joining the IB program. While demanding at times, the IB coursework provides students with the framework they need to be able to come up with ideas and views that are synthesized from different fields and areas of specialization. Students who want to delve deep into particular subjects often go with the AP program. However, they should carefully choose the subjects they want to focus on, especially if they want to use their AP units in college. Finally, students who enjoy putting their knowledge and skills into practical use will find plenty of highly engaging courses when they enroll in a BTEC program.
Selecting the high school program that is best matched to the student’s plans, capabilities, and interests can be nerve-wracking for both the highschooler and their parents. Before making a choice among these 3 programs, students and their families are advised to talk to educators first. A supportive school environment, the assistance of experienced educators, and the wide availability of IP, IB, and BTEC programs in Singapore should help them determine a course of action that will maximize the students’ chances of finding the best path and forging the future that they want for themselves.