Nowadays, in every corner of our lives, we’re inundated with choices. Nowhere is this more prevalent than when it comes to yours or your child’s education. Where do they want to be in five or ten years? What programmes will help them best achieve their goals? Parents, and kids, can be bogged down with questions about their future when all they need is answers. So, as the world of education looks to the next academic year, we ask International Baccalaureate diploma programme coordinator Greg Sipp and secondary school counselor Mary Ann Thompson, both from Riffa Views International School, if they could offer some expert advice on how to make these important decisions.
When a student is moving into secondary school education, how should they prepare?
Greg Sipp: At Riffa Views International School our ninth and tenth grades serve as International Baccalaureate Diploma preparation. Therefore, students that enroll in RVIS in the ninth grade will have two full years of IB experience leading up to the IB Diploma. Heavy emphasis is placed on research writing, oral presentation skills, science lab design and conduct, mathematics training, historical investigation, service learning.
Please briefly explain the IB system and how it works.
GS: The IB Diploma programme consists of six groups of courses which represent six subject areas. All students that want to complete an IB Diploma must choose one course in each. Three courses must be chosen at the Higher Level and three must be chosen at the Standard Level. IB Diploma students must also complete a 4,000-word extended essay, a ‘Theory of Knowledge’ (TOK) course, and complete 150 ‘Creativity, Service, and Action’ (CAS) hours.
What options are available for students at this level in RVIS?
GS: We are offering two different language and literature courses in both English and Arabic. There are different ‘Language Acquisition’ courses offered in Arabic, French, Spanish and Mandarin. There are different ‘Individual’ and ‘Society’ courses which include World History, Economics, Psychology, Business and Management, and Information Technology in a Global Society. We offer Biology, Physics and Chemistry for our Experimental Science courses. There are three different levels of Mathematics courses. Lastly, there are two courses in the arts which include Visual Arts and Film.
What are the advantages of taking an IB course?
GS: The largest benefit that it has over other pre-university programmes is that its reach is beyond one specific country. Students that participate are prepared for entry into any university around the world. Baccaluareate.info states, ‘There are currently over 1,200 IB schools in the United States. The United Kingdom has over 200, Canada has over 300, and China has almost 100 IB schools.’ Other advantages include high university acceptance rates as well as learning how to become a global citizen.
When thinking about choosing subjects, what should students and parents bear in mind?
GS: Students should consider their success in previous individual subjects when making course selections. Higher Level courses require more hours per course – around 240 hours is typical – and is designed for students that have had success in the subject before. Standard Level courses require 150 hours for completion. It is designed for students that have had moderate success with the subject before.
Mary Ann Thompson: While students are contemplating their course selections, they are weighing their abilities and their future ambitions. The most important basis for these course selections will be both the students’ abilities and the requirements of specific university programmes of interest.
When students are looking at moving onto university, when choosing their subjects, what should they think about?
MAT: When considering universities, student priorities vary greatly. For some students who know their choice of study, the rigor of specific academic programmes is most important. Similarly, some students will partially base their university decision on internship offerings or career connections within a programme. Other important considerations include the social atmosphere, the competitive reputation, cost, and offerings such as clubs or study abroad opportunities. Self-awareness and research will greatly benefit students in their university search and application. For example, it is important for students to consider if they work well in small classes and enjoy a friendly and nurturing atmosphere rather than a large university in a sprawling city. Students are encouraged to think of the university as not merely a place to study and obtain a diploma, but a complete experience that makes up their academic, social, and personal lives and directly impacts their career.
What advice would you offer students making these choices?
MAT: Students benefit from using their resources such as university and career searches, as well as through speaking to their mentors, school counselor, and IB Coordinator about academic options. RVIS provides each student with an advisor who assists as a consistent point of contact in regards to academics. Periodic university planning lessons are given in an advisory classroom that requires students research particular universities of interest and admissions requirements. In addition, students are encouraged to be proactive by meeting with visiting university representatives and by attending as many college fairs as possible in order to learn more about university admissions processes and course offerings. Gradually, universities and careers become less overwhelming as students become more familiar with asking questions.
What advice would you offer parents when it comes to their children making these choices?
MAT: Routine conversations at home about academics and specific universities are important in providing students with a clear sense of their options and helping them to stay motivated in high school by focusing on their future goals. Through discussing course options and university interests at home, students are reminded to seek their counselor at school and ask their teachers or advisors academic questions. These conversations open doors for students and often lead to further parent, student and faculty collaboration on behalf of the student’s interests.