How the IB programme impacts our lives (comparing to GCSE, IGCSE, and A-Level)

Choosing a school for children is one of the most challenging responsibilities for any caring parent. When choosing a school, our concerns are mostly about the quality of education and educational programmes, rather than the proximity of the schools to our home. In our globalized world, the choices for schools are broader and more variable. As parents, it is no longer as easy as it used to be to evaluate the options available and choose the best one for our children. Therefore, in this article, we will try to explain the advantages and disadvantages of the four most popular education systems (GCSE, IGCSE, A-Levels, IB) and guide you in your choice.

GCSE Programme (General Certificate of Secondary Education)

GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) is a high school programme for children aged 14-16. It is a two-year programme for 10th and 11th grades. At the end of the second academic year, students take an exam in each subject. The curriculum consists of compulsory and elective subjects. Major subjects include English, literature, mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, history, geography, and an additional foreign language. Elective classes include astronomy, art, programming, psychology, etc. includes 3-4 additional subjects. 


Grading is set separately for each subject. Until 2018, the grading system was in letter format - from A * to G. In 2018, the Ministry of Education changed the grading system - letters were replaced by numbers from 9 to 1 (9 is the highest grade, 1 is the lowest grade). The high A * and A ratings are now equal to 9, 8, and 7. This distinction allows for a more accurate determination of a student's academic performance level.

IGCSE Programme (International General Certificate of Secondary Education)

GCSE and IGCSE are very similar in structure and scope of subjects. In both programmes, the level of knowledge is determined by the number of subjects successfully completed. The choice of topics is similar to GCSE, but the IGCSE programme includes additional foreign languages ​​and offers a total of more than 70 subject options. These subjects include compulsory subjects such as English, additional foreign languages, mathematics, natural sciences, and several elective courses that students can choose from as many as they want. On average, 5 to 14 compulsory subjects are taught. The IGCSE test is based on written exams and is considered stricter. All British universities accept IGCSE certificates as equivalent.

A-LEVELS Programme (GCE Advanced Level)

The A-Level programme consists of 45 subjects. Each student chooses 3-4 subjects from these subjects that are suitable for the future university speciality. The list of proposed subjects includes mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, economics, accounting, business, English literature, politics, psychology, etc. For students who do not decide on the choice of speciality, classical subjects are recommended. The A-Level academic programme consists of two parts, each lasting 1 year. The programme includes 20-25 hours of lessons per week, including selected subjects and English lessons. After the first year of study, students receive an As-Level, and after the second year, an A2-Level. Upon completion of the programme, they take an exam to obtain an A-Level diploma.

IB Programme (International Baccalaureate)

The IB approach to education goes beyond the established framework of academic competence. It is a programme that seeks to develop students intellectually, emotionally, and socially by promoting individual learning, thinking, cultural awareness, and service. IB consists of four programmes in English, French, and Spanish for different age groups. The most well-known and widespread IB programme is the IB DP (IB Diploma) programme, which targets students aged 16-19. Students choose topics from 6 subject groups, provided that there is one subject from each group.

Subject groups are as follows:

  1. General teaching language and literature
  2. Foreign languages ​​and literature
  3. Individuals and Society (Social Sciences) - history, geography, psychology, economics, philosophy, business and management, information technology, and other topics
  4. Natural sciences (Science) - general biology, physics, and chemistry
  5. Mathematics
  6. Additional optional topics - design, music, theater, or an optional subject from group 3, as well as the teaching of groups 4 and 5 as the main subject, depending on the student's wishes

Three of the six selected subjects are taught as a core subject in the amount of 240 teaching hours (High Level), and the other three are taught at a standard level of 140 hours each (Standard Level).

Besides, IB students must write a final essay of 4,000 words and receive credit for two courses (TOK, CAS).
TOK - Theory of Knowledge
CAS - Creativity, Activity, and Service
CAS consists of 50 hours of sports classes, 50 hours of creative activities, and 50 hours of social work courses.

The assessment structure of the IB Diploma differs from the GCSE, IGCSE, and A-Level programmes. IB, like other programs, does not make a specific assessment for each subject but gives an overall assessment based on all areas. For 6 selected subjects, students are graded from 7 to 1, and the highest grade is 7. These grades ​​are then added to the total from 6 to 42.

The Theory of Knowledge (TOK) and final essay is assessed separately, and the successful completion of these courses gives students a maximum of 3 points, which adds up to the highest possible diploma grade (42) to a total score of 45. The CAS project is not officially assessed, but a diploma is required.

International Baccalaureate Diplomas are awarded to students who have scored at least 24 points.

Similarities and Differences between Educational Programmes

A-Level, GCSE, IGCSE and IB are internationally accredited educational programmes that facilitate the process of applying to universities, especially for students who want to study abroad. Each of these programmes allows for direct admission to a bachelor's degree at a university in a country with prestigious universities, such as the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, and Australia, without the need for "foundation" training programmes.

Each of these programmes is reviewed by a panel of experts every few years. New subjects are added to the curriculum to keep up with the latest educational trends, or the content of traditional subjects is re-examined to provide a more solid foundation for students.

International education programmes are based on the core curriculum they prepare for university admission.The language of instruction is mainly English, and in most schools, the local language is added. A different curriculum is presented from the local curriculum.

International programmes are taught by local and mostly foreign teachers. The international diversity of teachers allows for the sharing and application of different experiences from different countries.

Every school where IB, A-Level, GCSE, IGCSE programmes are taught strives to keep the number of students in the classroom low enough to ensure a high level of education.

In addition to problem-solving skills, these programmes also focus on the development of critical thinking skills. Grade 9 students are given the opportunity to choose topics that best suit their abilities and interests.

Each of these international programmes has a unified approach to education.

So, what are the differences between IB and other diploma programmes, where the language of instruction is entirely English and which is becoming more widespread in our country?

IGCSE and GCSE are comprehensive and balanced curricula designed for all students, regardless of skill or ability. Designed for more academic students. It is a programme that focuses on the accumulation of knowledge and exam-based assessment.

A-Level Programme - it is a program aimed at ensuring that students acquire deeper knowledge and specialize in their chosen subject according to a 2017 report by University Admissions Officers.

IB has a more comprehensive approach to education. IB focuses on research-based learning and provides students with a wide range of experiences. On the other hand, IB emphasizes the development of global thinking skills and aims to provide students with a global outlook. The IB Diploma provides both an in-depth study of several disciplines and focuses on personal development as well as academic education.

The IB programme may be the choice of students who are unable to decide to specialize in 3 or 4 subjects, as is the case with the A-Level program at an early age.

IB students are encouraged to work for humanitarian purposes. 10th-grade students work on PP (Personal Project) for 1 year. The PP project gives students a great deal of experience by requiring in-depth analysis in research.

While the A-Level programme offers specialization in 3 or 4 special subjects, the IB's presence of 6 different subjects and a wider scope is one of the main reasons why this programme is considered the best university preparation in the world.

The IGCSE programme has a more structured curriculum. The curriculum is prepared in advance. Teachers teach their students based on the materials provided.

IB teachers focus on conceptual learning and participate in the designing of courses based on six global contexts.

It is sometimes said that the IB programme is not for everyone, but only for gifted students. Although the IB programme requires a lot of effort, the student spends more time in school than other programmes, in fact, the IB programme is designed for all students. Simply a comprehensive experience and training programme requires more time and effort.

IB is often seen as an "elite" educational programme. Because the use of modern technology to strengthen the level of education is expensive, that is why the IB programme is more expensive than others.



On average, children spend 5-7 hours a day at school. Therefore, a good school plays an important role in shaping their worldview.

When choosing a school for your child, research the school's policy, vision, and mission. Ask other parents around you for their opinions. Learn the power of the school you choose.

The most important thing when choosing a school is to be able to choose the right curriculum for your child's needs. Take the time to explore the mission and philosophy of the curriculum deeply, not only to be educated and knowledgeable, but also to choose an educational programme that can play an important role in the development of your child as a humanist.

The last important issue when choosing a school is to find schools that have teachers who can effectively implement the selected programme.