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Making the choice: International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme


a word from dr collier head of school Shortly, Year 10 students and their parents will make a preliminary choice between the Higher School Certificate (HSC) and the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma as their course of study for Years 11 and 12. I have 17 years’ experience as a Head of two schools which have offered the IB Diploma, and believe strongly in its value, equally as I believe in the value of the HSC. The two credentials are quite different; some students will be best suited to the one, while other students are best equipped for and served by the other. My own opinion is that the HSC, being the strongest credential of the Australian states and territories, is world class, as is the IB. SACS

does not advocate one over the other. The IB Diploma was founded in the late 1960’s to serve the interests of the children of mobile diplomatic personnel who needed a stable curriculum with continuity of learning, no matter which country they resided in at the time. It was set up by a consortium and available initially to English, French and Swiss citizens. Since that time it has grown rapidly; the IB, which consists of three programmes, the Primary Years Programme (PYP), the Middle Years Programme (MYP) and the International Diploma, is taught in 141 countries worldwide. It is therefore the only truly international curriculum in the world, and is growing at around 20-25% per year both in Australia and worldwide. As an international course of study, the IB curriculum and examinations are the same everywhere in the world. It has three official languages in which

instruction and examinations can be conducted: English, French and Spanish, with a strong possibility of shortly adding Mandarin Chinese. In making the decision, I have found that some students make their choice on the basis of the credentials themselves, ie HSC or IB Diploma, while others decide on the basis of which credential will give them the subjects they most wish to do. But either way, as you consider which course to pursue in Year 11 and 12, I encourage you to make use of all information and resources available to you. Please take advice from the staff before making the selection, but we will certainly leave you enough time. All the best as you consider the best choice for you,

Dr John Collier Head of School

the science of IB: mr john kennedy It’s 8.45am – but in Mr John Kennedy’s IB Physics room, you can barely tell it’s an early class. His students, alert and excitable, are asking questions, probing for answers. A packet of croissants sits on the front table (a sporadic thank you to students for making the early trip) and the whole space is filled with that indelible buzz that comes from classrooms and lecture halls where minds are eagerly tuned-in. This is a place where students are thrilled to learn. As Head of Science at SACS and a teacher of both HSC and IB Physics, Mr John Kennedy is wellversed in the specifics of the IB programme. We caught up with the English expat to demystify the science of IB and find out how the programme’s curriculum instils confidence, inquisitiveness and high-functioning cognitive qualities

in young learners. We also find out how he is making the classes his own, tailoring lessons to his handson, ‘what if?’ teaching style. Tell us a little about yourself professionally – how did you come to be teaching in the sciences? Mr Kennedy: I studied in England and have a Master’s Degree in Physics… at the end of my degree I ended up doing a PGCE, which is the English equivalent of a Graduate Diploma in Education, hence I started teaching. I was teaching in high schools in the UK for four years – getting involved in all sorts of weird and wonderful things like introducing archery as a sport – but teaching physics mainly, with a bit of biology and chemistry. Every day is a new adventure. I’ve been in Australia since 2009, teaching in Cranbrook, Newington and now St Andrew’s… Why am I teaching physics? I like to see how the universe has been stuck together. The more you teach, the more you learn.

What first drew you to the IB as an alternative learning programme? The IB is a much nicer, rounder qualification than English A Levels [I used to teach]. It’s a two year course, it builds on itself from one year to the next. It’s mentally challenging and stimulating. I also teach HSC science at SACS – it’s a little bit more ‘humanities’ biased than ‘pure science’ and considers more about the effects, history and uses of science on society. The IB does do that too, but often more obliquely through the Theory of Knowledge content which appears in physics and through specific units that act as a sort of synthesis topic. What kind of students flourish well in IB science? They would be students who are self-motivated, organised and independent learners . The sort of students who can tackle a problem from the bottom up and keep working on it – even when it appears to be going nowhere! That said, the students who are going


to do really well [academically] and get 95 ATARS and above would [flourish in] either course (HSC or IB).

way with my HSC classes.

What’s your own teaching philosophy?

I upload the information we will be discussing in class to a learning management system. It’s available for students to see before and after class – even during, as most of our IB students bring laptops. They’ll write on power-point files, flick ahead; look back. We’ll often connect to an iPad and use it as a camera, or connect computers up to data logging equipment so students can literally get data from their experiments immediately transcribed to their iPads, laptops, iPhones or Android phones.

I don’t think I am particularly unique – I just enjoy the subject so much that it really comes across to my classes. Students will get annoyed when I put problems on the board that I don’t know the answer to and we work it out together. Sometimes they even turn out to be impossible! Eventually they get used to it, they realise it’s quite fun and see if they can get to the answer before me… We often break from the topic – someone might ask the question ‘What if?’, so we get the equipment out and find out. It’s very hands on. My classes are very flexible – the IB allows me to have a bit more time to do that as it’s a little less prescriptive, though I still teach this

How important is it for you to keep abreast of current scientific progressions?

How do you actively engage your students in learning?

Obviously you need to keep your finger on the pulse – that’s why I’m doing a PhD. One of the focus areas of my PhD is trying to understand why a smaller proportion of students are doing science in Year 11 and 12 than they were 20 years ago. It’s important that students are picking up New Scientist, Cosmos, the SMH and seeing what’s going on. Most people wouldn’t have realised there was a solar eclipse today (10 May)! It’s important that students can see what they’re learning and how it gets used in the real world. And that’s important for any course, be it HSC or IB, in any subject area.

It sounds more like a university style of learning… I try to invoke that. I’ll lecture; we’ll do tutorials and labs. It’s very much a ‘university’ approach’ in my classes.

a parent’s perspective: mrs liz hurley When asked to write about the IB from a parent’s perspective I naturally went to the beginning of the process and tried to write a description of the journey but really it is probably outcomes that most parents are interested in. So I’ll tell you a little about what the IB has given my son and then some of the things I think you need to know. I did a lot of reading before the decision was made for my son to do the IB – I recommend you do the same. Having an adult education background the IB learner profile and the assessment policy really resonated with me in terms of pedagogy and good learning practice. For my son,

the IB suited his learning style and his broad interests as he certainly wasn’t a diehard humanities student when he began the IB.

All in all, the IB is a great program. Whether you choose the IB or HSC, it is all going to be hard work! Preparation for the future:

My advice for parents is to be as prepared as the students need to be. Yes, it is a lot of work, but not insurmountable if they get organised. Here is how I survived the IB: • I had the latest assessment schedule

• I made contact with teachers if I had any concerns • I constantly asked how the CAS portfolio was going (maybe I nagged) • I tried to be actively interested when my son spoke about something he was learning • I fed him lots of his favourite food!

He is very busy and highly engaged at University; the IB prepared him to manage his time well! He is in his second year studying US Studies and philosophy, but what really excites me is that he is already on the SRC, executive of the Art Students Society, captain of the USYD Quidditch team, regularly campaigning for University Union and SRC elections along with working one and half days per week.

from the classroom: current students Emma Jagot Year 12 IB Student From the thought provoking subjects to the heated philosophical discussions in TOK and volunteering for absolutely every charity event for CAS, the IB has been a rewarding and challenging experience so far. But, it has by no means been easy. Perseverance, time management and a strong sense of independence are all characteristics we’ve had to develop quickly to be successful this year. Despite the large amounts homework and volunteering required for the IB, what really has set my year apart from all the rest is the support of my IB cohort. As we all move closer towards our final IB exams, I believe the relationships and bonds we have made during this year will prove invaluable. The academic demands of the IB have prepared us for a lifelong after high school and I look forward to expanding my skills during the coming year.

Tom Wooley Year 12 IB Student Num, quat. Num aut quo ea ipiet, aspeditGenis consequi aliquodis sit laccabo. Nempore con rerorrum audissintur adit latus siminullab invendio tem. Apera nihil molupti scipsam volupiet dis aut as volupta comnis dusaeritio tem volorem ulparum aut omnia con repelita pellatu reprae. Et de pa volum fuga. Nem vente expel imus anihili gnienimil modigentia volor assequi busandae que voleseq uassunt enis que voluptus dis sequae nectas dit faccabor magnihi cillit quasime estissi corio tem velita volor sum qui quas serum fugiaes tianden daernatquam aut quia acculleni non es cullaborerum soleniatur? Suntem. Nam nobit, odi beria excestintur sentus inihit ressimet estis ullique maximod itassunt, sition rest qui test volupitiae saperro et eici quam hari

graduates reflections: Kate Sligo - dux with an IB score of 44/45 and an ATAR of 99.85, is preparing to commence at the University of Cambridge in September studying International Studies, focusing on the Middle East. I studied the IB for a few reasons: I wanted to study overseas, I liked the international perspective that the subjects had, and it offered me the best subject combination that I wouldn’t have been able to do with the HSC. The IB has challenged me inside the classroom, but also outside of it. The Creativity Action Service programme made my final two years at SACS more incredible than I could have imagined. It got me running fun runs in a Santa costume, swimming 24 hours in a mega swim to raise funds for Multiple Sclerosis, arguing for my client’s case in a Mock Trial and even DJ-ing a Junior School disco to raise money for children living in poverty in Cambodia. Further, Theory of Knowledge was an opportunity for me to challenge my own thinking and the Extended Essay allowed me to delve into a subject that I found particularly interesting, developing my knowledge with a significant degree of freedom and flexibility. Above all, I loved getting to know the other IB kids and forging lifelong friendships. There were sleepy mornings and panic attacks with approaching deadlines, but most of all, there was laughter and an excess of personal jokes. The multitudes of jokes that were made over the two years are moments that I will fondly remember from my days in the IB at SACS.


graduates reflections: Meredith Grey - graduated as SACS Dux of the Year in 2011. She is currently studying at the New School in New York. The IB challenged me to make myself my only competition, and not get complacent in my education. I found the lack of scaling and ranking a huge influence on my decision to do the IB. Getting a mark that is directly reflective of your work, and then seeing that mark and others you earned becoming your final score out of 45 is a really rewarding experience. One thing I didn’t think of until I was nearing the end of the IB was the fact that the actual course content and structure engaged me in a way that made going to school enjoyable. The way I learnt in Year 11 and 12, the assessments I did and the stuff I learnt about was refreshingly new and interesting, and I understand they regularly update the syllabuses and assessments, ensuring an engaging two years. This was particularly true of English and Drama, where I felt the courses were so different to the HSC, and to anything I’d done before. The unique assessment style and content kept us all on our toes.

St Andrew’s: St Andrew’s Cathedral School is an Anglican day school for boys and girls from Kindergarten to Year 12 located in the heart of Sydney.

While there are many other reasons I chose and enjoyed the IB, one reason was that it planted a seed of curiosity in me about studying overseas. While for most of my high school life I was reasonably sure I would do Arts at Sydney … deciding to do the IB made me at least look into studying overseas, if only to pay respect to the fact that I was able to so easily. From there, I applied for and got accepted into a college in New York (whose small class sizes, individual learning style and cross disciplinary education with an emphasis on turning theory into practice and changing things in the real world sound suspiciously like the mission statement of the IB). To apply for entry I used not only the actual diploma, but the experiences I have gained through doing the IB to display myself as a desirable student with breadth of knowledge, emphasis on service and a generally inquisitive and proactive nature.

Angus Nicholas - Dux of Year 12 in 2010, graduating with an IB Diploma score of 44/45 is now in studying B.Arts/B.Law at Sydney University. I am very glad I did the IB. I think that it has been a great experience and, for people who have broad interests and a willingness to learn about many different areas, it is very valuable. I think we have learnt to engage with the world more, not just accept it but to think about it, question it. We have received a broad and holistic education. The IB is a very tough programme, but it made the last two years of school the most interesting and the most challenging.

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Harriet McGregor - is currently studying Communications in Theatre and Media at Charles Sturt University. On completion of the IB, Harriet was published as one of the top 50 (worldwide) excellent essays for the subject of Theatre. IB pushed me beyond what I thought I could achieve academically. Through doing the IB, I am able to approach my university studies with a confidence that I don’t see in some of my peers. This is enabled me to receive a full academic scholarship for my three year course and getting on the University Dean’s List in 2011. I don’t believe I would have been able to achieve this without what I learnt and the way I was taught in the IB.

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St Andrew’s Cathedral School Sydney Square, Sydney NSW 2000 ABN 34 429 367 893 phone +61 2 9286 9500 fax +61 2 9286 9550 email enquiries@sacs.nsw.edu.au CRICOS Registration: The Council of St Andrew’s Cathedral School 02276M

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Making the Choice: IB Diploma Programme