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IB Schools in Singapore: What Parents Should Know

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Want to know more about the IB or International Baccalaureate diploma course in Singapore, what schools offer this, and whether it might be suitable for your child?

First, we’ve noticed that some parents who are starting to research local secondary schools in Singapore may mix up the acronyms ‘IB’ and ‘IP.’ To clear up this confusion, IP is short for the “Integrated Programme” — this is a through-train programme of six years for academically strong students aged 13 to 18, where they are not required to sit for the O-Levels when they turn 16. 

There are two types of schools that offer the Integrated Programme or IP, and these are:

  1. Schools that prepare students to sit for the A-Level exams at age 18
  2. Schools that prepare students to sit for the IB or International Baccalaureate exams at age 18

So if your child is eligible for the Integrated Programme or IP, the choice is really between the more common A-Level certification, and the International Baccalaureate or IB diploma, which some local parents and students see as the more desirable option for holistic learning.

Let’s move on to look at other questions that parents typically ask about the IB and IB schools in Singapore!

What is IB, and how is it different from the A-Levels?

One major difference between the IB diploma and the A-Levels lies in how students are assessed:

  • In the IB diploma programme, the final IB exams account for 70 to 80 per cent of the total mark for each subject, while assignments marked by teachers and checked by external examiners make up the rest of the final grade.
  • For the A-Levels, students’ grades depend almost entirely on their final exams.

Another key difference between the two pathways involves the spread of subjects studied. The IB diploma programme offers six subject groups for students to choose from: 

For those in the A-level programme, their studies tend to be more streamlined towards a certain subject discipline, although students are required to take a ‘contrasting’ subject for greater exposure. You can read about the A-Level curriculum on the Ministry of Education (MOE) website. 

Which pathway is better for your child? We’ve heard local educators say that students who like structure and are exam-savvy should do the A-Levels, while the IB benefits those who prefer independent learning, enjoy research, hold informed opinions on what’s happening in the world, and are good presenters. 

However, in our opinion, even if a student doesn’t seem to be a ‘natural’ fit for the IB, the programme is worth considering if you agree with its objectives, which is to shape critical thinkers and problem solvers who can collaborate effectively with different groups of people, in order to build a better world for greater good. 

For more information, you can read about the 10 attributes most valued by IB schools, known collectively as the ‘IB Learner Profile.’

How many schools in Singapore offer the IB diploma programme?

At present, 30 (local and international) schools in Singapore offer the IB diploma programme, and you can view the full list of schools on the official IB website

The local schools that currently offer the IB diploma programme are:

How many students in Singapore take the IB diploma?

In 2021, 1,739 students in Singapore sat for the IB exams — this consisted of students in our local schools, as well as international school students. (In comparison, 11,070 students in Singapore took the A-Level exams in the same year.) 

For parents who prefer tried-and-tested or ‘mainstream’ pathways, you may feel hesitant to consider the IB. We encourage you to contact IB schools to find out more, or talk to those in your social network who have either taken the IB diploma, or have children doing so. 

Eventually, you and your child may still feel more comfortable opting for the A-Level route, but at least you would have fully explored your options to make an informed decision!

Why does Singapore excel in IB exams?

Singapore’s IB results have been impressive — for instance, in the 2020 IB diploma exams, 99 students worldwide received the maximum score of 45, and over half of these students were from Singapore!

Why is this so? Two likely reasons:

  • Only the better-performing students are able to qualify for the IB programmes in our local schools
  • The Singapore education system is generally achievement-oriented and there is a culture of wanting to excel. This means that local schools will do their best to prepare their students for the exams, and the students themselves may seek help from tutors or enrichment schools to fill gaps, such as learning how to apply academic theories or formulate arguments.

However, grooming top scorers is not the purpose of the IB programme, and our local IB schools have begun to downplay the emphasis on scores, in line with national efforts to shape a more holistic and values-driven approach to learning. All the same, you should find out about how the IB scoring system works — get an overview here.

How to get into the IB programme in Singapore?

If you want your child to get an IB education in a local school, you have several options.

First, your Primary 6 child can apply for Direct School Admission into the three local secondary schools that offer the IB programme:

  1. Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) for boys
  2. Methodist Girls’ School for girls
  3. St. Joseph’s Institution for boys

Alternatively, your child can wait till the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results are out, to see if he or she is able to qualify to enter the IB programme in the above schools. For reference, here are the qualifying scores for the IB programmes in these schools:

Local IB School (Years 1 to 4) PSLE Score (2021)
Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) 4 – 7
Methodist Girls’ School 4 – 7
St. Joseph’s Institution 5 – 8

If your child is unable to qualify for the IB programme in these schools using his or her PSLE grades, there is an opening for Secondary 2 students to transfer to the IP track at Secondary 3. But do note that the selection process can be rigorous — here’s what a KSP member shared with us:

“[My daughter] was shortlisted for a selection test to join the IB in Year 3 in her school, where she had to consider the current state of the world and her hopes for the future — and deliver a short presentation of her thoughts. There was also an essay component relating to current affairs, as well as a short interview. Whether or not this is easy or hard for a child would depend on a child’s interests, how mature and well-informed he or she is, and probably the quality and depth of your daily conversations with your child.”

For children who are passionate about the arts or sports, they can also opt to take IB programmes in two of our specialised independent schools. Both schools hold a selection process for Primary 6 children (as well as older students):

If you prefer to let your child stay in a ‘mainstream’ programme until he or she is more mature, you can also let your child decide after the O-Levels if switching over to the IB is a viable option. But again, one will have to score well in the O-Levels to qualify:

Local IB School (Years 5 and 6) O-Level Score (2021)
Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) 2 – 5
St. Joseph’s Institution 2 – 7

Want to know more about the IB programme in Singapore schools? Get answers to more IB questions posed by KSP members, and chat with other parents in our IB vs A-Levels discussion thread!

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