In a diverse and multicultural city like Bratislava, we are always very aware that every student at an international school has their own unique set of needs and aspirations. However, when it comes to selecting a post-16 course, I believe that there are two fundamental requirements which are common to everyone.
First, it is essential that we offer a course which results in qualifications which allow every student to progress to the next phase in their education or career. The International Baccalaureate Diploma is unique in that it offers a truly international qualification which is not tied to any particular national system, leading to recognition by universities from all over the world. With over 775,000 students in 138 countries, the IB is expanding rapidly and is seen by many institutions as the best pre-university course around. A strong IB Diploma can let students gain admission to one of the best universities in the world.
Even more important, though, is that we help students to develop the skills, knowledge and attitudes that will lead to a successful life. We are very conscious that when students have completed their secondary schooling at The British International School, they must be ready to face the challenges of independent study at university or college, often living alone for the first time in their lives. Merely getting a student to a good university is not enough. The student needs to have the academic background and the study skills to enable them to thrive in that environment and then go on to build a successful career.
Every IB Diploma student studies six different subjects, which must include courses in literature, a second language, a social science, a natural science and Mathematics
In the International Baccalaureate Mission Statement, a stated aim is to offer programmes which “encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.” This chimes with our own mission statement, which says that “The British International School, Bratislava seeks to prepare its students for their role in a challenging and rapidly changing world. We provide an environment that is nurturing, academically stimulating and internationally aware. Our students develop as confident, open-minded, respectful young people, inspired to become responsible and active global citizens. Certainly, the formidable combination of the top quality teaching and study facilities at BISB and the highly regarded IB course is an excellent preparation for higher education.
Every IB Diploma student studies six different subjects, which must include courses in literature, a second language, a social science, a natural science and Mathematics. They are also strongly encouraged to study one of the arts. This breadth of study helps to develop the sort of well-rounded education which is demanded by our increasingly cosmopolitan globalised society. BISB offers an excellent selection of subject choices, including five different languages, as well as all the traditional subjects you would expect to see at any top international school including both Economics and Business Studies. The Higher Level Biology course has proved excellent preparation for students taking up Medicine. We are also proud to be able to offer exciting new IB courses such as Film.
All IB subjects incorporate a coursework element, ensuring that a significant part of the assessment is based on applying the knowledge learned in class
The Science courses, for example, are designed to provide a balance between understanding theory and practical experimentation. In Arts subjects such as Film and Visual Art, the entire syllabus is coursework-based, meaning that learners are actually creating art as well as studying it.
However, what particularly distinguishes the IB Diploma from other post-16 courses are three unique elements, all of which are geared towards developing the skills which will bring success in higher education. These are the Extended Essay, the Theory of Knowledge course and the Creativity, Action, Service programme.
Students will find that in university there is an increasing focus on producing work which is well-researched and written to a high academic standard. Working on the 4,000-word Extended Essay allows them to develop some of those skills under the expert supervision of one of our experienced teaching staff. Selecting one of their six subjects, they form a thesis question in a topic of their choice before embarking on extensive research. The net result of a process which can take a whole year and several drafts and redrafts is a piece of work which is of greater quality and depth than anything they have ever done before. Recent work by students at BISB has included questions such as
“Arabic literature today often reflects societies in crisis” (Ahdaf Soueif, London Book Fair 2008). In what ways do Soueif’s The Map of Love and Mourid Barghouti’s I Saw Ramallah support this observation?
and “ Why does the carbon footprint of Slovakia appear so small?
The choice of subject for the Extended Essay often reflects what a student hopes to study at university and forms a useful part of the application and interview.
The Theory of Knowledge course helps to develop analytical and critical thinking skills. Combining a philosophical approach with a more practical look at how knowledge is obtained in contrasting academic disciplines, it encourages rigorous thinking processes as well as an understanding of different perspectives. Part of the assessment is by oral presentation, which develops important public speaking skills.
The third of these special elements of the IB is the Creativity, Action, Service (CAS) programme, which aims to help students realise their potential to become leaders and organisers, as well as to establish their position as a contributing member of a caring community. It is a practical course which takes place outside the classroom and involves such varied activities as sport, drama, art, creative skills and community service. IB students take ownership of this process by setting targets for their self-development and by reflecting on their own progress throughout. Before IB students at BISB embark on the two year course of study they all attend a week’s residential’experience’ in the Mala Fatras working on an eco project and with a local orphanage and start to develop these skills of seeking self knowledge in an environment new to all of the participants.
CAS projects have produced some memorable moments. Within the Creativity component, there have been some unforgettable performances in music and drama. As well as stepping into the limelight with remarkable solo performances, CAS students have also made essential contributions working backstage on props and lighting and running Danubefest, an arts workshop, for local schools. The Action part of the CAS programme has opened up opportunities to learn new dancing skills or, explore the local countryside by bike, and rock climbing.. In the area of Service, links have been established with a number of charities, both locally and internationally and students have gone on to promote these projects and causes at university as well as, in one case, taking their concerns to the European Parliament. Our students have been involved in the practical work of those organisations and have also raised substantial sums of money for charitable causes.
All in all, the International Baccalaureate Diploma provides a coherent, yet varied, educational experience. The emphasis on independent inquiry and the demanding workload provide ideal preparation for higher education and promote attitudes and develops skills that will stand students in good stead throughout their lives.
For more information about schools and education in Bratislava please visit the site of the British International School Bratislava.