The IBCP: Your Vocational Route to University

Are you looking for the best curriculum to prepare yourself for a top university place or your chosen career path? Do you want to choose a college education that combines vocational and academic learning? Here’s everything you need to know about the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme (IBCP), and where to study it in Hong Kong.
The IBCP: Your Vocational Route to University
By Carli Allan
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What do teachers and students think of the IBCP?

Performing arts students at Renaissance College

ESF's Renaissance College was the first school in Hong Kong to offer the IBCP, which its principal Dr Harry Brown describes as a “more personalised learning experience and a more vocational education”. asked the teachers and students at this all-through, IB continuum school why the IBCP is well-suited for students who want a vocational education, what are the advantages of its personalised, interdisciplinary approach to learning, and what are the options for students who complete the IBCP.

First, we spoke with Wilma Shen, the IB Career-related Programme Coordinator at Renaissance College…

How does the IBCP set students on a career-related pathway?

The IBCP combines the academic rigour of the IB Diploma Programme with a career-related studies component to give students an opportunity to be more hands-on; it exposes them to real challenges and opportunities that exist in the real world.

It provides students with the facilities and resources that are beyond what high schools can provide. For example, our students taking the Arts and Design programme with SCAD have been able to participate in an animation workshop delivered by Universal Studios Japan at the SCAD Hong Kong campus.

Also, the IBCP provides students with a strong career focus, and encourages them to apply the knowledge and skills they have learned towards solving real-world problems. And, it allows students to specialise in an area they are interested in. Many of our professors are active practitioners in their professional field, and this early exposure to industry expertise is an added bonus for students.


What type of student is the IBCP most suited to?

The IBCP is for students who have a strong interest in one or two particular areas, and want to specialise in these areas for their future career. It is also for students who are not as well-rounded as others, and may find the DP too challenging. By doing the IBCP, they only need to choose two to four DP subjects to focus on; they can then spend more time on the areas that they would like to specialise in for personal growth and future career development.

Why should students consider studying the IBCP, rather than the more academic and rigorous IBDP?

The IBCP is a more specialised programme that allows students to focus on one or two areas and it is framed around a career path and the way learning can be applied to this field of employment. The IBDP is a broader programme that encompasses six subject groups. Studies in the DP draw on knowledge and understanding from across a number of academic disciplines.

How well-equipped is Renaissance College to teach the IBCP alongside the IBDP?
Since we are already offering the IBDP, we have the programme resources and teachers in place to implement the IBCP. We have also established strong partnerships with various institutes in Hong Kong to offer the career-related study component.

Our partner institutes such as SCAD are responsible for the teaching and learning of this career-related component. Each institute is responsible for their own courses and for grading the students according to their own assessment standards. SCAD will also provide the students with a grade point average (GPA), which can provide credits towards SCAD’s higher education courses, or higher education courses at other institutions where applicable.

Next, we spoke with two former IBCP students at Renaissance College, Haylie Tsang (who graduated in 2018) and Casey Chan (who graduated in 2016)…

Why did you decide to study the IBCP rather than the IBDP at Renaissance College?

Haylie: The IBCP offered me what the DP programme cannot. For two years, it allowed me to focus on the career that I want for the future, meet people who share the same passion as me, and grow as a creative individual – all to a greater extent than if I was doing the IBDP.

I was attracted to the idea that I could graduate from the IBCP having completed a full foundation year at SCAD; this gave me the opportunity to then study an interest-based course rather than an academic-based one. Furthermore, I knew that the projects I completed at SCAD would give me career-related skills such as presentation, drawing, designing, sculpting, and collaboration and allow me to develop my portfolio at the same time.

I would technically be one step ahead of my peers as I would be doing a university course alongside my high school studies. This definitely gave me a head-start after graduation.

Casey: I chose the IBCP because I knew that I wanted to study art. It was the perfect programme for me as it allowed me to focus my attention on art. I saw it as an opportunity to jump-start my college career and figure out which pathway I wanted to take.


What did you find most challenging about the IBCP?

Haylie: Time management, definitely! The 10-week SCAD courses are very intensive and demanding. My workload included tutorials, still life drawings, field trips etc from SCAD, as well as assignments, projects and IAs from school, and extracurricular activities. However, once I managed to find a balance between the work given at SCAD and the work from school, I also began to see my time management skills improve.

Casey: Balancing the workload between SCAD and the IB. Although we only had SCAD two days of the week, we often had a large amount of work that needed to be completed by our next class, along with our IB subject homework. I had a difficult time balancing the two and deciding which was more important. I also found it challenging to be separated from the IBDP students.

How do you think the IBCP has helped you work towards your chosen career?

Haylie: The IBCP has helped me become a better presenter, collaborator, communicator and designer; it made me the biggest critique of my work through the reviews of our pieces during the SCAD lessons. It has also made me a more confident speaker, critical thinker and creative designer through the continual practice and presentation of our art. I hadn’t expected to make such progress within such a short amount of time.

The work that we did at SCAD is quite technical – you develop existing skills and refine the work you create through theory and practice – whereas art in the IBDP is more concept-based. The IBCP allows you to create anything you want, whether it is creative or technical. I found that the combination of the work I did with SCAD and at school allowed my ideas to flow.

Casey: The IBCP allowed me to focus on what I’m really passionate about, and not worry about other subjects that aren’t as helpful for my future. We were given lots of opportunity to experience different art and design majors, to give us a feel of what a major requires. It has also given me a taste of college life, which has made me more mature and prepared.

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