Choosing a Secondary School: IGCSE vs. IB MYP speaks to some of Singapore’s top international schools about whether parents should choose the British (IGCSEs) or the IB (Middle Years Programme) pathway to a post-16 education.
Choosing a Secondary School: IGCSE vs. IB MYP
By Carli Allan
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Further education: Which do universities prefer – I/GCSEs or the MYP?

Both programmes can have a direct and positive impact on university admissions but while GCSEs and the MYP will help you in your future career, they are not final. Universities may want to see a particular GCSE grade in English, maths or science for certain degrees. Similarly, the IB is well-regarded by universities worldwide, particularly for the global outlook that it adopts. Universities are only likely to look at MYP grades for subjects such as English, maths and science for certain degrees such as law or medicine, when they will typically ask for “GCSE or equivalent passes”.

Kemal Taskin, University Advisor at Canadian International School (CIS), says that the MYP’s more holistic approach to secondary education is key to creating well-rounded, university-ready students.

“The MYP creates students who think more deeply and critically of everything they learn, and an MYP student is more capable of connecting their academic knowledge in a real-world context. In short, the MYP provides the foundation for students to build on as they plan their university pathways.

“Both the MYP and DP programmes focus on helping students “learn how to learn” through Approaches To Learning (ATL), a set of skills that are essential for 21st-century success. These include time management, self-management, knowledge, curiosity and inquisitiveness – skills that are all sought after by universities.

"In both MYP and DP programmes, students are required to explore subjects that may not be of interest to them. This interdisciplinary approach shares similarities with a liberal arts mentality, which encourages students to take on modules that are out of their comfort zone. It also allows them to think a little more broadly through the acquisition of a wider scope of knowledge.”

There’s equal praise for I/GCSEs and the evidence that they provide of externally validated academic performance. As Ali Cipriano, Vice Principal and Head of Secondary at SMMIS says, these grades can provide “a reliable indication of a student’s broad ability across a sweep of subject areas.”

Tanglin is one of Singapore’s most British schools, and more 50% of its students go on to a UK university. Michael Roberts, Tanglin’s Head of Upper School, says that I/GCSE passes in English and maths are still “essential currency” for university applications. 

“For professional degrees such as teaching or medicine, the minimum grade is often a 5. When students apply to university, they are still months away from sitting terminal IB and A Level exams, so the I/GCSE grades are a very clear and ratified piece of evidence of a student’s academic ability.

“If a student is, for example, predicted three As at A Level, or 40 points at IB, you can be sure that many other students applying for the same place will be predicted the same. The I/GCSE results then help university admissions departments to differentiate between students who look similar on paper."

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