Sunmarke First to Offer Both A Level and IB DP

Offering the A Level and International Baccalaureate Diploma in final two school years has obvious benefits, but is also costly and resource intensive. Few schools globally offer both, and no school in the UAE has done so. Until now.
Sunmarke First to Offer Both A Level and IB DP
By Veathika
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One of the questions WhichSchoolAdvisor.com is always asked is, "Which is better, A Levels or the IB?" Because parents in general do not like switching schools, it's a question that even those with younger children ask, even though the answer, because it is child specific, cannot really be known until the time the choice needs to be made.

Offering both therefore allows parents the ability to relax, defer the decision and wait and see how their child develops academically. Conventional thinking says all rounders (with strong organisational skills) tend to prefer the IB DP, while those with a clearly defined academic passion and preference for science, or the arts, or languages or the humanities tend to favour the A' Level.

Sunmarke School in Dubai deserves credit for being the first in the emirates to allow its students to follow either pathway. The school has gone further still by offering the IB Careers Program (IB CP). The IB CP takes some elements of the Diploma Programme but adds a vocational core for students that are more practically oriented or career focused.

WhichSchoolAdvisor.com spoke to the Executive Principal of Sunmarke, Mr. Keith Miller about the motivations behind the, actually rather impressive, move...

Why has the school decided to offer IBDP, IBCP, and A-Level?

Sunmarke is an inclusive school, which means that our student population is made up of girls and boys and young men and women, who have different levels of ability, learning styles, interests, levels of self-esteem and aspirations.

By introducing this multi-pathway model, we empower our students with bespoke post-16 course selections, to find the most appropriate route to study the subject of their choice at the university or college of their choice.

The multi-pathway model also allows students to go straight into the world of work, if this is what they want to do.

How will Sunmarke guide students in terms of which pathway to choose? 

Throughout their time at Sunmarke there are numerous opportunities where students and their families engage with the school to discuss the progress being made, their current academic performance, and their career and academic aspirations. Building on from these meetings I have a team of highly experienced staff, including career counsellors, who will guide students, in conjunction with their families, into the most appropriate pathway to fulfill their future dreams and goals.

This support includes workshops and personalised meetings for both students and parents throughout the year.

What is the cost of offering A-Level, DP and CP? 

Providing a multi-pathway model for our students is obviously more expensive than going for one or two of the more traditional pathways offered within schools in Dubai. Our Board of Directors are fully committed to provide the most outstanding educational experience for all of our students, and by doing so will cover the excess costs.

Will you try and recoup the cost from elsewhere?

No, there will be no need for this as the budgets have been carefully prepared two academic years ago to ensure the affordability of all the streams on offer.

Does this impact the recruitment and staffing at the school? 

Yes it does. We also have to ensure all teachers teaching IB have had specific IB training in their subject areas. Many of our staff recruited in the last two years have already received IB training and have come from successful IB schools from across the world.

What impact will it have on the range of subjects being offered at A-Level?

No, we will maintain our excellent A-Level and GCSE course offering as we have been doing in the past. The IBDP will be an additional option for students bearing no impact on the A Level offering.

Is Sunmarke using BTEC for the vocational element of the CP?

At this moment, yes. However, we are carefully watching the proposed UK implementation of T-Levels. We are already investigating other appropriate, accredited, Level 2 and Level 3 vocational courses to use, if necessary, in the future. We are currently offering a variety of BTEC Level 2 and 3 courses including Business, Travel and Tourism, Hospitality and IT.

Do you think this offering will be important in attracting parents to the school? 

Yes, we do think this will be important. The key reason for this strategy is to ensure that every young person who studies at Sunmarke has the most appropriate pathway to maximise their potential when going to university, or into the world of work.

We want all our students to have multiple options within our school itself.

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