The difference between an IGCSE and IB education

Students have a good choice of curriculums in Malaysia. (Rawpixel.com pic)

There are a wide variety of curriculums offered in Malaysia and these do not only focus on academia but are designed to include activities such as arts, music and sports to encourage holistic development.

Among the many curriculums, two of the most well-known are International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and International Baccalaureate (IB).

While some believe IGCSE provides better guidance, others believe that IB is the future. So let us compare both:

IGCSE was originally founded by Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE) and is currently the world’s most popular curriculum for international /certificate for the end of secondary school.

It is similar to O-Levels and is the international version of GCSE. It serves as an ideal foundation to prepare for higher level courses such as A/ AS/ Advanced Levels, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme and other equivalent courses.

IGCSE is similar to the IB Middle Years Programme. However, being more structured it is suited for students who thrive on routine.

The IGCSE is suited for students who thrive on routine

The curriculum is planned not to burden teachers with designing daily learning activities and students too will have an idea of what their education pathway looks like.

Students can choose from a wide range of almost 70 subjects, and they have a minimum of two years to pursue these subjects before they appear for the final examination.

At the end of this period they sit for exams and are graded as A*, A, B, C, D, E, F, G and U (A*-highest achievement to G-minimum satisfactory and U-Ungraded).

For each subject taken by the student, one IGCSE certificate will be awarded meaning one subject equals to one certificate.

The exams are held twice a year and it is one of the most widely accepted qualifications in universities worldwide.

The exams are externally graded and the responsibility lies with the governing bodies Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) and Edexcel.

International Baccalaureate or IB, on the other hand, is still quite new as not many schools in Malaysia offer this curriculum. However, it is rapidly gaining in popularity.

The International Baccalaureate is gaining in popularity. (Rawpixel.com pic)

While academic success remains a crucial factor for Malaysian parents and students, there is a growing awareness to develop skills and knowledge for a student’s personal growth as well. IB is not so much a curriculum as it is a learning framework.

It offers three education programmes according to the age of students, IBPYP (Primary Years Programme) IBMYP (Middle Years Programme) IBDP (Diploma Progamme)/IBCP (Career-Related Programme) and fosters holistic education to enhance students’ skills through inquiry-based learning.

Teachers in IB implement the curriculum according to the students’ interests, passion and learning capabilities.

Hence it is not just the students who need to work hard in IB, but the teachers too, which is why it is not easy to find good IB teachers.

The teachers need to undergo regular training to ensure they stay updated with the curriculum requirements.

Students are graded through internal and external assessments that include both fieldwork and exams.

IB is not so much a curriculum as it is a learning framework

This curriculum is ideal for students who put in hard work throughout the year because IB requires students to complete a wide range of assignments throughout their education journey.

Nevertheless, IBPYP and IBMYP train students to do just that so students who pursue IB from the beginning might feel more prepared for IBDP.

The biggest concern for parents and students considering IBDP is that it is difficult, with rigorous assignments and more subjects than other pre-university programmes.

However, it does teach students to stay motivated and strategise their time well to manage their activities.

It also prepares students for university because pursuing it requires great discipline. The acceptance of IB is not as wide as IGCSE but it is gaining traction in reputed universities globally, including the UK, US and various private universities across Malaysia.

In actual fact the two curriculums cannot be compared because each has its own strength and weakness.

Instead, students might consider combining the two to get the best of both worlds and pursue IGCSE then complete IBDP as their pre-university.

This is possibly one of the best things about studying in Malaysia, which offers such a wide variety of curriculums that students can choose to pursue one that suits their requirement the most.

School Advisor provides information on private and international schools, extra-curricular activities as well as other education-related topics in Malaysia.