On 5 June, Smart Parents magazine published a story about the IB programme which interviewed two Island School Year 12 students, Brian Wong and Claudia Tam. Brian shared his experience of studying the IB Diploma said that it is not as easy as many parents thought. “Many of my classmates attend tuition classes after school because they think it is really difficult. The scope of study is very broad. The programme demands very high standard of knowledge and analytical skills. However, most students feel that they are not capable enough and hence go out to seek tuition support.”
The article introduced that Island School, located on Borrett Road, offers the IB Diploma programme at Years 12 and 13. The first cohort of students attended the IB Diploma examination in 2009 and there have been 45 top-scorers nearly every year. Brian, who also attended an ESF primary school (Beacon Hill School), said that he usually takes two to three hours daily for homework, which includes internet search, writing, doing analysis, exercises or individual research. In addition, he participates in extracurricular activities and volunteering work as required by the programme.
“It is up to the student to decide how in-depth you want to go into for homework. It can be as in-depth as university level, or you can choose to do primary level researches.” Brian had also attempted the papers from the HKDSE (Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education) examinations. He thought that the HKDSE emphasises more on examination skills. Students are required to learn textbook knowledge, in contrast to IB Diploma which requires more in-depth analysis. “The analysis has to be very reasonable and should demonstrate your thinking and logical skills. It could be very difficult for some students.”
The IB Diploma programme consists of Higher (HL) and Standard Level (SL) subjects. The HL subjects cover more materials. Since every DP student is required to choose three HL and SL subjects, time management is a challenge. Brian said that about four to five students out of 30 have changed from HL to SL for some subjects, or changed their subjects because they are getting too stressed.
Brian also explained that there are first or second language options for Language subjects. First language is equivalent to the native language which is more deep and broad. Students can choose first language for both English and Chinese and obtain the Bilingual Diploma. There are two groups for each Language programme: Language and Literature, or Literature. He has chosen Language and Literature.
“IBDP Chinese requires students to analyse Chinese literatures. The IBO has recognised 20 Chinese authors, such as Ba Jin （巴金）, Lu Xun （魯迅）and Lin Yutan（林語堂）. Teachers can select the works from these authors.” Brian said that teachers usually use these books for discussions in class. 1,200 to 1,500 words are required for each piece of analysis on the literature’s organisation, methodology, author’s views, social background and language features.
Brian thought that the history subject is close to university level. A lot of extra reading is required. In every lesson, teachers will read 50-60 pages of text and then discuss with students. Students are then required to prepare their own notes. One short essay is required in every two weeks. Most questions are open, such as “how did XX influence a certain incident”, “what was the most important incident in the past 50 years for a certain country”. Students have to write their conclusions after leaning different historic views.
For English language, analysis is equally important with additional poems and compositions. Claudia said that there are a lot of reading comprehension. “If we choose English as second language, English literature will not be required. There will just be practical materials such as traveling, dining or health topics.”
For mathematics, a school-based assessment has to be completed in two years. It requires students to apply mathematics in real life, or choose a topic for research which includes at least 15 pages with 3,000 to 4,000 words. Moreover, a mathematical thesis has to be submitted every month with around 400 to 500 words. Brian is one of the three students in Hong Kong who is taking further mathematics, which is equivalent to the first year of university study.
The article also gives a list of IB World Schools in Hong Kong including all ESF primary, secondary, PI schools and international kindergartens with the tuition fees.