Choosing Between Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and BTEC Curricula



Do you know what does Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and BTEC Curricila stand for?

 
For many Singaporeans who are familiar with the local educational system, some of these terms may sound foreign. Other than International Baccalaureate or IB for short, the other two systems may be unfamiliar to most.

To say that the choice of one’s academic track is a life-defining decision is no exaggeration. Choosing the right curriculum to take often results in acceptance to a well-respected university, networking opportunities with future leaders and employers, and improved prospects after graduation. 


However, with so many options available, how does one choose? While getting an international or American education in Singapore, there are so many tracks and programs to consider, with different acronyms associated with each of them. If you find yourself in this predicament, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s your guide to differentiating the various academic tracks available to you, so that hopefully, you can choose the one that’s best for you.


What Is Advanced Placement? 

More commonly known as AP, Advanced Placement courses are college-level courses given to and designed for high school students, with the goal being to prepare students for the level of content and manner of teaching they are likely to encounter once they graduate. Students who take AP classes are exempt from taking course prerequisites if and when they move on to university.


AP classes run the entire academic gamut, from the various sciences and branches of math to the different fields of humanities, literature, and even languages such as German, French, and Japanese. There are even advanced AP classes that are not usually offered as part of a typical high school curriculum, such as courses in micro- and macroeconomics, environmental science, and calculus. But no matter what AP courses you may qualify for, all of them are subject to the assessment of the College Board.


The College Board is the nonprofit organization responsible for much of the standardized testing in the United States. The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is arguably the most well-known of these and is what is typically used to determine whether students qualify for their preferred universities. Just like the SATs, AP courses can help determine whether a student can attend the university of their choice, and whether or not they will be offered scholarships or academic aid. An estimated 30 percent of all college students on scholarships had taken an AP course at some point in their academic career, according to recent studies.


What Is International Baccalaureate?



If the AP system is a predominantly American system, then the International Baccalaureate (IB) program could be said to be its European counterpart for children and teenagers. This track takes a more holistic approach to education, as compared to the American AP track, which is more course- and subject-driven. 

Each of IB’s four basic programs use 10 learning profiles or descriptors of how children learn. For example, a student in the Primary Years Program may be categorized as a Thinker, while another student in the Middle Years Program may be categorized as a Communicator. Students at an international high school, on the other hand, can take either a Diploma Program, which is academically rigorous and could prepare students for entering the academe, or a Career-related Program, with courses and activities that seek to prepare them for life beyond high school and university.

This mix-and-match approach to academic track design results in a program that is highly personalized and combines both standard curriculum assembly with extracurricular activities and even community service projects as well. The overall objective is to situate the child’s education in a modern, practical, and socially relevant manner.

What Is BTEC?

In the past, the Business and Technology Education Council was a British accreditation body that certifies potential members of the British workforce. While the actual BTEC has gone defunct, the qualification that bears its name is still around, and is given today by the private company Pearson. In terms of comparison, it’s most similar to the IB Career-related program and has an academic equivalent known as A levels, which is itself similar to the IB Diploma Program. Most students of high schools in the United Kingdom or at British international schools will have to choose between taking a BTEC National Accreditation, or the more academic A levels, though a few students do take both.


BTEC accreditation can prepare students for careers in almost any field, from agriculture and forestry to information technology and the law. No matter their chosen career track, students can expect a program of both coursework and work experience, with some tracks requiring fieldwork as well. Also, there is no standardized testing to earn a BTEC qualification. Instead, students are assessed regularly and are scored throughout the totality of their program.


So, Which One Is For Me?

Answering this question is pretty challenging, and answers will vary from person to person. Generally, however, you can follow this guide:


Take AP classes if there’s a field or discipline you’re very interested in. AP courses will immerse you in that field and prepare you for advanced learning in that field when you get to university.

Choose an IB track if you have a clear idea of either what you want to study or the field you would like to work in. 

Pursue a BTEC qualification if you want early opportunities for work experience to support your chosen career.


Bear in mind that these suggestions are very broad and will not apply to everyone. Above all, diligence and fortitude will be the true determining factors of your success, no matter which program you choose.


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