By TAM JEE IAN
At a time when I was unsure of my destination for pre-university studies, my mother introduced me to the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme.
The programme naturally piqued my interest. I did some research and found it to my liking. I also discovered that it was available at the International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL), which had been running the programme for over 15 years. The main attraction was their two scholarships available for Malaysians to pursue the programme each year. To cut the long story short, I applied for and successfully obtained the said scholarship.
Therefore, I now write this essay with the purpose of conveying useful information about the IB programme. Hopefully, it will provide prospective students with a much needed first person point of view.
To me, the fundamental rule for thriving under the rigours of the IB programme can be summarised into three words: do not procrastinate. Admittedly, this is much easier said than done. To do well in the IB programme, it is imperative for you to be responsible and have a good work ethic. The main reason for this is the nature of the work you have to complete.
First, there is the short-term homework. Much like the homework given to us in secondary school – only harder – these are the exercises, readings, and the daily workload, which usually have to be done within two days.
However, homework in the IB (and other pre-university courses) involves more than just short-term homework. There is the medium-term homework, comprising of projects, laboratory reports, quizzes, tests, oral presentations, and portfolios. You are given between four to ten days to prepare for or to complete them, depending on the nature of the assignment. These are given out by teachers once a week or once every fortnight, and they count towards a significant portion of your ISKL grade point average (GPA), and a mediumsized portion of your IB grade.
Lastly, there is the long-term homework, which is what distinguishes the IB from other pre-university programmes. This consists of major essays such as the 4000-word Extended Essay, the Theory of Knowledge essay, and the English World Literature essays. These essays are to be written just once, but involve weeks or months of intermittent research and as such, count towards a large portion of your IB grade.
Hence, I hope it is obvious why those who procrastinate could be overwhelmed by the demands of the IB programme. Without proper discipline and time management, juggling the short-term, medium-term, and long-term homework can be challenging.
Nevertheless, fear not. One of the main reasons I would advocate the IB programme is simply because there is a broad range of knowledge that one has the opportunity to explore. A fine example would be the subjects that I am currently studying: there is the standard science fare of Chemistry, Physics and Math at higher level, but they are combined with a mix of English at higher level, Economics at standard level, Theory of Knowledge and Spanish as a new language! Which other pre-university programme offers opportunities for such in-depth study in sciences, humanities, and languages?
Furthermore, I think that the IB is one of the best, if not the best, preuniversity courses to prepare oneself for university life. I was unsure of this prior to my IB studies, but having undergone and gotten used to the demands of the programme, I cannot help but concur.
You see, I enrolled in an A-levels programme for about six months prior to my IB studies, and I can assure you that the IB programme has prepared me for university life much better than the A-levels would have, in terms of time management and working under pressure. Remember the short-term, medium-term, and long-term homework that I just described to you? That is precisely the type of work you can look forward to in university.
If you primarily view a pre-university course as a trivial necessity, I would advise you to not consider the IB programme as it spans two years. However, if you are willing to work hard and make sacrifices to obtain a pre-university qualification that is recognized by universities in Australia, America, and Europe, I wholeheartedly urge you to not only enrol in the IB programme, but to also try your luck at securing a full IB scholarship worth RM100,000 from ISKL.
After all, our ability to navigate life’s turning points depends less on our skill at turning corners; rather, it relies more on whether we outfitted proper brakes and tyres in the first place.
Tam Jee Ian is currently finishing his International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma as a scholar at the International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL). During his free time, he likes to visualize mathematical models of human behaviour, listen to electronica, explore the vestiges of the internet, and daydream.
Note: The above entry was written in 2010 for What’s After SPM?, published in 2011. This non-for-profit book project is a collaboration between Leaderonomics and a team of young Malaysians. Click here for details on the project and authors.
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