Top 10 Facts of Cambridge and IB Curriculum


When it’s time to pin down which international curriculum your child ought to enroll in, you will probably find yourself narrowing the search down to two—the Cambridge International Examination (CIE) and the International Baccalaureate (IB). Choosing between these two is a tougher nut to crack.

It is a choice that must be informed by the child’s subjective needs and goals.
So, CIE or IB? Which one’s better for your child?

Here are 10 facts that you need to know before making that decision.


Facts About The Cambridge International Examination

1. A division of the University of Cambridge that provides an internationally recognized curriculum adopted by over 10,000 schools in more than 160 countries covering over 70 subjects with over 30 languages available, the Cambridge International Examination (CIE) caters to students aged 5-19.

2. For learners aged 5 to 11 years old, Cambridge Primary is the first step of the Cambridge Pathway. Seeking to provide a foundational understanding that will ultimately lead to a broad and balanced education, it offers a flexible curriculum wherein the students can choose from 10 subjects—Art and Design, Computing, English, English as a Second Language, Digital Literacy, Global Perspectives, Mathematics, Music, Physical Education, and Science. Cambridge assessments, especially at the primary level, are a measure of potential.

3. The Cambridge Primary Testing structure includes classroom assessments, internal assessments called Cambridge progression tests (for the core subjects i.e., English as a first or second language, science, and mathematics in stages 3, 4, 5, and 6), and external tests called the Cambridge Primary Checkpoint that measures individual and group performance at the end of the programme (Stage 6).

4. Cambridge Lower Secondary, for students aged 11 to 14 years, offers a similar 10-subject assortment and follows the same testing structure as Cambridge Primary.

5. For learners aged 14 to 16 years, Cambridge Upper Secondary provides two
options—Cambridge IGCSE and Cambridge O Level. The International General Certificate of Secondary Education, or IGCSE, starts at the Class 9 level and comprises a variety of subject areas, including Languages, Humanities, Social Sciences, Mathematics, Creative, Technical, and Vocational. Globally, it is the leading international qualification in its class.

The IGCSE has 5 subject groups:

Group 1: Languages
Group 2: Humanities and Social Sciences
Group 3: Sciences
Group 4: Mathematics
Group 5: Creative, Technical & Vocational

6. Equivalent to Cambridge IGCSE, the Cambridge O Level is adaptable and flexible like its counterpart. However, unlike IGCSE, O Level offers less coursework and practical test options, has grades from A to E rather than A to G, and focuses more on writing and reading skills.

7. In IGCSE, where students are graded on an A-G scale, assessments are conducted at the culmination of the course and include oral, written, coursework, and practical assessment. From June to November, The examination happens twice a year at the Cambridge IGCSE sessions. Results are issued in August and January and students are certified for individual subjects. It is conducted by either one of two UK assessment bodies— Edexcel (or London Examinations) or Cambridge International Education (CIE).

8. As the most sought-after curriculum, IGCSE is also unique in its flexibility. Here, a student takes a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 14 subjects and in the case of many subjects, can choose between core and extended curricula depending on his or her abilities. Despite the flexibility offered, the resources and curriculum structure follow a standardized pattern.

9. For learners aged 16 to 19 years, Cambridge Advanced offers AS (Advanced Subsidiary) and A (Advanced) Level. While the former is typically a one-year course, the latter spans 2 years.
Students have a choice of 55 subjects which provide them an excellent pathway into university education. A student’s AS Year (Class 12) and A2 Year (Class 13) combine to form the A-Level.

10. Schools can offer the available subjects in almost any combination, in a way that develops knowledge, understanding, and skills in subject content, intellectual inquiry, English communication, and cultural awareness among others.


Facts About The International Baccalaureate (IB)

1. Known as IB, the International Baccalaureate Organization is an educational framework rather than a curriculum. IB does not provide a prescriptive curriculum, and neither does it have any fixed readings or textbooks. Therefore, has a flexibility that is unmatched even by IGCSE.

2. IB offers learners aged 3 to 19 four educational programmes that can be offered individually or in combination with other international education boards. Currently, over 7,800 programmes are offered worldwide in approximately 160 countries. Furthermore, the number of IB programmes offered across the globe has also witnessed a growth of 33.3% between 2016 and 2020. The continuum of international education offered by IB is the Primary Years Programme (PYP), Middle Years Programme (MYP), Diploma Programme (DP), and Career-related
Programme (CP).

3. For learners aged 3-12, the Primary Years Programme offers a curriculum framework that is both transdisciplinary and inquiry-based in nature. On the other hand, the curriculum framework for the Middle Years Programme (for learners aged 11-16), Diploma Programme(for learners aged 16-19), and Career-related Programme (for learners aged 16-19) are
interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary.

4. PYP’s student-centered approach follows the pathways set by MYP, DP, and CP, and includes the four foundational elements that encompass all IB learning: “international mindedness, the IB learner profile, a broad, balanced, conceptual and connected curriculum and approaches to teaching and learning.”

5. The four IB programmes require the learner to present a project that showcases their knowledge, understanding and skills, at the culmination of each programme: the PYP exhibition; The DP cumulative projects, Extended Essays, CP reflective project, MYP personal project or community project.

6. The IB Diploma Programme (IBDP) is the most popular of all four programmes offered by IBO. IBDP curriculum constitutes six subject groups (Studies in language and literature, Language Acquisition, Individuals and Societies, Science, Mathematics, and The Arts) in addition to the DP core, i.e Knowledge Theory included Creativity, Activity, Services which is known as the CAS, and Essays in extended learning.

7. IBDP learners can either earn certificates for each course they choose to take or earn the complete IB Diploma.

8. Students can choose to take certain subjects (minimum 3 and maximum 4) at higher level (HL) and certain others at standard level (SL). While HL takes up 240 teaching hours, SL only takes up 150 teaching hours.

9. The IB learner profile focuses on 10 attributes that indicate the comprehensive nature of an IB education. IB learners are trained to be Inquirers, Knowledgeable, Thinkers, Communicators, Principled, Open-minded, Caring, Risk-takers, Balanced, and Reflective. As it is more skill-based than content-based, IB does not include any formal examinations and instead, issues certificates that monitor and measure whether the student has met the curriculum standards.

10. Entrenched in contemporary educational research, IB follows six approaches to teaching. Teaching in IB schools is based on inquiry, focused on conceptual understanding, developed in local and global contexts, focused on effective teamwork and collaboration, designed to remove barriers to learning, and informed by assessment. The IB curriculum allows teachers more space to meet individual student requirements as the teaching pedagogy is more flexible. The lesson plan can be tailored as per the child’s goals and needs. Learning is customized.


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Are IB and IGCSE students different?

Yes. IB and IGCSE students are different. IGCSE is more concerned with basic-level skills. The content in IGCSE subjects is more country and straightforward based. Meanwhile, in IB The content is more focused on mastering the basic skills for the level of diploma. The IB subjects are designed with an integrated method to enhance practical skills.

IB or IGCSE, which one’s education framework is more rigorous?

The IB education framework is more rigorous than the IGCSE. IB does not use a curriculum but an education framework. IGCSE uses a curriculum for the students.

Which one often opts for the most, IB or IGCSE?

More than 43% opt for the IB education framework. And more than 57% opt for the IGCSE curriculum by the students themselves.

What is the basic difference between IB and IGCSE?

The IB was founded as a non-profit educational organization in 1983. IGCSE is an extended variant of the British GCSE. Mainly for international students.

Switching from IGCSE and IB, is it a good idea?

Well, this can be done. It is recommended to get the basic education from the IGCSE and for higher education switch to the IB. Thus, yes it is a good idea to switch from IGCSE and IB.

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