Though IB has its differences when compared to traditional education systems, the uniqueness of the system lies in its ability to adapt to the international and global communities it has established itself in. We thought it’d be a great idea to compare what IB is like in India and Pakistan!
1. Traditional Systems vs. IB
Traditional systems in India are the ICSE, CBSE, or State Boards. In years 11th and 12th, these boards require to pick streams– Humanities, Sciences, or Commerce streams dependent on personal interests, and subjects are not allowed to be intermixed.
Advantage: The traditional systems of schooling in India have a rigorously high level of academic content than the IB. This allows them to be pre-prepared for most of the DP requirements and makes some components of subjects a cakewalk for them. In the grand scheme of things, this level of academic rigor builds a certain level of intelligence achieved by alumni from Indian Institutions.
Disadvantage: They majorly emphasize rote learning as a method of comprehension and academics. Examinations in these systems could be considered as a memory test more than testing the abilities learned in the course. The critical thinking component often seems to be missing and personal opinions about topics from a course. If any, are often discouraged, all of which IB does.
Pakistani systems consist of Matric/FSc/Fa which relates to each state’s provincial syllabi or IGSCE/O&A-levels. From the get-go, students are required to select subjects that have been bifurcated under science or business and commerce. There is no space for the Arts as a separate path to follow. Arts subjects are often chosen as extra options. While many schools do not provide them altogether due to the low demand in a country. As they promote the idea of Science and Business as the only fields worthy of studying
Advantage: Because students select what they want to study earlier, from the 8th grade in most cases. Graduates know exactly what they want and are sure of their future career paths. The A-levels stream only required students to select 3 subjects for 11th and 12th grade. This also helps them focus more on extracurricular activities and other hobbies as compared to IB’s 6-subject + core approach.
Disadvantage: As students hyper-focus on only one stream, they often miss out on the opportunity to be well-rounded and educated individuals. Though I am more interested in the Humanities, I still know the basics of scientific research. Students in traditional systems do not share that knowledge. Thus, the education system severely limits what they can learn. A recent revamping of the syllabi in Pakistani public schools also unearthed the biased type of education that is taught. Embedded in enforcing social and cultural norms which taint the quality of the education students receive. Moreover, the Quran was made compulsory for students to read within school hours otherwise they would not graduate. This was changed later on. However, one can only imagine how upsetting it would have been for minority religions in the country.
IB, against these, encourages much more holistic education and perspective-building rather than bland rote learning. It promotes critical thinking skill which is of the essence in the 21st century. It allows students to hone their interests, often missing in the traditional systems in India.
The only disadvantage factor against the traditional systems would be the level of academic rigor. There is a great divide between the way IB students think and act as compared to students of the traditional systems. The divide is easily noticeable as one can spot the biased information some students learn and carry with them to their futures. This same information is what IB emphasizes attention to as education is seen as a celebration of all opinions and perspectives.
India has only 210 IB Schools in total (IB World Schools in India) and this also depends from region to region. Thus it does get difficult to find as many IB resources as one would wish. The IB textbooks are very costly, thus making majority students to access them online.
In 2021, there were only 164 MYP graduates in all of Pakistan. As a Pre-IB student, finding resources was very difficult in a place so desolate and unknowing. Pakistan has 31 IB Schools, only 14 of which have the authorization to teach the IB Diploma Programme. The lack of resources is so great that even the most basic textbooks have to be ordered from abroad and most resources given are costly and usually online.
There are many CAS opportunities here, especially Service due to the persistent socio-economic problems that are present. CAS projects could aim at solving some of these issues. For Activity, one can do many tracks or trails in the natural parts of the country, which are very common. Other activities include participating in regular marathons held. There are also many opportunities under the domain of Creativity as well, due to the culmination of different cultures where culture-specific projects could be undertaken under Creativity. These are only a few examples out of an ocean of opportunities one could find for CAS in India.
CAS is unique to the IB, schools that teach other education systems in Pakistan have only recently begun including programs similar to CAS in their curriculums, such as the A-level ‘ACE.’ However, aside from this, the national curriculums and systems focus heavily on studies and do not exert enough importance on extra-curricular activities and just having hobbies and real-life experience in general.
Though, IB students here see much significance in CAS as the country poses many opportunities for them. Whether it be creativity, activity or service; my personal CAS journey was unique and brought forth many new experiences as I delved deep into the activities that uniquely exist in the country; from hiking mountains to beach cleanups to tutoring children in street schools and painting parks in underprivileged communities; the possibilities really are endless.
There tends to be a lack of diversity in the IB in India as it is a program that is only majorly affordable by people belonging to higher economic strata, thus they are the only ones who dominate the program. Another reason is that Indian students majorly go for the traditional systems, thus rendering IB as only a minority.
Not all schools that offer the IB in Pakistan are ‘International’ schools. As a result, the degree of diversity differs. During my Pre-IB years, I was enrolled at an international school, diversity was welcome, it was a norm that had established itself in the school’s values. In my current school, we are offered the Diploma Program, however, the school is not considered an international school; most of the students are Pakistani.
A lack of diversity is also made obvious due to the status of IB, not everyone has the opportunity to study in such a program, which is why socio-economic diversity also lacks.
Entry to universities in India requires a course-specific test to be taken, unlike the SAT which only tests the knowledge of Math and English. It could be esoteric to the university or could be all-India. It is taken to assess the baseline ability in that course that a student wants to take. Admission to these universities is given on the basis of these test scores and the percentile result one would get.
They tend to follow the old-school approach where dual degrees are majorly not allowed to be pursued. Degrees awarded in Indian institutions are also accepted internationally.
It is difficult for an IB student to get into one of these traditional universities due to the standardized tests taken, which may or may not align with the content covered in the IB. Thus, it is a commonly regarded notion that recommends pursuing traditional systems if one wishes to enter Indian universities.
For Pakistani students, IB is considered the gateway to studying abroad for university. Many students join the program because they believe it will allow them to learn the skills and attitudes necessary to excel globally.
For Pakistani universities, many do not accept the IB as it is. They require equivalency for our DP score; the equivalency the education board assigns IB students cannot go above 90% as a general rule; this severely decreases the competitiveness of IB students during admissions to national universities. Moreover, regardless of the fact that IB students study Math and English well beyond 10th grade, these universities still require the SAT for admissions or their individual entrance exams; the news is disheartening for many Pakistani IB students as this makes them question the true worth IB holds in the country.
6. Student Culture
The general culture in India tends to put heavy emphasis on test scores and academics. Thus, the student culture in India employs ‘toxic-productive’ habits with a higher focus on grades and the inevitable intertwining of self-esteem to it. Thus the IB program is heavy on those who pursue it here.
Students in Pakistan pay more attention to studying Math, Science, and Business. Studying humanities and social sciences is looked down on by the majority and often, even made fun of. This is reflected in the traditional systems as they only allow subject combinations which relate to Science and Commerce, with the Arts and Humanities as optional courses. Students are trained from the beginning to view certain career prospects are ‘useless’ which influences the student culture negatively.
And there you have it! Though there are many differences in the way IB influences our countries, there are positive and negative consequences of the system. As students, discussing and learning about other IB students’ experiences globally helps us understand that things aren’t so different all the time, we’re all in this together!