st.andrews day 16263 (2)
February 6, 2023

The International Baccalaureate (IB) vs A Levels

When planning your child’s future, choosing a curriculum that will serve them beyond high school and university is paramount to their academic success. At St Andrews Sukhumvit 107 (S107), in the midst of Bangkok, we are proud to be an IB World School (IBSW) that has been offering the International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme to its students since 1997. 


What is the IB? 


The IB is an internationally recognised curriculum that is broken down into four education programmes for students aged 3 to 18,

  • Primary Years Programme (3-12) 
  • Middle Years Programme (11-16)
  • Diploma Programme (16-18)
  • Career-related Programme (16-18)


Specifically at S107, start fro, 16 – 18, as we follow the English National Curriculum up until then.

In this blog, we explore the IB Diploma and Career-related Programmes, and how they measure up to A Levels.


Benefits of the IB Diploma Programme


The IB was designed to ensure students study a broad range of subjects, allowing for more flexibility when it comes to university applications. This is a sharp contrast to A Levels where students usually study three to four subjects. 


IB subjects are divided into six groups, with students choosing one from each of the first five groups; the sixth subject can be either from the sixth group, the arts, or a second subject from any of the other groups. Three of the subjects must be taken at Higher Level, and three must be taken at Standard Level. 


These subjects are:

  • Studies in language and literature 
  • Language acquisition 
  • Individuals and societies (economics, psychology, history, business management, etc.)
  • Science (biology, chemistry, design technology, physics, computer science, etc.)
  • Mathematics
  • Arts (dance, music, theatre, film, and visual arts)


The core of the IB Diploma is made up of the three compulsory components that aim to broaden students’ educational experience and challenge them to apply their knowledge and skills. IB programmes foster personal development and academic achievement. The curriculum challenges students to think critically and outside of the box, to always ask pertinent questions, and to think across disciplines. It paves the way for university, as it teaches self-study and self-evaluation.


The three core elements of the Diploma Programme are:


  1. Theory of Knowledge: Where students are taught to reflect on the nature of knowledge and on how we know what we claim to know.
  2. The Extended Essay: This is an independent, self-directed piece of research, that culminates in a 4,000-word essay. Think of it as a mini-thesis.
  3. Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS): Students have to complete a project related to those three concepts.


Benefits of the Career-related Programme


The International Baccalaureate (IB) Career-related Programme (CP) has also been designed for students in years 12 and 13 who wish to follow a career-related education. The CP programme leads to further and/or higher education, apprenticeships or employment. 


S107 is one of only three international schools in Thailand that offers this alternative pathway. We pride ourselves on being an inclusive community, where we cater to those students who are not born test-takers and those who need a more personalised approach to learning. 


The CP curriculum includes a minimum of two IB Diploma Programme (DP) courses, a core consisting of four components and career-related study. The DP courses provide the theoretical foundations and academic education; the career-related study provides practical, real-world approaches to learning; and the CP core helps students develop skills and competencies that set them up for lifelong learning.


The CP core includes:

  • Personal and Professional Skills: Helps students develop attitudes, skills and strategies that can be applied to personal and professional situations.
  • Service Learning: Development and application of knowledge and skills towards meeting an identified and authentic community need.
    • The Reflective Project: where students identify, analyse, critically discuss and evaluate an ethical issue arising from their career-related studies.
  • Language Development: This encourages students to improve their proficiency in a language other than their best language.


How A Levels differ from the International Baccalaureate Programme

Unlike the IB, students can choose any number of subjects for the entire programme. A Levels are split into two distinct phases AS level and A2 level. In AS phase or level, the students are taught the basics and it serves as a base for the A2 level. After the first year, students can choose to drop subjects if they want. The only mandatory criteria are that they have to choose at least three subjects for their A2 level. 


Similar to IB, A Levels do include an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) for students taking three A Levels (it is optional for students taking four A Levels). The EPQ is an opportunity for students to complete a piece of self-directed research, further emphasising critical, reflective and independent learning.


Why choose the IB Programme at St Andrews Sukhumvit 107


With all of this in mind, the International Baccalaureate is a fantastic system of education that can pave the way for academic success at universities worldwide and later on in the workplace. At S107, our smaller classroom sizes and close-knit community of experienced IB teachers means we excel at guiding our students along their chosen IB pathways. As one of only three schools in Thailand to offer the IBCP, we are dedicated to providing students with an education that fits their needs. 

The two IB programmes that we offer produce inquisitive, knowledgeable and caring young people who are motivated to succeed. The IB builds critical thinking skills, nurtures curiosity and the ability to solve complex problems, as well as encourages globally-minded thinking and analyses. While the IB is a challenging curriculum, the benefits are manifold and applicable to future study, work and everyday life.