International schools in Hong Kong


PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 March, 2009, 12:00am

Report claiming the IB is scuppering entry to top UK universities is unfounded

I was disappointed to see the negative slant you put on your story about ESF students' university entry prospects ('IB 'scuppering' entry to top UK universities', Education Post, February 28). Your use of a word like 'scuppering' in the headline is indicative of the irresponsible tone of the whole piece.

On the basis of comments from two parents, one of whom chose not to be named, you gave the impression that students' chances of a university place had been diminished by the introduction of the IB diploma. The opposite is true.

Three grade As at GCE A-level have never been a guarantee of a place at a good British university. Under the sadly discredited English A-level system, so many students have scored A-grades that universities struggle to discriminate among them. Consequently the application procedure has become something of a lottery. A-grade students have found that they are denied an offer because of a dropped grade in a single subject taken two years earlier at GCSE, because their personal statement did not find favour or on the basis of a nervous performance at interview.

A new A* grade will be introduced next year whose impact on university admissions cannot yet be predicted.

The IB diploma is designed to stretch able students, and their results will inevitably be more widely spread across a scale that has 22 'pass' steps (24-45) as opposed to the five steps of the traditional A-level (A to E).

University offers which we have seen so far (for about 400 students) show that offers vary, as we would expect, by university and subject. Only 12 per cent of offers are set at 38 points or more and are for the most popular and demanding subjects at the top universities. Generally, although the offer in such cases is high, it is within the predicted grades of the student so they know that, with hard work, the place is within his/her reach.

Each school has a Higher Education Guidance Counsellor who monitors the offers received and follows up with the university when appropriate. Where offers have been revised in the course of the year, in a majority of cases the revision has been downwards not up.

Most of our students have offers in the low and mid-30s, and some have offers of fewer than 30 points, well within their predicted grades. It has always been the case that a university which is really impressed by a student will make a tactically low offer and that continues to happen.

It should not be forgotten that over 50 per cent of our students opt for universities outside the UK. The IB diploma with its opportunity to study the theory of knowledge, to write an extended essay and to demonstrate a commitment to creativity, action and service, arguably has greater currency in an international context than the British A-level, which is currently in a state of change. Certainly the IB diploma prepares students better to cope with the demands of being a self-starting and self-organising learner once they take up their higher education place.

Several hundred young people who have worked conscientiously over the past two years are about to embark on the last round of revision before their final examinations. Your attention-seeking headline is unlikely to increase their confidence, and this is particularly galling given that it is unsubstantiated by the accompanying report.

Young people need the full support of their parents and the community as well as their teachers if they are to approach their examinations with optimism and a sense of purpose and to achieve to the best of their potential.

HEATHER DU QUESNAY, chief executive, English Schools Foundation

Creationism a faith and not a scientific theory

Evolution is a scientific theory, which has developed as a coherent explanation of observable evidence. The theory of evolution is extremely robust, and has been refined over generations as new evidence is brought to light.

Creationism 'theory' is based on the single premise: 'God did it'. This is an incredibly weak scientific theory as there is no robust evidence of any kind to support it, and as such it should be termed a belief. Therefore, it cannot be termed a competing theory to evolution.

If creationism is a belief, it has absolutely no place in a science class whatsoever. Doing so only gives it 'scientific' credibility in the minds of young students it does not deserve.

There are also an infinite number of possible creation beliefs, so which one do you teach, the Christian, Buddhist, Hindu or the Spaghetti Monster and his noodley appendages? Whatever ones you select you will have objections from those left out. The real answer is that any faith-based ideas on the creation of life belong firmly in a philosophy or religious education class, not anywhere near a science class.


Students should inquire into competing ideas

Seeing that both evolutionary and creationist theories rely on the same body of evidence, namely the fossil record, to support them, would it not be best to teach both theories and point out how each interprets that record and rebuts the other? This would certainly train students critical thinking skills, develop inquiring minds and enable them to independently find the truth.

Such a suggestion should not worry the evolution camp, as I am sure that the fossil record indicates very clearly which theory is more likely to be true.