Call for an international orientation gave rise to the IB in the 1960s Opportunities to take International Baccalaureate programmes are burgeoning in Hong Kong, as schools seek to give their students a global advantage. IB programmes are run by the Geneva-based International Baccalaureate Organisation, which was set up in 1968 to offer education with an international orientation, and now has regional branches across the world. The flagship diploma, which students complete at 18, is already offered by five schools and several more are planning to introduce it. The two-year diploma offers a broader, more internationally-orientated alternative to British or Hong Kong A-levels and is recognised by universities worldwide. John Green, director of studies at Li Po Chun United World College, which follows the diploma programme, said: 'The IB is the best possible preparation for university available because students study a wide range of subjects, the Theory of Knowledge allows them to reflect on the sources of knowledge and the extended essay develops research skills.' The English Schools Foundation decided in March to introduce the diploma across all its five secondary schools from 2007 in place of British A-levels. Graham Ranger, the ESF's educational development director, said the IB curriculum matched the ESF's mission to offer a broad education. 'In addition, we want a qualification that would prepare students equally well for universities all over the world,' he said. The ESF's Sha Tin College, which has been piloting the IB alongside A-levels for the past two years, is switching over to an IB-only programme for all students aged 16 to 18 from September. South Island School has decided to bring in the IB programme from 2007. West Island School may make the same move that year. Both the ESF's new private independent schools being opened at Ma On Shan in 2006 and Discovery Bay in 2007 will follow IB programmes for primary and secondary students of all ages. The Australian International School, meanwhile, is consulting with its stakeholders whether to make the switch. The IB is also attracting interest from local schools. Several Direct Subsidy Scheme schools plan to offer the diploma, including Logos Academy in Tseung Kwan O and HKUGA College opening next year in Island South district. Hong Kong Baptist University's DSS school that is to be built in Sha Tin intends to offer the IB from primary through to diploma levels. Interest is growing in the primary sector. Kingston International Primary School has already been authorised to offer the Primary Years Programme and Hong Kong Academy Primary School and Victoria English Primary School are going through the accreditation process. Three further schools have registered an interest. Chinese International School introduced the diploma programme in 1992 and was the first in Hong Kong to offer the IB Middle Years Programme, with the first cohort of students due to complete the programme next year. But instead of the Primary Years Programme, it offers its own primary curriculum based on the Teaching for Understanding approach developed by Professor Howard Gardner of Harvard University. For more information visit www.ibo.org INTERNATIONAL Baccalaureate education is divided into three stages, primary years, middle years and diploma: The diploma: Students prepare over two years from the age of 16 for the IB's matriculation qualification. They study six subjects, three at standard level and three at higher level. These must include their first language, a second language, and one subject from each of four curriculum areas: individuals and societies, experimental sciences, maths and computer science, and the arts. All students must follow a core course, Theory of Knowledge (ToK), and the Creativity, Action and Service programme, which requires them to take part in sports, arts and community service. They must also complete a 4,000-word extended essay. The middle years: From age 11 to age 16, students study a first language to mother-tongue standard including literature, and a second language to foreign-language standard. If they are bi-lingual, they may opt to also take their second language to mother-tongue standard. They take a wide range of subjects, which are taught through five core principles, including approaches to learning, environment, and community and service. Students also have to complete a 4,000-word piece of independent writing. The primary years: This is the most flexible of the IB programmes, for children aged three to 12. It covers traditional academic subjects but takes an inquiry-based, cross-curricular approach to teaching, organised around six key themes.