One of the biggest decisions students make in Year 10 is whether to undertake the ACT Senior Secondary Certificate (under the Board of Senior Secondary Studies – BSSS) or take the path less travelled and studying the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP).
The IBDP is academically rigorous, developing essential skills in thinking critically, challenging assumptions, writing analytically and engaging in advanced research. It is informed by global research and incorporates internationally recognised quality practices in its approaches to teaching and learning.
For two Year 12 students, Alex Mackay and Madeleine Bessel-Koprek (our IB Captains for 2019), the decision was made clear after they attending an information evening at the School during Year 10. Neither had much of an idea about what they wanted to do after school and the prospect of studying the IB – which demands well-roundedness – offered them the opportunity to combine humanities, sciences, arts and languages while giving them time to discover something they might like to pursue at university.
“I had no idea what I wanted to do in Year 10 and throughout most of Year 11, but I’ve decided I want to do a Bachelor of Environmental Science and Anthropology, in both Australia and overseas,” says Madeleine.
“That decision came directly from studying the IB. I did Environmental Systems and Societies, which I just loved, but I was able to do Chemistry and Modern History and that broad range of subjects allowed me to think there are two things I want to do at university. They are quite different areas, but actually they can work together and I think the IB has helped me to see that.”
IB programmes foster international mindedness and recognise the complex and hyper-connected world in which are students are engaging. Almost 50% of the Year 12 IB cohort this year are from backgrounds other than Australian - from New Zealand to Kuwait, Malaysia to Ireland. This makes for empathetic yet lively discussions and debates during Theory of Knowledge (TOK) classes.
“TOK makes you question how you know things - religion, reason or emotion. I think it really helps broaden your understanding of not only the content, but also world events, the media and what’s going on in the world,” says Alex. “We really do get that international mindedness and cultural understanding.”
Madeleine adds, “It ties together all your subjects - in the IB you can study such a range of subjects that it’s sometimes hard to see how they all fit together - Chemistry and Modern History for example - but TOK can bring them together and you begin to see patterns about the way you think about things and form knowledge.”
The Diploma Programme fosters time management and study skills while also encouraging students to be active in their communities, both locally and globally, and move beyond academic study with the creativity, activity and service requirements (CAS).
Research into the impact of CAS shows a direct improvement in interpersonal skills, perseverance, and the willingness to take risk and accept challenges.
“Throughout most of school I had already been volunteering on a weekly basis and playing a lot of soccer and doing a lot of music,” says Madeleine.
“Through CAS, I had a platform that I could keep doing that and keep counting it [towards my marks]. It’s really useful because ANU and some other university applications, you need to be able to show that you’ve done those kinds of things.”
“It shows that we’re not just academically smart, we’re also socially aware,” adds Alex.
Longitudinal research by the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) shows that IB graduates had a better chance of enrolling university, including more likely to enrol in selective universities, and then both attain improved retention rates and perform better in those university studies.
Both Alex and Madeleine feel far better prepared for university having honed their essay writing skills over the past 18 months and Alex says the course of study has necessitated a change in her study habits as she hopes to be admitted to the University of Wollongong’s Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation in a double degree with Law.
“I’ve gotten a lot better at managing my time. I’ve always been someone who has somewhat prioritised doing things other than schoolwork. It really allows you to prepare yourself for university - being able to manage your time and still have a social life.”
IB Diploma Co-ordinator at CGGS, Sarah Trotter says while students’ academic growth is a cornerstone of the IB Diploma, it is their personal and interpersonal growth that is inspirational.
“Meeting and talking with IB students, past and present, is always the best way to really understand the benefits of an IB education – they are accomplished, caring and intelligent people and the future is safe in their hands,” says Sarah.
“Professor Michelle Simmons AO said, ‘Know that reward comes from hard work, and that some of the biggest rewards come from taking on the biggest challenges.’ Nowhere is this more evident than in our IB graduates. It is affirming to see how students at CGGS consistently rise to the challenge of the IB, and develop into thoughtful, informed and resilient young women.
Photo above: IB Diploma Co-ordinator, Sarah Trotter, with future IB Diploma students at CGGS.