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For educational rigor and choice, get an IB diploma

(Photo illustration by Koushiro Kawabata/YJI)

Hiroshima, JAPAN – Five years ago, faced with a difficult choice between studying the Japanese National Curriculum or following the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, I took both.

Now, with a year left before I finish, I want to share what I’ve learned about the IB program with you.

Under IB, there are a few different tracks. My school offers the IB Diploma Programme, so that’s what I know best.

First, the abstract of the Diploma Programme should be clear. It is provided and developed by the IB organization located in Switzerland.

You can take the subjects that you want, including language, social studies, science, math and arts. In my school, we have 200 choices for subjects in two languages – Japanese and English.

In addition, there are the core prerequisites to graduating with an IB diploma – an 8,000-word essay, a Theory of Knowledge essay and presentation about philosophy and you must fulfil the program’s Creativity, Activity and Service, or CAS, requirement. 

For my CAS, I am making a prototype for a traditional Japanese fan made of wood and paper. They will then be produced and sold in our school store. My participation in Youth Journalism International also contributes to my CAS obligations.

The Japanese National Curriculum is a lot different.

In most cases, JNC offers fewer choices. The Japanese minister of education creates the framework for the courses students must study.

There are also some research projects that need to be scheduled. Besides, subjects such as home economics and physical education are required with an emphasis on real-life situations, because the JNC is not made just for university.

What is the difference between DP and JNC?

The CAS is interesting. In JNC, we have nothing like CAS.

CAS is the activity planned by the student. Students can do anything in CAS like piano, running, creating goods and some socially good things.

The IB program has a higher degree of freedom than the JNC, and students learn in an exploratory system, focusing on world events.

In particular, the secondary education course called Middle Years Programme, which is the pre-diploma stage, is filled with more exploring, with a few paper tests and lots of reports and presentation-type assignments.

University-level solutions might be used, especially in science subjects such as physics. At some universities, your IB diploma score will be part of your graduation credits.

In addition, many universities, especially European universities, allow you to use your IB scores for application documents, and that will make it much easier to gain admission compared to the Japanese National Curriculum.

IB is good at educating globally-minded people and includes many subject choices with philosophical exploration. Of course, it will work well for applying to a university outside of Japan.

It is not easy. An IB diploma is a lot of work, but it is worth it to me.

IB has a network spanning over 5,700 schools across 160 countries. If you feel tired of your traditional curriculum, I strongly recommend the IB.

Koushiro Kawabata is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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