IGCSEs – An International Education

Whichever way you look at it, deciding whether to live abroad is a huge decision. Not only does it affect the whole family in terms of day-to-day lifestyle, but it can have profound effects on the children’s education. As a British national it’s never going to be a bad idea to have an international qualification or at least gain some qualifications which are recognised in the UK. This is a challenge that anyone who lives abroad and is continuing education has to overcome.

The Difference between GCSEs and IGCSEs

A lot of international schools use IGCSEs as a qualification; it’s comparative to England's GCSE, the American high school diploma, Singapore's O-Level and Hong Kong's HKCEE. Some independent schools in the UK have even begun to favour them to GCSEs as they have such a good reputation. Although IGSCEs are usually taken by expatriate and home-learning students, there are a growing number of schools internationally adopting them. They are similar to GCSEs in as much as they are taken as individual subjects, so an IGCSE is taken in English, Maths, Biology, Physics or Business Studies, for example, and each subject is taken as a separate exam and grade.

Between 5 and 14 subjects are usually taken by 14 to 16-year-olds and the choice of subjects spans humanities, languages, sciences and creative and vocational subjects - right the way from Maths and English to ICT and Global Citizenship. (You can see a good list of what’s available at: http://www.oxfordcollege.ac/courses/igcse.)

Favoured By Teachers

IGCSEs can be taken individually to boost qualifications, if more are needed, or simply to enhance general learning. The governing body is Edexcel, the international exam board which allows a certain amount of flexibility when it comes to the start dates and deadlines. They are assessed on examinations only (although practical and fieldwork is required to aid learning) and last typically one year. It has been mooted that the reason why a lot of private schools in England are using the IGCSE system instead of GCSEs is that the assessment is a little more rigorous and therefore better respected. The major plus point to IGCSEs not having modular assessments means that there is more room for creativity in the pupils’ learning – which a lot of heads increasingly cite as one of the main challenges in modern education. Some teachers have stated that because of the regular assessments necessary for current GCSEs there is no time to be inspirational as a teacher; with IGCSEs, on the other hand, one exam at the end of the course allows for more freedom. That said, it is important to note that IGCSEs and GCSEs are effectively the same accreditation in terms of examination boards.

When living abroad as a family, it’s increasingly likely that IGCSEs are going to be amongst the examination qualifications of choice for students as they’re internationally recognised and therefore taught in international schools and distance learning colleges. Better still if the circumstances are that the family is likely to be regularly on the move for professional reasons, it’s also a qualification that allows children to move freely onto different courses or to different countries when continuing their education (moving on to their A Levels) because of its reputation internationally.