From The Head of Sixth Form
The range of choices today for young people at sixteen can seem bewildering.
Our aim is to prepare students for further study in universities around the world and for their future life. The Sixth Form at BST provides an environment where students receive direction whilst being given opportunities for independence both through their studies and in their contributions to the school and the wider community.
As well as academic success, what happens outside the classroom is of great importance. BST provides a holistic education to produce well rounded young adults.
A full enrichment programme as part of the AQA Baccalaureate is offered and this provides an opportunity to develop personalities, leadership skills, community spirit and self-confidence. There are abundant opportunities to participate and compete in Music and Sports.
The BST Outdoors program is a unique feature of our educational provision and all students go on both a summer and winter trip to the Japanese Alps. Being involved in the life of BST, taking responsibility and maximising the opportunities for personal development is central to the life of a BST Sixth Former. This is reflected in the mature attitude of our students, both academically and socially, and how they carry out their duties as prefects.
I hope that you will want to find out more about our wonderful school. If you are in Tokyo, please come and visit us by booking a tour. I’m sure you will be impressed with what we have to offer.
Deputy Head of Secondary and Head of Sixth Form
Why A levels?
The last two years of Secondary School in any education system are the most critical. Parents are often torn when making the decision about the most appropriate system for their child. So which choice is best; A level, International Baccalaureate or the American system? To answer this we must explore the key features of each.
The International Baccalaureate has several distinctive features, the main one being compulsory breadth of study. All students must study English, Mathematics, a Science, a Humanity and a language and can choose a creative subject or an additional science, humanity or language.
For many students this is an excellent system and is a rigorous preparation for university. Some students do not like this compulsory breadth of study. A student wishing to study medicine or Natural Sciences, for example, may wish to study all 3 sciences and Mathematics. This combination is not possible in the IB.
As part of the IB, students follow a course called ‘Theory of Knowledge’, complete an extended essay and must also demonstrate participation in ‘Creativity, Action and Service’ (CAS). This is an excellent aspect of the International Baccalaureate and it ensures that students leave school with a well-rounded education with a sense of social responsibility.
The American System
The American system has the potential to be excellent and there are some excellent American schools. It allows a great deal of flexibility in the courses that can be chosen and allows schools to develop courses in line with the staff they have available. This is because the American system is based on the idea that school districts can choose the courses that will be offered to students in their schools. American schools generally offer the same range of compulsory subjects but elective subjects vary based on ideology, funding and resources.
Due to the lack of uniformity in the American system, it is often difficult to find specialist approved resources, especially in elective subjects. This is in stark contrast to the UK system, where due to having one curriculum, all resources are mapped to the curriculum and meet the standards required of the course.
The most important consideration with the American system is standardisation. How do you ensure that standards in one school compare to those set in another? SATs have allowed for some type of comparison between students from different schools but only in general academic ability rather than individual subject specific skills. In the UK and IB systems this is set by having fixed standards for each subject that are externally moderated by the approved examination boards.
There is a misconception that to go to a US university you need an American secondary education. US universities accept both A level and IB and they like the guaranteed standards they assure.
A levels have a long history and are still regarded as the main post 16 examinations for entry into a British University. The ‘A’ stands for ‘advanced’, the examinations are demanding and they are quality controlled by the British government. The European Qualifications Framework (EQF) allows for a comparison between qualifications between different EU member states. This means that A levels are automatically recognised for entrance to universities within the EU. They are also recognised globally.
A levels began in the 1950s and have adapted to change over time. A recent change came in 2000 and was called ‘Curriculum 2000’. This was in part a response to a demand for greater depth, allowing students to study more subjects. A levels are split into AS (Advanced Subsidiary, valued at half an A level) and A2.
A levels allow students to either specialise in languages or sciences for example, or to follow a broad course of study. Most students tend to follow three A levels and one AS level however many students study more.
Why do we offer A levels and the AQA Baccalaureate at BST?
As an International School offering a British education, it makes sense for us to offer the gold standard British university entrance qualifications. Our curriculum allows students to follow either a specialised or broad program of study. When designing our Sixth Form program of study, we wanted to ensure that our students had both a strong academic and holistic preparation for university and the world of work.
The introduction of the AQA Baccalaureate in the UK allows us to offer the strong academic preparation of A levels, whilst giving students recognition for creativity, action and service. In addition to their A levels, students at BST complete an AS level course in Critical Thinking, an extended project and gain recognition for enrichment and service activities. We feel that this course of study combines the strengths of A levels with the best of the IB system.