The choice of an international school’s curriculum – American curriculum vs IB – is understandably a big one as it will determine the higher education opportunities available to a learner. In Singapore, the International Community School (Singapore) is one of three schools that offer the American curriculum. Although it’s based on American Common Core State Standards for English language, arts, mathematics, history, geography and Next Generation Science Standards for science, the American curriculum actually provides educators with more creative freedom to tailor the academic activities based on the student’s needs.
To provide a better understanding of the American curriculum are DARRYL HARDING, the Principal of Middle and High School at ICS, and ERIC LAUG, the Academic Counselor of ICS. These two educators have taught the American curriculum extensively and Darryl also has roles in accreditation and training at the International Baccalaureate. Here are their insights.
What makes the American curriculum stand out from other curriculums?
Darryl: The most common misunderstanding of the American curriculum versus IB is that the American curriculum is very prescribed but there is freedom that comes with it. Other curriculums such as the IB and A-Levels require students to take a set number of courses from specific subject areas.
If you’re in a public school in the United States, you’re fairly bound to the content and timing of delivery of the American curriculum. However, at international schools, teachers have the freedom to cater the teaching experience to suit the learning needs of each student.
At ICS, we take advantage of this freedom in order to meet the needs of our students. The Advanced Placement (AP) programme, allows students to focus on their strengths and myriad areas of interest. For example, a student who desires to be an engineer – and go to MIT or the University of Waterloo – is not required to take higher AP-level courses in literature or social studies if they don’t want to. They can focus on AP Math and AP Science instead, while rounding out choices to suit the holistic needs of the student.
How does AP prepare a student for studying at a university and life?
Eric: It provides students with an opportunity to challenge themselves with college level courses, which does a great job of supplementing the school’s general American curriculum. AP courses also offer students the opportunity to dig deeper into a subject area that they’re interested in. There’s a lot of student autonomy when it comes to choosing AP courses, which they can tailor to best position them for their course of study at university, along with the opportunity to take other electives that are outside of their subject focus.
For example, Grade 12 students have a capstone project called the Senior Thesis. Their experience in AP classes prepares them for the rigour of the Senior Thesis. It’s a research-based project on a topic of their choice, usually in the field or area of study they desire to pursue in university. It teaches the student skills in scholarly research, scholarly writing and the opportunity to answer and defend their thesis statement.
The ICS curriculum bears a holistic approach to education that aims to teach students in all avenues and not just academics. For example, students have a service-learning component built into the curriculum. Called Week Without Walls, each week they spend time learning about service and volunteer work. They’re also required to source for their own volunteer opportunities and complete a minimum of 12 hours per year of service within the local community.
If English wasn’t my child’s native language, would it still be easy for them to study within the curriculum?
Eric: Plenty of our students here whose native language isn’t English have achieved high levels of academic success, graduating and moving on to some of the top English-speaking universities around the world.
We have a robust English Language Learning programme to support the linguistic needs of students who need extra help. Upon applying here, these students take a WIDA Test to gauge their proficiency in the English language. With support of our ELL programme and if they work at developing their English language skills, they can easily be successful within our school’s curriculum.
What if a child wants to enter a local university?
Eric: ICS’s curriculum will prepare students to study at any university around the world. Our students have matriculated to top universities in many different countries, including Singapore.
With the rigour and diversity inherent to our Honours and Advanced Placement courses, as well as individualised academic planning, students at ICS are well prepared to have a competitive edge in applying to local Singapore universities. They’ve been accepted to the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technical University of Singapore, Singapore Management University and Singapore University of Technology and Design.
About the Experts
Eric Laug joined the education field seven years ago as the Chaplain of ICS. After four years at this role, he moved on to be the Academic Counselor at the school and is starting his second year at this role. He holds a Master of Counselling from Monash University.
Darryl Harding is an experienced educator with 20 years of experience that combines teaching as well as leadership roles. Besides a Masters in Education and a Graduate Diploma in Educational Leadership, he also held roles with accreditation and training at the International Baccalaureate while continuing to work with the Western Association of Schools & Colleges as a school accreditation team member. Darryl was most recently the Middle Years Programme Coordinator at IGB International School in Malaysia before joining ICS. He is currently the Middle and High School Principal.
Want to know more about ICS?
Register for a spot in their upcoming virtual open house for a closer look at the school and have your questions about American curriculum vs IB answered by the team.
Written in collaboration with:
International Community School (Singapore)
27A Jubilee Road
6776 7435 | ics.edu.sg
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