Pre-U Dilemma: A-Levels vs IB

This turned out to be quite a long post on why I did not choose other Pre-U programmes and also comparisons between A-Levels and IB. Correct me if I am wrong about anything. I am learning as I go. =)

I hope this is not any belated April Fool's joke on me. =.=

Besides having to consider which college to go to (mind you, there are more than 10 colleges in the KPM Bursary list for A-Levels), I have to face yet another Pre-U dilemma: the program.

I have always decided on A-Levels (primarily CAL) because in Malaysia it's the most popular Pre-U option that is internationally accepted, especially if you're looking at top UK unis (namely Oxbridge, LSE, UCL...)
Plus it has been around for ages and most people only know:
  • Public Schools: STPM
  • Private Colleges: A-Levels
Of course government still offer matriculation, but then you would need luck to get in (for non-bumiputras that is), and private colleges also offer IB, SAM, AUSMAT, NSWHSC, Canadian Pre-U, etc, but then the layperson (read: our aunties and uncles) would not know what the hell they are.

I can just imagine what my aunts would say: "Oh, you got 45points in IB? What does that mean?"
Not that I would really get 45. That's the full points for IB. Equivalent to all A* in A-Levels, or 4 flat in STPM, if you're wondering. Or maybe a tad harder than STPM, since now it's modular.

And also people would say that A-Levels is more respected and stuff, because it's the MOST popular Pre-U program globally, even though they stand equal in recognition and difficulty. IB is hardly the new kid, it was created in 1968, but then it is still a less-trodden path.
The structure, pros and cons will have to be explained to students and parents in greater detail.

Off the beaten track
How did I arrive at this crossroads of programs:
-I didn't want to do STPM because...I got the Bursary. Okay, that's a lie. I won't even want to do STPM if I didn't get the Bursary. Reason: I do hate studying in Malay. I can safely say my English is better than my Malay, so why study in a language you still can't master?
Plus they don't really have the subjects I want, which is a secondary reason. STPM is more for science-based subjects, although I know there are arts (humanities) students.

-I didn't apply for the matriculation because...I don't want to study locally. Yeah I know that sounds very unpatriotic and the common student, but then well, you can't deny the fact that local unis didn't even get into the top 400 unis in the world =.=. Imagine applying for a job and you're holding a UM degree and your rival is holding a degree from, say, LSE. Zzz.

Sorry if I sound unpatriotic here, I'm not disregarding the fact that local unis still provide good education and those with the capability will be able to get jobs no matter where they study at, because it's the attitude that counts. I'm just saying if that my dream is to fly overseas for studies and I wouldn't want to apply for matriculation and reject it if I got it later. That would be like so unfair to others who really want to get into matrics, especially doctor/dentist/pharmacist wannabes. You know. Since they have slimmer chances of getting scholarships to pursue their studies overseas compared to other degree choices.

-I didn't want to do Canadian Pre-U because I have not thought of really wanting to go to Canada. Same goes to all of the Australian Pre-Us, I have not thought of seriously considering Australia only. I know they're all globally recognized, but then if I'm looking directly at UK why not go for A-Levels, since it's the Pre-U for UK? That was before I got the Bursary. After that, well I can't do those pre-us even if I want to, since the Bursary only covers A-Levels/IB.

And it would've been so much easier if KPM only offered A-Levels in its Bursary. =.=
Then I wouldn't have to think soooo much.

Here's some differences between these two pre-u:
CAL (Cambridge GCE A-Levels): 
-Study 3 to 4 subjects ONLY.
-Emphasises depth within each subject discipline
-100% external assessment (100% exams)
-AS and A2 levels (generally students have 3 A2 and 1 AS subs)
-For students who already know what degree they want exactly in the future
-Recommended for students aiming for degrees with high science/math content and many fixed subject pre-requisites at A-Levels.
-Better chance of making the grades
-For exam-oriented students
-For students excellent in specific subjects (e.g: sciences only, or humanities only)

IB (International Baccalaureate):
-Study 6 subjects, plus a 4000-word Extended Essay, a Theory of Knowledge class and a 150-hour CAS (extra co-curricular activities and volunteer work)
-Emphasises breadth across a wide range of subjects
-Around 20% internal assessment (coursework) and 80% external assessment (exams)
-3 SL (standard level) subjects and 3 HL (high level) subjects
-For students who are still unsure about their future
-Recommended for students aiming for degrees that do not require fixed subject pre-requisites. 
-Better chance of proving their worth
-For students who want a more holistic programme
-For students who are all-rounders (can cope with sciences, humanities, arts, commerce, languages...)
Based on above it is evident that CAL and IB cater to two different types of students, and one is actually not harder/more prestigious than the other. CAL is suited for exam-oriented students (I admit that's me, that's the education system in Malaysia) and students who have passion mainly in one stream/are not balanced, meaning that they might score badly in languages while fare much better in sciences.

IB on the other hand is a very balanced program in that you have to pick a subject from each different group, so you have to actually be good across the different streams, although you do not need to be good in ALL the subjects offered, just the ones you chose. Plus there is about 20% internal assessment so one should be consistent in the work given.

It has been said often enough that the IB is more about an ethos of an educational style, while A-levels place more emphasis on individual subject knowledge.

Now I don't know what I am more suited toward. I'm really exam-oriented, but I also have a range of interests. I might be able to cope with different streams of subjects, but I am wondering about the group projects and oral presentations which are part of the assessments. Plus I'm a bit scared that it would be difficult to get over 40 out of 45 IB points, whereas you just need 3 As (preferably with A*s) in A-Levels. For IB though you need to get perfect score of 7 in all 6 subs (42) plus 3 points from TOK and EE.
>.< But then I also know that IB is a well-balanced programme that will shape students more effectively and also prepare me better for university. You know. Thesis writing, communication and soft skills, etc.

Oh well. Still two months for me to decide.
Let's hope I make up my mind by that time! (and hope I won't regret whichever programme I choose)

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