Face Off: Should the IB replace DSE?

Face Off: Should the IB replace DSE?

Each week, our two teenagers will debate a hot topic. This week...

Cedric Li, 16, Sha Tin College

An educated and open-minded youth is what the world needs. Education allows young people to improve their own standards of living, contribute to society, and make informed decisions when fulfilling civil responsibilities.

Since the mid-1960s, the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme has provided a learning that “develops inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who are motivated to succeed.” The IB diploma is tailored to each candidate, and creates educated, and well-rounded students.

The IB curriculum requires all students to study a whole range of subjects, including two languages, mathematics, a science, a human science, and an art. By being given the opportunity to study a whole range of subjects, students become more knowledgeable and well-rounded.

The curriculum of the IB Diploma fosters critical thinking. Through the compulsory extra subject, the Theory of Knowledge (ToK), students are asked to challenge the information they receive and to always question what they are told. Questions range from “To what extent can infographics accurately reflect reality?” to “Can scientific study ever be considered conclusive?” Integrated seamlessly into the course, ToK allows students to practise thinking critically, and approach new ideas with open minds.

On top of these academic requirements, the IB Diploma also requires students to complete a Creativity, Action, and Service (CAS) program. Candidates need to fulfil commitments spanning these three areas. if they don’t, they’ll fail the IB diploma. This ensures that graduates from the IB Diploma are not just good at reciting facts and figures, but are also active participants in society.

Ultimately, it’s the government’s responsibility to decide how best to assess its young people. However, it’s plausible that a flawed education system could be a factor in the bubbling social unrest in Hong Kong. Maybe some open-mindedness and critical thinking would be better for a change.

Choosing the right curriculum for your university entrance requirements

Helen Wong, 15, Dallam School

SLP, OLE, IES, SBA ... all dreaded terms for studying for the DSEs. I’ve been educated under the IB system, and although I love and enjoy what I studying, I don’t think the IB should replace the DSE.

The education culture among HK students and western students differs considerably. Our system emphasises rote learning, whereas western schools value critical thinking. If the HKDSE was replaced by the IB, HK students would be disadvantaged as they may not have analytical skills required to do well. When competing with candidates trained to think a certain way since childhood, local students may find it difficult to adapt to a new way of learning in just two years. Plus, the IB system requires a great deal of self-discipline, passion and motivation. Fewer tests means students need to do more work on their own, while being able to choose their own coursework topic means students need a genuine interest in the subject. The DSE system is more suited to Hongkongers who are used to clear instructions and exam-oriented teaching styles.

The DSE curriculum is more flexible when choosing subjects. The IB may be a pain for students who are not linguists, as it is compulsory to study two languages. The IB forces students to choose subjects from different fields, so they are not allowed to study more than two science or humanity subjects, like they can for the DSE.

The IB workload is demanding. On top of the six subjects and the required extracurricular activities, candidates also need to study an extra subject known as the Theory of Knowledge and write a 4,000-word essay to qualify for the diploma. While the IB seems to be geared towards getting people into university, the HKDSE also caters for those headed for vocational training.

Replacing the DSE with the IB is unfeasible due to the limited resources. The government is reluctant to spend more money on schools as it is; replacing the DSE would be very expensive – with the fees and extra teacher training.

There is no perfect system. Some may wish to pursue the IB path, but others may benefit from the local exam system – it’s a decision best left to the student based on their individual differences and aspirations. Having a choice means students and parents can select what they think suits best.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Should the DSE be replaced with the IB?


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Progressive Cynic


What an utterly patronizing article.
This piece is filled with sweeping generalisations that attack local students' analytical and critical thinking skills, such as 'HK students ... may not have analytical skills required to do well [compared to IB students.]'
Perhaps the authors, both of whom privileged enough to take the IB, should re-examine their condescending attitude before making such grand claims without a single shred of evidence.