The mission of the International Baccalaureate (IB) is for students to develop into inquiring, knowledgeable and reflective individuals who value learning as a life-long process. The Diploma Programme (DP) in Year 11 and Year 12 builds upon the Primary Years Programme and Middle Years Programme, maintaining the IB Learner Profile and student-centered ‘Approaches to Learning’ as central to teaching and learning. Because the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) aims at educating the “whole learner”, TIGS students are well-equipped for all components of the early admission process.

The IB ‘Approaches to Learning’ (ATL’s) focus on developing students’ critical thinking, communication, social, research and self-management skills, all of which are considered crucial to helping students to succeed both in university and as active members of an ever-changing world. The Middle Years Programme, the Personal Project and core components of the DP, such as the Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge and Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) also demonstrate the well-roundedness of the IB learner.

Further preparing students for university is the IB’s approach to assessment, which aims to foster critical thinking and inquiry. Throughout Year 7 to Year 10, assessment at TIGS (through an IB framework) equips our students with the skills needed for higher order thinking. This helps them to succeed in Year 11 and Year 12 (IB or HSC) and also at university or in the workforce.

Throughout the two years of the DP, each subject undertakes Internal Assessments or IA’s. These internal assessments require a degree of independence and autonomous learning that is essential and expected for students to succeed. During many of these internal assessments, students may be required to create their own research topic, essay question or presentation that reflects their passions and who they are as an independent learner. Current students have reflected they find this approach to assessment “empowering” and “a more effective way to assess that makes [them] more engaged with the task”.

It is this student-centered pedagogical approach to learning and assessment that equips students for university life. DP students have a greater awareness of what they want to learn, and they are equipped with the necessary key skills to acquire the knowledge that they are passionate about. Macquarie University actively recruits DP students, valuing their “switched on approach to learning” and active engagement with the world around them.

In order to assist students in applying to university through the early entry process, the IBO requires each teacher to submit a predicted grade for each student. This predicted grade comprises of a numeric mark out of seven that reflects what teachers feel the student will achieve at the end of the two-year programme. These grades are calculated using evidence from formative and summative assessments, evaluation of students’ attitude and application during class and students’ achieved marks on internal assessments. Both national and international universities use these predicted grades when assessing students’ applications.

Universities throughout the world are well informed about how predicted grades work, and it is because of this that an application for early admission into university is significant for DP students. That being said, it is important to note that the predicted grade represents only one part of the early admission process. It is important for students studying either the HSC or the DP to understand that educational institutions such as the University of Wollongong (UOW) do not consider a single number as fully encapsulating an individual student. It is because of this that they hold interviews with each student and the relevant Faculty Deans. These interviews are crucial for the Deans to evaluate how suitable each student is for their course.

The combination of academic achievement, participation in co-curricular activities and contribution to the life of the School all demonstrate a student who would be a great asset to any university. TIGS sets all of our students up to display these traits which are being sought after for early admission. The DP’s core components of the Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge and CAS are further testaments to the well-roundedness of the DP students that universities are seeking.

As Diploma Programme Coordinator, I have had the opportunity to discuss the DP with representatives from UOW. We have talked at length about the framework the ATL’s provide, the benefits of the Core (Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge and CAS) and how each component can strengthen students’ ability to handle the rigors of academic study. They were especially interested in the International Baccalaureate’s approach to student-centered learning, which they mentioned was paramount in becoming a successful university graduate.