British, American, Or IB Curriculum: Picking The Right Path for Your Child


The UAE is famous for its iconic landmarks, cutting-edge architecture, and futuristic technologies. However, it's also a hub for a wide variety of private schools, offering diverse curricula from around the world. Among the many options available, three prominent curricula in the UAE are the British, American, and IB systems. If you're a parent considering these options, here's a comprehensive guide to help you make an informed decision about these curricula.

Before delving into the selection of a curriculum for your child, let's understand the differences among the British, American, and IB curricula.

What Is the British Curriculum? 

The British curriculum, also known as the National Curriculum for England, is a highly regarded educational system that spans more than 150 countries worldwide. It stands as one of the preferred educational frameworks in the UAE. Renowned for its commitment to academic excellence and a well-rounded, student-centred approach, established in 1988, it offers various educational milestones, including iGCSE, AS, A-level, and BTEC certifications.

The British curriculum includes important subjects like Maths, English, Science, History, Geography, Art, Music, PE, Design and Technology, Computing, and Foreign Languages. The qualifications it offers, such as GCSEs, IGCSEs, and A-Levels, are widely accepted by universities in the UAE and internationally.

Speaking about the British curriculum, Rohan Radia, 13-year-old student, from Brighton College Dubai, says, "With regards to the A-level programme, getting to study 3-4 subjects in depth is very interesting and valuable, and it provides an advantage in applying to European and UK universities. In fact, the British curriculum has made me more curious and is encouraging me to look into things deeper within both my academic studies and extracurricular/personal activities." 

What is the American Curriculum? 

The American Curriculum is known for its adaptability and inclusivity, promoting a well-rounded education with various elective courses. It's a preferred choice for students aiming for higher education in the United States and Canada. This curriculum emphasises the significance of all subjects, both academically and through a wide array of co-curricular activities. American Curriculum is widely accepted by universities in the US and Canada, and its standardised tests are used as benchmarks by international schools globally.

What Is the IB Curriculum? 

The International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum is known for its global perspective, encouraging critical thinking and inquiry-based learning. Offered in 146 countries worldwide, it's the fastest-growing education system, known for its international recognition and holistic approach. Established in 1969, IB goes beyond local boundaries, encouraging students to consider global factors, a crucial skill in our increasingly interconnected world. The IB program aims to nurture academic, personal, emotional, and social growth, equipping students with essential skills for success in our rapidly globalising society.

Factors Parents Should Keep In Mind While Picking A Curriculum For Their Kids

When choosing a curriculum, parents should consider factors like educational philosophy, children's needs and learning style, future goals, available resources and support, cost, and long-term implications.

Speaking about this in-depth, Jane Clewlow, Head of Senior School Brighton College Dubai, says, "The best curriculum for your child will depend on their unique needs and your educational goals. Do you plan for them to continue their education in a specific country or system? The chosen curriculum should align with those goals. Furthermore, parents must also assess the availability of resources and support materials for the chosen curriculum." 

On decision-making, Jane Clewlow of Brighton College Dubai added, "It's often a good idea to consult with educational experts or professionals to help you make an informed decision. Additionally, consider involving your child in the decision-making process to ensure they have a say in their education and feel motivated to learn." 

Communicating openly with your child before making a switch is a must and highlighting its importance Emily Hopkinson, Head of Secondary, The English College, said, "Adaptation to a new curriculum can vary from child to child. However, children can transition successfully with support and the right mindset. Communicating openly with your child about the change and involving them in the decision-making process is essential. They need to recognise, understand and embrace the change. With time, effort and support, most children can adapt easily and quickly."

What If You Want To Change The Curriculum Later? 

After parents have chosen a curriculum, they often worry about whether changing it later will negatively affect their child's educational progress.

On this, Alison Roberts, Head of Marketing and Admissions at Swiss International School Dubai, says, "As long as kids have a good support network of teachers and pastoral support in place, it is okay to change the curricula after a few years. Additionally, schools are very good at providing parent information and advice on how best to support children in different curriculums."

Connector also reached out to Chanelle, a Grade 10 student, at Bloom World Academy, who switched from the British curriculum to the IB, and she said, "I feel that the IB has much more choice and the approach to learning is more progressive. For example, I love our transdisciplinary units. They give you the opportunity to see how different subjects connect and interact. IB also pushes me outside my comfort zone to take ownership of my learning."

So Which One Should You Pick? 

As a parent, after conducting thorough research and gaining a deep understanding of various curricula, it's important to engage in open and meaningful conversations with your children. Take the time to understand their interests and be receptive to their choices. 

Adding to this, John Bell, Founding Principal Bloom World Academy, says, "Be open-minded, embrace the new and the different, explore what you don’t know, don’t necessarily follow what you did yourself. Overall, really consider the attributes and attitudes, as well as the learning. You want your child to develop and choose a curricula that really embraces this in a school that can deliver. In the end values, and quality of the school is much more important than the curriculum offered." 

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