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How good is the UK international curriculum?

Parents have been wondering about prestige international schools’ curriculum from the UK, and why it is considered the best curriculum in the world. According to the International School Market Research and Trends, there are over 3,500 schools from around 10,000 schools worldwide (over 30%), that used the UK curriculum in 2018, while the Bilingual, US, and IBDP curriculums follow behind in descending order. The more you know, the more advantages become clear to confirm which curriculum best suits our children. Planning early guarantees the best chance for entry into the world’s top universities.

One person who has an insightful knowledge about the curriculum is Mr Mark McVeigh, Principal at Denla British School (DBS), one of the leading international schools in Thailand. Mr McVeigh is an expert in education and has all-round teaching experience of over 30 years. This experience has convinced him that before parents choose a school for their children, it is important that they learn about the school’s education system, its principles, and the quality of teachers.

UK Curriculum
In the UK curriculum, the skills-based nature of the learning requires children to think and question at a deeper level, often lending itself to the pursuit of individual inquiry and global contexts. Therefore it prepares them for a future where education is more than the sum of exam subjects.

The UK curriculum is superior to any other curriculum and has the longest history.
A distinctive characteristic of the UK curriculum is students’ individualism. The curriculum is designed to encourage children’s potential in the most precise and effective way. A crucial turning point in teaching and learning is when children are 12-14 years old in Year 9-11. Children at these teenage years can be confused about their identity. They can also be more stubborn towards parents for seemingly no reason! However, Mr McVeigh argues that this behaviour is considered part of a normal development, while children are in the process of discovering their own identity. The UK curriculum helps children to identify their interests, and to broaden their personalities.

Decisions about careers.
The UK curriculum allows students to choose as many subjects as possible to keep as many careers open as possible; usually 9-11 subjects up to the age of 16. Other curriculums are narrower, with only 5 subjects, for example. This maximises students’ choices in learning.
When a student studies 9 subjects and finds that s/he likes 4 subjects and dislikes 5 subjects, the UK curriculum will encourage this student to finish all 9 subjects. As a result, children will know which subject they don’t like but can do well in, and which subject they like and are good at. It also means that there is time for students to realise that they actually do like a subject that they initially thought was not for them.

When students reach the A-Level stage or Year 12 and 13 (equivalent to Matthayom 6), they will study 3-4 subjects only. At this point, students know which subjects interest them most, and which they are best at. So, encouraging students to focus entirely on what is right for them is the right way to go. Mr McVeigh says students have learned the basics for their future life during their GCSEs, and A-Levels determine students’ direction, based on interest and ability. It only takes 3 years to graduate from a UK university because students already have an intensive education from studying A-Level courses.

Children will acquire a self-study habit for the rest of their lives.
Mr McVeigh says another facet of the UK curriculum is the combination of teaching and self-study. The balance shifts to less teaching and more self-study as students reach A-Levels. Students can focus on their favourite subjects, and their genuine interests help their research, reporting, campaigning or doing group projects. The huge advantage for students with self-study habits is that they will have a smooth transition to universities. Self-studying is the fundamental practice in all universities. When students grow up to be working adults, and it is time to change careers, they can use their independent learning practice and change jobs easily. This skill is extremely important for today’s fast changing world.
Children who study the UK curriculum are familiar with self-studying and will acquire this skill very well. Whatever they do, they can recognise a passion for it, resulting in more successful outcomes. Mr McVeigh concludes, “The most lasting type of study is independent learning.”

The UK curriculum’s distinctive characteristics can be summed up as following:
Origin: The UK
Focus: Moving to specialised expertise
Belief: All children find their interests
Best thing acquired: A self-study habit for the rest of their lives.

The best of UK independent school practices
Mr McVeigh explains that the UK curriculum is delivered by two sectors in the UK: independent (also called public or private) schools, and state schools. The UK curriculum for independent schools is very intense and the strongest independent schools are considered the best schools in the UK. DBS implements an enhanced UK curriculum from the best practice of independent schools in the UK. All teachers are native English-speakers (apart from Thai and Mandarin teachers) and they are very experienced. The uniqueness of DBS’s enhanced UK curriculum includes its approach to Personalised Learning. Personalised Learning is about focusing and concentrating on each student according to their skills and preferences. It can range from individual to small group teaching under the supervision of teachers and learning assistants. Not only does DBS focus on academic excellence, it also promotes an all-round education, so children can find their talents. Another special characteristic is that DBS provides an additional learning period in the Extended Day. DBS students will have 1.5 hours more school time than students in other schools, adding up to nearly 8 hours per week. Parents don’t have to pay an extra fee for this extended period. The Extended Day system is important because students will be encouraged to choose over 40 activities such as robotics, music, sport, dancing, cooking, and leadership activities. They can focus more on what they like, they can join clubs and also use this period for homework groups to prepare themselves for the next school day. All students will be closely taken care of by expert teachers. This is all-round education, ensuring the schools’ vision “Nurturing Global Leaders”.
“Parents should feel confident that the UK curriculum gives their children a huge variety of opportunities, so that they can achieve their full potential and grow up fully prepared for university and beyond,” Mr McVeigh concludes.