Higher Level Thinking at GNS

Students who have committed to pursuing the IB Diploma in their senior years make a commitment to engage in a curriculum that goes far beyond the simple requirements for graduation established by BC's Ministry of Education. In most cases, the course load of a Diploma candidate will include six academic courses, three of which are studied at the Standard Level (SL), and three of which at the enriched, Higher Level (HL). By utilizing an "a la carte" approach to timetabling at GNS we encourage all students to take advantage of HL and SL offerings to some degree, as there is no doubt that exposure to enriched classes pays dividends during the pursuit of excellence at the university level.

According to the International Baccalaureate website, "In most cases both SL and HL courses consist of the same educational aims, core syllabus and curriculum and assessment models. HL courses typically also include a range of additional elements designed to allow students to explore areas of interest within the subject in more depth." The difference between the two streams is that HL courses challenge students to go engage themselves at superior levels of inquiry in an effort to better understand not only the subject matter, but also its application in "everyday life."

Typically, students choose to take HL courses based on elevated levels of interest and ability. Success at the either level requires continual refinement of skills including synthesis, evaluation and problem solving. The breadth of content covered in an HL course requires significantly more classroom time, and as a result the knowledge base instilled in a student from this enriched class is significantly higher than a student challenging the course at the SL level.

While the pursuit of knowledge is paramount when addressing the IB Diploma, there are practical benefits to successfully completing the program. The Ministry of Education in BC (and most other locales) views Higher Level classes as equivalents to university-level courses, and affords tax credits to parents for that portion of each student's fees. In addition, most universities have policies in place that reward successful completion of HL courses (usually with a minimum score of 5 on the 7 point IB scale) with first-year credits. This means that top students can, in theory, forego their first year of university entirely and earn entrance directly into second year, thus making a three-year bachelor degree achievable. More pragmatically speaking, hard-working and committed students who embrace the challenge IB courses present can earn some university credits, providing added flexibility and opportunity in timetabling as they adjust to post-secondary life.

Students at GNS have a competitive leg up on other IB students because of the design and delivery of both SL and HL courses. Our IB faculty are experts in their respective fields, and engage with students individually and with a level of familiarity that maximizes the likelihood of success. Small class sizes and supportive peer groups provide the opportunity for students to step outside of comfort zones and embrace the challenges presented with confidence and the understanding that, sometimes, a misstep does not equate to a loss. They are supported every step of the way and, in the end, make some quite profound discoveries about their subject matter, and about themselves.

by Glenn Zederayko, Head of School

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