Have a child starting the IB Diploma Programme this year? Read this

Subject teachers explain the value of different DP courses

What should students (and parents) know when deciding which IB Diploma to choose? And what university and career options does each open up? Beijing international school teachers cover the basics of different subjects.


Brendan Hogan, Beijing World Youth Academy (BWYA)

What degrees do your Geography students go on to choose?

Students who graduated last year chose a wide variety of subjects, including physics, biology, social studies and engineering. This year’s students are applying for courses as diverse as geophysics, hotel management and communications.

What degrees would IB Geography be beneficial for?

Tourism and leisure: geography makes the link between changing patterns of lifestyle and the modern tourist destination. Also, town or urban planning: studying urbanisation as a topic at IB will give students an insight into the growth and evolution of towns and cities. We study theoretical models and apply these theories to modern megacities, including Beijing. This type of planning and forecast allows planners to effectively plan for services and infrastructural needs.

Lastly, development economics: geography helps students identify disparities in wealth across the globe. By analysing population growth models and understanding how more economically developed countries came to drive global trade and markets, we can understand and implement plans to reduce the gap between wealthy and poor.

In what other ways does Geography help develop skills and add value to students’ lives?

Geography gives students the opportunity to excel at research skills and be critical of their sources. An integral part of IB Geography is working collaboratively as a team. Fieldwork provides this valuable skill and students can develop teamwork and leadership skills. Furthermore, studying geography encourages students to have a holistic view of our planet and its systems, as it looks at global interactions and analyses the cause and impacts of globalisation. Through geography, students have access to world cultures, from modern multicultural environments like London or Dubai to indigenous tribes like the Dani people in Indonesia.



Jonathan Mellen, Yew Chung International School of Beijing (YCIS)

What degrees do your History students go on to choose?

Our IB History students go on to do a number of degrees. Examples include mathematics, business, anthropology, political science and even chemistry, biology, physics and psychology. In history, students learn inferences skills and essay writing skills, which involve evaluative and analysis skills that can be used in any college course.

What degrees would IB History be beneficial for?

History students can pretty much choose whatever degree they want at university. This includes history, economics, geography, anthropology, communications, business and management, political science and art history. There is also a very strong correlation between history and the sciences. Many students who do investigative work in history can bring this to the science lab.

In what other ways does IB History help develop skills and add value to students’ lives?

They learn to recall and select historical knowledge and develop an understanding of historical context and processes. They learn to apply cause and effect; continuity and change. They learn the skill of inference and how to apply their knowledge to real situations. Comparing and contrasting historical sources helps students compare and contrast current events as well. They also learn to develop critical commentary and present an analysis of a summary of evidence. Finally, they learn to structure an essay answer that uses specific evidence to support relevant, balanced and focused historical arguments.

These skills can be easily applied to all situations in life and any class they take. All of these historical skills are valuable to the international student, helping them to understand and communicate within an ever- changing environment.

Modern languages

Catherine Loza, Beijing World Youth Academy (BWYA)

What degrees do your students go on to choose?

Studying a modern foreign language at IB level basically makes you a more effective international citizen, so it can assist students in whatever university course they choose. Learning a language gives you insight into another culture, helping you develop intercultural understanding and cross international borders with confidence. Our students have gone on to university to study everything from physics to cooking, international relations to fashion.

What degrees would an IB in a modern language be useful for?

A modern foreign language is useful for any course that has an international element, which in today’s globalised world is practically everything except Star Trek studies. Any type of degree in business administration would be immeasurably enhanced by an ability to use a foreign language.

Other possible fields include government agencies, travel, engineering, communications, education, international law, economics, public policy, publishing, advertising, entertainment, scientific research, and the service sector. Some academic disciplines have also become particularly global in the last few years, such as law and politics. Although these subjects also require specialised local knowledge, the ability to function across national boundaries is important.

What would you say to a student who feels they don’t need to learn another language in addition to English and Mandarin?

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to accurately predict the precise language we’re going to need in the future. There’s no reason why a student that enjoys learning foreign languages should not try to do this at the IB level. The act of learning a language enables us to learn another in the future, as studies have shown that the more languages we know, the easier it is to learn another.


Doug Lewis, Canadian International School of Beijing (CISB)

What degrees would IB Art be beneficial for?

IB Art students can go on to do anything they want, from working in creative fields such as industrial design, graphic design, fashion design or architecture, to doing anything else that requires creative thinking. Fine art teaches students a creativity that lends itself to other disciplines. This is definitely a skill that has to be learned.

Most successful people in business that we hear of are creative thinkers, and that was the key to their success. Steve Jobs painted art and built his own machines at the beginning of Apple computers. He had an inborn need to make things that had no specific purpose, in the same way as Albert Einstein. All Einstein’s experiments were first done in his head. As a dreamer, he thought of things with no purpose in mind; he didn’t want to solve problems, he simply wanted to challenge reality.

How does studying art help students develop skills and add value to their lives?

In my opinion, it’s more important to learn creative processes than facts, because facts change but creativity expands. It develops strategies that allow people to think in their own directions. The visual language is universal, unlike oral or written ones. Given new world dynamics, developing visual dialogues is perhaps even more important than verbal ones. The best thing about learning visual languages is that they’re transferable to anywhere and anything in the world.


Film studies

Don Jepsen-Minyard, Western Academy of Beijing (WAB)

What degrees do your Film Studies students go on to choose?

There are currently 31 Grade 11 and 12 students enrolled in DP Film Studies. Around a third of DP Film students go on to study film. The most commonly chosen degree programme is the Bachelor of Fine Arts, but some students want to enter the workforce sooner, so they find certificate programmes in private institutions like the Vancouver Film School.

In what other ways does Film Studies help add value to students’ lives?

DP Film Studies isn’t just a course in filmmaking. True, about half of the class time is dedicated to the skills and processes of planning and making films, but those projects are also a means of learning about film theory, analysis and history – so it’s more an academic than a practical course. While studying film and making films, students also learn to design and execute complex, creative projects. pleasant and unpleasant surprises emerge along the way, and every obstacle, from uncooperative weather to a stubborn camera operator, must be confronted. Many students end up discovering important qualities about themselves.

My favourite of these happy outcomes is when a shy person realises she has a gift for directing, and gets to be a leader for the first time. Here’s another example: last year, a group of students finished shooting a pretty complicated scene in our studio. As soon as they had the last shot in the bag, two of the students spontaneously jumped for joy. I can’t prove it, but such strong emotional responses to a learning experience suggest that something good – even essential – is happening. That may be the highest goal for my students: to experience the unique pleasure of creating something from nothing.

Business management

Jerry Grzegorzek, Beijing World Youth Academy (BWYA)

What degrees do your Business Management students choose?

Business management is probably the most popular IB subject, chosen by 40 percent of DP1 students at BWYA this year. These students go on to the best universities in the world, including Stanford, Yale and Oxford. While some choose to study business administration and general management at university, many others are chasing passions in niche specialisations such as hotel management or arts management.

What degrees would Business Management be useful for?

Taking business management has many advantages. First, it’s related to society on local, national and international levels, as people make money everywhere in the world. Students learn how companies operate on a daily basis, and how managers make the best decisions. The IB Diploma also covers all business functions including marketing, human resources, finance and production. Second, studying business management gives students many choices on future jobs: they could be managers in multi-national companies or entrepreneurs, take over family businesses, pursue an academic career or teach. Fourth, business management teaches students to be extremely smart. Critical thinking skills help them to look at any problem from different perspectives as company owners, customers or competitors.

In what other ways does Business Management help add value to students’ lives?

Doing this course makes students want to start a company not only to earn profits but to change the world. They have so many truly world-class ideas, such as delivering fresh vegetables directly from Chinese farmers to people’s homes, selling healthy homemade sandwiches to busy Korean teenagers, or teaching football to students from poor backgrounds.

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