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Introduction of High School courses: IGCSE

27 May 2021

Each stage of the learning journey at Huili School Shanghai plays a unique role in a pupil's growth and development. Grade 8, however, is particularly important, because this is when our pupils begin to plan for their IGCSEs. This is the first opportunity our pupils have to make choices about what they wish to study. They face the exciting prospect of spending more time studying the subjects they are passionate about. They also consider future plans and what they may want to study at university and beyond. To this end, we have prepared a series of workshops for parents and pupils in which Lana Kulas, Head of High School, explains what to expect from IGCSEs and the High School curriculum.



The IGCSE and its subjects


Originally developed in the UK over 30 years ago, IGCSE stands for the International General Certificate of Secondary Education. It is a rigorous and widely-recognised qualification that is taken at age 16 around the world.  


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At Huili, the IGCSE curriculum model encourages breadth and depth of study, ensuring that pupils keep their options open for the future. Some IGCSE courses are compulsory, such as mathematics, Chinese and English, but pupils may decide which science, arts and social studies subjects they wish to take. Pupils may already have developed a passion for a particular area of the curriculum, such as the arts, and they have the opportunity to study multiple subjects within this area. The broad and varied curriculum that Huili pupils experience in Primary and Junior High Schools empowers pupils to make informed choices.



IGCSE assessment methods


IGCSE courses are examined by examination boards, which are regulated to ensure high standards. Assessment methods vary subject to subject. Some subjects are examined purely by terminal exams, while others may include coursework, practical experiments and performances.


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Take art and design for example. There are two components of an art and design grade. The first component is worth 50% of the overall grade and comprises coursework completed in class under a teacher's supervision. The work is set by the examination board and pupils will develop a portfolio that will be graded by the teacher and then sent to the exam board for review. The second 50% of the grade is an eight-hour exam that takes place over several days in class that culminates in a final piece.

A different example may be economics, which is assessed in a completely different way. Pupils are assessed by two terminal exams only and there is no coursework that is submitted from class. When choosing subjects, pupils may wish to consider the types of assessment that suit them better or they may opt for subjects that will enable them to be assessed in different ways.



Guiding pupils to choose subjects


The workshops conducted within school guide pupils and parents through the subject choices they need to make. The best way to do this is to consider where pupils want to go and what they want to do in the future  and then work backwards from that objective.


Pupils should ask themselves three questions:

1.What am I good at?

2.What do I enjoy doing?

3.What do I want to do in the future?

To this end, pupils get access to BridgeU. This online platform provides them with access to a vast searchable database of universities from around the world. Pupils can use it to learn more about which schools best match their interests and talents as well as how they can increase their chances of getting accepted.




We encourage parents to take an active role in this process, conducting research with their children and attending parent workshops as well. We place a strong emphasis on choosing IGCSE subjects because the curriculum is rigorous and we want our pupils to be prepared so they can make the most of this important leg of their learning journey and make choices that will give them the greatest opportunities for success in the future.   



Preparing for IGCSE study


To ensure the quality of IGCSE teaching at Huili, the head and deputy head of High School, IGCSE subject teachers have coordinated to make detailed arrangements for the IGCSE curriculum. Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) has authorised Huili School Shanghai to offer its IGCSE courses. In preparation, many teachers have attended training offered by Cambridge and many teachers have previously taught IGCSEs prior to arriving at Huili. 

In the meantime, considering the long-term learning goals and career development of High School pupils, the university and careers guidance team is also in place and will conduct workshops in the coming academic year to help pupils gain sufficient knowledge and preparation for their future development.


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Pupils will also learn to adapt to a new learning style. For instance, mixed classes will provide new opportunities to collaborate with their peers. They will have to refer to a subjects assessment system to know how to balance their workload between assignments and studying for examinations.


The school will, of course, be mindful of their physical and mental wellbeing and will continue to provide them all the support that they need. For instance, in our regular communications with pupils, we encourage them to read daily and focus on the learning process rather than the outcome. This helps them to develop a sense of emotional security and resilience in their learning. A new learning journey is full of possibilities. We are confident that the Huili Community's parent-school partnership will help pupils meet the challenges of this new chapter in their lives head-on so they can maximise their potential.