Guide To International School Curriculum and Syllabus

Written By Ketan | Edited By Varsha & Adi | Updated on 01st Feb, 2024

Trying to figure out international school curricula can be confusing and overwhelming, especially if you’re new to the world of global education. With so many options to choose from, how do you know which curriculum is the best fit for your child? Do not worry! We have covered it all.

In this blog, we’ll take a deep dive into some of the most popular international curricula, including the International Baccalaureate (IB), Cambridge International Examinations (CIE), and Advanced Placement (AP). We’ll explore the curriculum and syllabus, as well as provide tips and advice for choosing the right one for your child. 

Quick Summary

A Guide To International School Curriculum and Syllabus

  1. What is International Curricula?
  2. Why choose to study International Curricula?
  3. Understanding IB Curriculum and Syllabus in depth
  4. How does the Cambridge Curriculum work?
  5. Ap Curriculum and syllabus
  6. IB, Cambridge, and AP: which is better and why?
  7. Tips for parent
  8. Conclusion

1.  What is International Curricula?

Education that connects everyone around the world is called international school curricula. These are different ways of learning that don’t focus only on one country’s style of teaching. Instead, they take ideas from many places to give students a wider understanding of the world. These methods of learning are used in schools globally, aiming to create a more interconnected and understanding world. 

Some popular international curricula include the International Baccalaureate (IB), Cambridge International Examinations (CIE), and Advanced Placement (AP). These curricula typically emphasize critical thinking, problem-solving, and global understanding, and offer a wider range of subject options than national curricula.

2.  Why choose to study International Curricula?

International curricula, including programs such as the International Baccalaureate (IB), Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE), and Advanced Placement (AP), are gaining global recognition. These curricula are acknowledged worldwide, providing students with enhanced flexibility and opportunities for higher education and employment across the globe.

One of the key features of international curricula is their strong emphasis on critical thinking, analysis, and problem-solving skills. This focus prepares students for success in a rapidly evolving global landscape where adaptability and analytical skills are crucial.

Holistic education is a central theme in international curricula, promoting personal growth, social responsibility, and cultural understanding. These programs go beyond academic excellence to foster character development, well-being, and a sense of responsibility towards the community and the world.

Multilingualism is often a core component of international curricula. By incorporating the study of multiple languages, these programs equip students with the linguistic skills necessary to navigate a diverse and interconnected world. This emphasis on language learning enhances cultural awareness and effective communication.

Real-world learning experiences are integrated into international curricula, helping students understand complex concepts and develop practical skills applicable in various settings. Whether through internships, projects, or case studies, these experiences contribute to a more hands-on and applicable approach to education.

In short, international curricula are a great choice for students because they are recognized worldwide,focus on critical thinking, cover a wide range of subjects, encourage learning multiple languages, and prepare them for real-world challenges.

3. IB Curriculum and Syllabus

The International Baccalaureate (IB) Board is an amazing educational system made by a group called the International Baccalaureate Organization in 1968. It’s not just a school plan, it’s a global way of doing really good schooling. Schools that use the IB plan are called IB World Schools, and the special program for grades 11 and 12 is called IBDP, or International Baccalaureate Diploma Program. Instead of only teaching subjects, IB World Schools focus on teaching important skills for life. It’s not just about being good at school stuff, it’s about becoming a well-rounded person ready for real life. There are four parts to IB education based on age:

  • The Primary Years Programme (PYP) for kids aged 3 to 12.
  • The Middle Years Programme (MYP) is for kids aged 11 to 16.
  • The Diploma Programme (DP) for students aged 16 to 19.

The International Baccalaureate Career-Related Programme (IBCP) for the same age group.

IB education might be a bit challenging, but it’s also a lot of fun. Students who want to keep studying outside their country often choose IB because it helps them match up with the education levels around the world, just like students in other countries.

Grading System

The grading system for the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme uses a 1 to 7 scale:

  • 7: Excellent
  • 6: Very good
  • 5: Good
  • 4: Satisfactory
  • 3: Mediocre
  • 2: Poor
  • 1: Very poor (minimal achievement)

In the International Baccalaureate (IB), students get scores for each subject they study. Those scores add up to their overall diploma score. But it’s not just about academics—there’s also the Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge, which contribute to the final diploma. To get the diploma, students need to hit specific targets in their subjects and meet minimum requirements in each area.

After all that hard work, colleges and universities might give students some credits or let them skip ahead in certain courses, depending on their IB diploma score. But every school has its own rules about this, so it varies a lot.


IB offers a lot of freedom when it comes to picking subjects. There are six groups of subjects and three core subjects that everyone needs to do.

In these groups, students can choose what they like from things like language, science, history, and arts. For some subjects, they go deeper and spend more time studying. These are called Higher Level subjects.

Apart from these subjects, there are three other things everyone in IB does:

TOK (Theory of Knowledge): Here, students don’t just learn facts, they become like detectives, questioning information and thinking about different perspectives. It helps them become better at thinking and understanding the world.

EE (Extended Essay): It’s like a big research project. Students pick a topic they love, research it, and write a long essay about what they’ve learned. It’s good practice for university-level work.

CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service): This is about three things—being creative, staying active, and helping others. Students do things like art, sports, or volunteering to become more well-rounded individuals. It’s not just about studying, it’s about becoming a better person.

4. CAIE Curriculum and Syllabus

The Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE) is an educational system created by Cambridge University. It’s not just about studying, it’s a way of learning used worldwide. Schools that follow the CAIE system teach students from different countries.

There are different parts to CAIE based on age:

  1. The Lower Secondary Programme for kids aged 11 to 14.
  2. The Upper Secondary Programme for students aged 14 to 16.
  3. The Advanced Level Programme for students aged 16 to 19.

CAIE is known for its flexibility and offers a wide range of subjects for students to choose from. It’s challenging, but it prepares students well for higher education. Many students like it because it’s recognized globally, making it easier for them to study abroad or in different countries.

Grading System

The grading system for Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE) uses a scale from A* to G:

  • A:* Excellent
  • A: Very good
  • B: Good
  • C: Satisfactory
  • D: Mediocre
  • E: Poor
  • F or G: Fail

Students receive grades for each subject they take exams in. These grades reflect their performance in those specific subjects. The grades obtained can be used for college applications or to demonstrate proficiency in particular subjects. Different universities and colleges might have varying policies on recognizing CAIE grades for admission or granting credits.


The syllabus for Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE) covers a wide range of subjects across different levels. It’s designed to give students a strong foundation and prepare them for higher education. Here’s a simplified breakdown of what students learn in CAIE:

  1. Lower Secondary Programme (Ages 11-14):
  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Science (Physics, Chemistry, Biology)
  • History
  • Geography
  • Languages (French, Spanish, German, etc.)
  • Art and Design
  • Physical Education
  1. Upper Secondary Programme (Ages 14-16):
  • Core Subjects:
  • English Language
  • Mathematics
  • Science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics)
  • Elective Subjects (Students choose a certain number from a list that includes subjects like):
  • History
  • Geography
  • Business Studies
  • Languages (French, Spanish, German, etc.)
  • Computer Science
  • Accounting
  • Art and Design
  • Physical Education
  1. Advanced Level Programme (Ages 16-19):

Students choose a smaller number of subjects, usually 3-4, based on their interests and future studies. Subjects can include:

  • Mathematics
  • Further Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • History
  • Geography
  • Economics
  • Languages (French, Spanish, German, etc.)
  • Psychology
  • Art and Design
  • Computer Science
  • Business Studies
  • Accounting

Each subject in CAIE has its specific syllabus detailing the topics, concepts, and skills students need to learn. These syllabi are designed to be comprehensive and give students a solid understanding of each subject, preparing them for exams and further studies.

5. Advanced Placement (AP)

The Advanced Placement (AP) program is a cool education system created by the College Board in the U.S. back in the 1950s. Unlike sticking to one particular school plan, AP is used by schools all over the world.

Schools that follow the AP way are just called AP schools. In this setup, high school students dive into challenging AP courses that cover a bunch of subjects. These courses are like college-level classes, and after each one, students can take an AP exam. Depending on how well they do, they might even earn college credit.

Just like the IB program, AP is not just about knowing stuff. It’s also big on building critical skills needed for college and life. Things like thinking hard, communicating well, and doing independent research.

The AP program has different parts for students of different ages:

  1. Advanced Placement Capstone: This is for high school students, usually in grades 11 and 12. It includes courses like AP Seminar and AP Research, focusing on thinking, researching, and talking about ideas.
  1. AP courses for high school students (grades 9-12): These are subject-specific courses covering lots of areas like math, science, humanities, and languages. They’re there to push students and get them ready for college-level work.

AP isn’t just a challenge, it’s also a chance for students to explore what they’re into and even earn some college credit. Many students pick AP courses to show they’re ready for college-level work and to stand out when applying to universities all around the world. The AP program sets a high standard for high school education globally, making it easier for students to move on to higher education wherever they want.

Grading System

The grading system for AP exams uses a scale from 1 to 5:

  • 5: Extremely well qualified
  • 4: Well qualified
  • 3: Qualified
  • 2: Possibly qualified
  • 1: No recommendation

Each AP exam’s score is based on the student’s performance on the test and doesn’t necessarily correlate with a typical A-F grading scale. Colleges and universities have different policies regarding AP scores and how they translate into course credit or placement. Some institutions might grant credit for scores of 4 or 5, while others might require a 3 for credit or placement.


The Advanced Placement (AP) program covers various subjects aimed at high school students preparing for college-level studies. Here’s an overview of the typical subjects included in the AP syllabus:

  1. English:
  • AP English Language and Composition
  • AP English Literature and Composition
  1. Mathematics:
  • AP Calculus AB
  • AP Calculus BC
  • AP Statistics
  1. Science:
  • AP Biology
  • AP Chemistry
  • AP Physics 1: Algebra-Based
  • AP Physics 2: Algebra-Based
  • AP Physics C: Mechanics
  • AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism
  • AP Environmental Science
  1. History and Social Sciences:
  • AP World History: Modern
  • AP European History
  • AP United States History
  • AP Government and Politics (United States or Comparative)
  • AP Macroeconomics
  • AP Microeconomics
  • AP Psychology
  1. Languages:
  • AP Spanish Language and Culture
  • AP French Language and Culture
  • AP German Language and Culture
  • AP Chinese Language and Culture
  1. Arts:
  • AP Art and Design
  • AP Music Theory
  • AP Studio Art (2-D Art and Design, 3-D Art and Design, Drawing)

The syllabus for each AP subject outlines the specific topics, concepts, and skills students need to learn. It’s designed to be challenging and equivalent to introductory college courses. Students who take AP classes usually prepare for an end-of-year AP exam, and depending on their score, they may earn college credit or advanced placement in college courses.

6. Comparing the Curricula: Finding the Best Fit

Age RangeKindergarten – Pre-UniversityPrimary – Pre-UniversityHigh School
Program FocusHolistic Development, Interdisciplinary LearningSubject-Specific Expertise, FlexibilityUniversity Preparation, Advanced Courses
Assessment StyleInternal & External Assessments, Portfolios, ProjectsExams, CourseworkExams
Global RecognitionHighly Respected by Universities WorldwideRecognized by Many UniversitiesPrimarily Recognized in the U.S. and Canada
CurriculumHolistic, core curriculum + 6 subject groups + extended essayBroad and deep subject-specificCollege-level courses in individual subjects
EmphasisCritical thinking, interdisciplinary connections, university preparationSubject-specific knowledge and understandingFocused study in chosen subjects, potential college credit
Learning styleIndependent, research-based, project-basedStructured, teacher-led instructionVaries depending on course and teacher

Each way of learning has its good things and challenges. The IB is about looking at things from many angles, Cambridge is about mastering subjects deeply, and AP is about going deep into subjects students love. Choosing one depends on how a student likes to learn and what they want to do in the future.

7. Tips for Parents

  1. Research the different options: Learn about the various international curricula and their unique features, such as the IB, CIE, and AP.
  1. Consider your child’s needs: Think about your child’s learning style, interests, and goals when choosing a curriculum.
  1. Visit schools and talk to educators: Get a feel for the school culture and learn more about the curriculum by visiting schools and talking to teachers and administrators.
  1. Talk to other parents: Connect with other parents who have experience with international curricula to get their perspectives and advice.
  1. Consider the long-term: Think about your child’s future goals and how the curriculum can support their long-term success.
  1. Be open to new opportunities: International curricula offer a range of experiences and opportunities, so be open to new possibilities and experiences.


International curricula offer opportunities for students to gain a global perspective, develop critical thinking skills, and prepare for success in a rapidly changing world. Whether you choose the IB, CIE, or AP curriculum, you can be confident that your child will receive a high-quality education that will serve them well throughout their lives.

It’s important to remember that the best curriculum for your child is the one that meets their individual needs and supports their unique goals and interests. Take the time to research your options carefully, visit schools, and talk to other parents and educators before making your final decision. With the right support and guidance, your child can thrive in any educational setting.

Varsha & Adi

Hi, we are Varsha and Adi, and we’re on a mission to help parents make the right choice for their kids’ education. Picking a school is like a 10-year commitment, and we realized parents needed clear, no-nonsense info. That’s why we created Candid Schools, where you can get the real deal on schools without the fancy jargon. Our goal is simple: to give parents the info they need to make the best choice for their little ones.

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