Amen, I say, although I’m terrified at the implications of the argument for Chev. I could see the IB having great appeal for our top ten per cent, but the VET options are essential for that key group who will not have a university pathway in mind. There are layers of snobbery involved in discussions like this and I don’t think they are ever satisfactorily resolved. In the end, it’s all about money – can any school focused on the bottom line (trying to get the biggest bang for the greatest proportion of its students for the lowest impact on its parents) run both? What about the option for the poor?

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It is simply out of the financial reach of most families.

THE state’s education authorities must be so convinced their Higher School Certificate is superior to the International Baccalaureate course pursued by a million students worldwide. Otherwise, why would a curriculum recognised as the gold standard for university entry around the world be denied to the tens of thousands of matriculation candidates who put their faith in the state school system?

This alternative to the HSC is offered to students at only 17 NSW private schools, which charge a hefty premium for its teaching. At maybe $30,000 a year, it is simply out of the financial reach of most families. It need not be. The state system is flexible enough to run two high school systems in tandem – the comprehensive and the selective. If a distinction is to be made for the IB, perhaps it could be offered in the selective system, where the brightest students are educated.

Australians punch well above their weight in IB results. Of the 300 who sat the program in NSW last year, eight Sydneysiders were among 156 students worldwide who achieved the perfect score. Most Australian candidates are drawn from the brightest students, although Ravenswood school, for instance, encourages a broader range because the IB is suited to self-motivated students.

The baccalaureate opens gates to the world’s best universities because it offers a thorough grounding in mathematics, other sciences, a compulsory second language and the humanities. Candidates must complete a major investigative essay and community service.

The state system would need to adapt to accommodate it. Another curriculum would need to run in parallel with the HSC and teachers would need to be trained in the demands of the IB. The burdens of inclusion are a poor excuse for denying most students a shot at the stars. Overseas, half the schools offering the IB are state schools. NSW is the only Australian state system not to offer it.

Competition should not be discouraged. Rather than thwart educational excellence, it should hone it. How else would we judge whether we are getting the best bang for our educational dollar, or whether students from under-privileged backgrounds get the best opportunities their talents allow? After all, schools already compete for the best students and the IB is offered at least to the few. Now, we need to go an ambitious next step.

Copyright © 2012 The Sydney Morning Herald