Remember me

AIC Graduate 2010, Taehwan Shin

Taehwan Shin Taehwan Shin

"It all started 3 years ago. I hesistantly walked into the Auckland International College (AIC) building in my new uniform, complete with a blazer, unsure of what really laid ahead of me. The International Baccalaureate Diploma programme was what they called it, IB for short, a curriculum vaguely described as challenging by a few and incredibly difficult by most. But other than that, I didn’t understand much about this new academic journey I was to embark on.

3 years have past. Now I am a graduate of AIC with an IB diploma score of 45/45, the maximum possible. Looking back, I realise that although the IB programme is very well recognised overseas, it is not as well known in New Zealand. As I have studied the curriculum and tutored IB, CIE, and NCEA students, I want to share some of my experiences of the programme and the differences I noticed between IB and the other 2 curricula that are more common in NZ.

One of the very first things I noticed about the IB was the academic rigor. As I had to take 6 subjects from a range of different areas, study an additional course on theory of knowledge, and write a 4,000 word extended research paper, the increase in workload was without a doubt significant. On top of that, my choosing to do 4 subjects at ‘higher level’ rather than the usual 3 didn’t make my academics life any easier. From just the number of subjects required of all IB students and the amount of ‘extra’ work needed, it was easy to see why many students would describe IB as ‘challenging’ or more frequently ‘incredibly difficult’, especially compared to the much lighter workloads of NCEA and CIE.

But for me, it was this broad workload that I found valuable. Although it required more effort, the 6 subjects and additional courses and assignments gave me more opportunities to extend myself. The distribution requirements meant I not only stuck with my main interest of the sciences and math, but I was also able to learn 2 languages and a social science. I learned how to write proper research papers, perform individual and group presentations, and explore and question what and how we know. The IB made it easy for me to avoid the trappings of focusing my subjects too soon and it gave me a well rounded education.

Another significant change was the academic focus of the IB. From my experience with NCEA and CIE, I found that the major focus of these curricula is to do well on a final exam. For NCEA, that means more credits, and for CIE, it means higher percentages. However, for the IB, the final examinations are but a part of the curriculum. I quickly found there was a very large emphasis on the assignments and projects throughout the year. Every week, I would find myself typing out lab reports, writing literature essays, and doing mathematical investigations amongst many others. I was learning throughout the year, rather than just before the exams and I was able to have a stronger understanding of not only the subjects, but also the related areas in the world. The sudden change from studying in short bursts to do well in large exams to learning gradually to have better understanding was refreshing, and I know I will be able to take what I learned from IB with me wherever I go.

However, what made IB truly rewarding for me was that academics was only a part of the whole programme. Unlike the NCEA and CIE, the IB has a core component called CAS, standing for Creativity, Action, and Service. Through this programme, I was encouraged to participate in activities that fell into 1 of the 3 categories, meaning IB wasn’t just about study. Thanks to CAS, I explored and tried out different activities. During my time at AIC, I founded and led the school robotics club, earned 2nd Dan blackbelt in Taekwondo, chaired the organization looking after all the service clubs in the school, represented New Zealand at the International Youth Advisory Congress on Internet Safety in London and the Professor Harry Messel International Science School, and sailed aboard the Spirit of New Zealand amongst many others. Of course, CAS isn’t absolutely necessary to do extracurricular activities, but it contributes by encouraging IB students to go out of their comfort zone and try different things.

There are so much more I could say about the IB, my experiences with it, and how differs with NCEA and CIE, but hopefully this gives you some idea of what it is like. For me, IB was not just about learning subjects at school. It was about learning both inside and outside class, whether it be sitting during a lesson or running around starting up activities. But most of all, it was about making the most of the opportunities present, not just to prepare for exams, but to learn and grow as a person."

AIC Graduate 2010, Taehwan Shin.  Offered a scholarship to study Biomedical Engineering at Harvard University, US.  Also awarded  Auckland University Scholarship, to study Biomedical Engineering.