With international schools becoming more mainstream in Beijing, more and more students and their families are being forced to think about where to attend university abroad much earlier, and many students in Beijing are choosing between the UK and the US. Making this decision often comes before choosing which international school to attend in Beijing. Competition between international schools offering the IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) and A-levels geared more towards attending universities in the UK and those offering IB courses more commonly used in the US are increasing the pressure to decide on a country more quickly.I see many of my students struggling to decide which school to apply to based on where they imagine themselves living abroad in the future as young as age five. Many students and their parents haven't visited America or the UK, and are forced to rely on news headlines or word of mouth to make these tough decisions.
My advice is to look at the courses offered and to choose the ones that leave the most possibilities for the future. It means choosing a path that offers IB courses because the reality is IB courses are simply more widely accepted around the world at the moment.
Many people are quick to point out the heavy workload of IB courses because the students focus on six subjects. While it is true the IB workload is intense, this leaves students more options to make decisions on their majors in university later. A-level courses focus on three to four subjects chosen by the students around age 14. The choices the students make are serious and can have lasting impacts on their future. Some will argue students who study A-level courses have a deeper understanding of the subjects, but do they have a deep understanding of what they want in their future?
In the end, it is probably true that a student who is successful in IB courses or A-level courses will be successful. I personally do not appreciate the restrictions of A-level courses. There seem to be more international schools in Beijing with the same opinion given the amount offering IB programs versus A-level courses.