You reported the concerns of academics from King’s College London and the University of Cambridge that the return to linear A levels would have a negative impact on the number of girls taking up science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects (“‘Fewer women will study engineering’ owing to school exam changes”, News, 17 November). Under the new dispensation, with early specialisation and decisions being made at the age of 15-16, there is a great danger that girls will be discouraged from scientific subjects. However, there is a different answer. In the International Baccalaureate, every student continues to study maths and at least one science until the age of 18. This breadth of study means that all students continue to develop their scientific and mathematical understanding and can make their choices for further study at a later stage in their careers. And, in IB schools, science and maths cannot become the preserve of the boys: girls doing science becomes normal.
This is not the only benefit that the International Baccalaureate brings. In recent times, the Royal Society, Sir David Bell – vice-chancellor of Reading University – Sir Roy Anderson of Imperial College London, and Naomi Climer, the president of the Institute of Engineering and Technology, have all recommended a baccalaureate education. They all argue that today’s and tomorrow’s world requires everyone to have the fundamental skills of literacy, numeracy, scientific understanding and the power to communicate. It may just be that the reduction of the number of girls studying science is only one of the flaws of A levels.
International Baccalaureate Schools and Colleges Association