What Is the British Curriculum? How Does It Compare to Other Programs?

What Is the British Curriculum? How Does It Compare to Other Programs?

When you live in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), you’re given a wide range of options for your child’s learning. Besides the sheer number of institutions offering top-notch education, you also gain access to O-level schools in Dubai that follow the British curriculum.

But what’s so special about the United Kingdom’s national educational framework?

Here, you’ll learn everything the British curriculum offers and how it compares with other learning programs available in the UAE.

What Is the British Curriculum?

The British curriculum is a national educational framework that was developed in the United Kingdom and has been in place since the late 1980s (with some elements introduced in 2015).

It is a great example of a well-rounded education framework that, at a certain stage, allows students to choose elective subjects on top of the ones they’re required to take.

Key Stages

The key stages of British education begin at age 4 with the reception class that follows the early years foundation stage (EYFS). This stage primarily focuses on language and communication and physical, personal, and social development. It also covers specific subjects, such as mathematics, English, and science.

In Year 1 under Key Stage (KS) 1, students undergo a phonics screening check and move on to hone their reading, writing, grammar, punctuation, and other language skills.

As they move up, children are assessed in the core subjects to determine their readiness for the coming years through statutory and national exams, as well as teachers assessments.

Upon reaching KS 5 (Year 12 to 13), students are given opportunities to pick up critical thinking, collaboration, effective communication, and innovative skills. This can come in the form of seminars, industry-specific workshops, and internships in Dubai for students in year 12.

Learning Highlights

The British education framework emphasises rigorous learning at all levels of education and offers more flexibility than other programs.

It focuses on creativity, problem-solving, and other skills, such as critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and teamwork.

Moreover, England’s national curriculum puts equal emphasis on group and individual work, aiming to achieve one vital goal: to support young people academically and personally via a versatile learning system.

British vs American

Besides the British curriculum, the American curriculum is widely implemented across the UAE. But unlike the former, it only comprises three main stages:

  • Elementary school (kindergarten through grade 5)
  • Middle school (grades 6 through 8)
  • High school (grades 9 through 12)

Both programs have varying goals for each stage of learning. However, share common core subjects, such as reading, writing, and mathematics courses.

The British and American curricula also differ in how early students are guided towards a specialisation that could dictate their future careers.

For the United States (US) national framework, schools follow a specific set of standards to help teachers guide students towards the direction of the benchmarks for each subject. These standards usually involve learning many subjects until they reach grade 12.

Moreover, the US curriculum guides students until they get certified based on their average grade across all subjects before college. 

In comparison, the UK framework allows students to choose areas they want to specialise in through the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) or International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) for British schools abroad.

Overall, England’s system leads students towards increasing specialisation earlier than its American counterpart.

British vs Cambridge

Introduced by the Cambridge Assessment International Education, the Cambridge International Curriculum is an educational framework that covers learning from age 5 to 19. 

Like the British framework, the Cambridge curriculum allows students to focus on subjects based on their interests and strengths. It also covers three core subjects: English, mathematics, and science.

But while the two educational frameworks have many similarities in these three subjects, there are a few differences worth noting.

Take primary English, for instance.

In the UK National Curriculum, the spoken language is taught based on each student’s current level. In contrast, the Cambridge Primary English framework is more explicit regarding what is required for each stage (called “Checkpoints”) and gradually builds up the demand.

More importantly, the Cambridge curriculum is guided by five core principles:

  • International curriculum
  • Teaching
  • Learning
  • Assessment
  • International recognition

These principles are why Cambridge school systems are constantly updated based on international research and consultation and aim to produce students who can compete on the international scene.

British vs IB

Like Cambridge, the international baccalaureate (IB) curriculum also has many similarities with the British curriculum. One is its focus on delivering global-minded learning.

Still, the two aren’t interchangeable, particularly in terms of the programmatic approach of each learning system.

First, British schools offer more subject options than traditional IB. The former also has smaller class sizes, allowing teachers to focus more on each student’s progress. This is also advantageous for students who find it challenging to interact with their peers.

The IB framework also prioritises theory over practice and less emphasis on creativity in humanities and arts, two other things that differentiate it from England’s national curriculum.

Furthermore, IB is designed to be more challenging and demands more time spent on additional study sessions and projects outside the classroom.

British vs Australian

The Reception class in the British curriculum is very similar to the Australian Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF). However, learning begins earlier in England’s national educational framework.

Still, there seem to be a lot of similarities between the two curricula.

For one, class sizes are quite close, with those following the Australian framework limiting the classroom population to 25 students (not far from England’s 30 pupils).

Moreover, the standards for the certification exams children take are also different.

While the GCSEs and A-Levels are standard across all British curriculum schools, Australian educational systems require different qualifications for their students, depending on the state. For example, the “Certificate of Education” Year 11 and Year 12 students acquire in most Australian states is called a “Higher School Certificate” in New South Wales.

By the end of their 12th year, Australian students get their Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) score, equivalent to A-Level marks in the UK that grant them admission to colleges and universities.

Decide on the Best Curriculum for Your Child

There are many educational institutions you can choose from in the UAE. 

In picking the best one, always consider what’s best for your child, so you make the right decision.

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What Is the British Curriculum? How Does It Compare to Other Programs?