While we’ve often thought of our secondary or tertiary education as simply ‘studying’ and not considered the implications of our education tracks while we were young, it isn’t the same for parents with their children. Parents often think more about the long-term progress of their children’s education way before students prepare for the start of a new year – which schools to send them to, the teachers and friends they get to meet, the type of education that would best serve them in the future. While there are so many minutiae to consider (admittedly many of which are outside our control as parents), there are some things we can afford to think about, such as the difference between the International Baccalaureate (IB) and International General Certificate of Secondary School (IGCSE) under the wing of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE).

Most parents have experienced one of the two leading educational tracks available in Singapore. They may not have thought much of it until it’s time to choose for their children, and that leaves a gaping question. Is there a difference in the two education tracks, and if so, what are the differences?

Different approaches to curriculum

IB has no ‘formalised curriculum’. This means flexibility in adjusting to learning that suits the children in class as well as adapting to modern trends and changes, allowing students to develop a natural curiosity as their curriculum is often more practical and holistic. IB program, thus, often develops individuals that are more social, flexible, and independent with a process that challenges students to practice time management and decision-making processes.

On the other hand, the IGCSE program feels more structured and formalised as teachers carry out a standardised curriculum. While it may feel like a rigid form of education as students go through a textbook oriented, exam-focused learning, this tried and tested method allows them to delve into complicated concepts with much more ease. IGCSE lessons build a strong theoretical foundation for students to build and rely on regardless of the type or nature of their studies in the future.

The role a teacher plays

The teachers of the IB program can be more involved in understanding and matching their student’s needs, thus benefitting educators who are more willing to design a custom curriculum that fits their style and matches their student’s needs. However, a downside appears when you compare the lessons of different teachers, where a difference in standards can be seen between teachers who are more and less experienced or knowledgeable about the work they do.

A teacher in the IGCSE program, on the other hand, tends towards a teaching style that carries out a practised and standardised curriculum. This guideline becomes a strong foundation for them to plan their lessons around. While there is less flexibility and adaptability compared to the IB program, this minimises the inexperience of an educator as students will be taught the same formulas, methods and knowledge as peers from other schools and classes.


Despite the significant differences in how both educational tracks approach teaching and studying, they are both approved and accepted by the Ministry of Education. Most parents would be satisfied to send their child to either educational program as they are both able to prepare your child adequately for the workforce. The primary point of adequate consideration will be if parents are considering to be involved in helping or be more involved with their child’s education, thereby choosing the education program they have studied under and are thus more accustomed and familiar with.

Once again, there isn’t a ‘better’ or ‘one size fits all’ option. It is highly dependent on your child’s nature as well as your teaching methods and beliefs that would have to be taken into account before enrolling your child into the program that fits them. The experience our IB and IGCSE tutors have in Singapore’s education system reflects the same sentiment. While it may seem like a daunting choice to consider (we all know the worry about weighing an option that so affects our children’s future), feel free to contact any of our advisors and educators who will be more than keen to share with you our thoughts and answer any of your questions and worries.