Making decisions about higher education can be a stressful time for students and parents, particularly those on expatriate assignments who often feel out of touch with university requirements in their home country or bewildered by global options. With a growing number of students exploring study options in the US, UK, Australia and elsewhere around the world it can be difficult to access and assess all the relevant information needed to make an informed decision, especially when many international school students apply to universities in multiple countries.
The advice from Mr. Michael Ortiz, International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP) Coordinator at the renowned International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL) is to look for curriculum flexibility and individualization, which he believes are “key to ensuring students are best placed to apply to their universities of choice, in their countries of choice.” ISKL’s graduating class of 2018 typifies the diversity of higher education options, as over 160 students received acceptances at more than 400 universities in 26 countries spanning five continents. Mr. Ortiz continues, “ISKL’s academic program has been specifically designed to give our students the flexibility to explore options and take advantage of expanding global opportunities. With a student population of over 1,600 representing 66 nationalities, we are seeing more and more students wanting to keep their options open.”
ISKL offers a unique international curriculum for students aged 3-18 years which culminates in High School with a choice of taking the full International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) or the option of combining individual IB, North American Advanced Placement (AP), and High School Diploma courses to create an individualized program tailored to abilities, interests, and aspirations. Support is also provided to students taking worldwide university entrance exams to ensure the widest choice of options possible. In addition, ISKL’s language program is designed to maximize opportunities. “Last year 20% of our IB Diploma students earned a Bilingual Diploma, which means they successfully sat IB exams in literature-level courses in two different languages. Our literature courses, available in Chinese, English, French, Japanese, Korean and Spanish show our commitment to mother-tongue learning,” explains Mr. Ortiz.
Mr. Ortiz notes “typically around two-thirds of our students elect to take the full IBDP, which ISKL has been authorized to offer since 1989. As the longest-running IB World School in Malaysia, we are extremely proud to have graduated 1,302 students with an IB Diploma, representing a 27-year pass rate of 96.4%. In 2018, 29% of our students earned an IB Diploma with 40 or more points, results that typically place students in the top 10% of worldwide IB Diploma scores.”
In keeping with ISKL’s mission to challenge students to “Be All You Are”, ISKL offers the IB Diploma Programme on a non-selective basis, working with individual students to develop an academic program suitable to their goals, strengths, and interests. Mr. Ortiz continues, “often our greatest success stories are not those with the highest score, but those who challenge themselves the most, sometimes overcoming great odds to pass. While we are incredibly proud of our kids who earn a score in the 40’s, we are equally proud of the students who, through grit and perseverance, pass with a score in the 20’s. With a worldwide pass rate of 80%, just earning the IB Diploma is an accomplishment to be celebrated.” Undoubtedly, the experience and expertise of ISKL’s teaching faculty play a major role in the success of our students. Overall 90% of ISKL’s faculty have a minimum of nine years teaching experience, 75% hold a Master’s or Ph.D. and 40% of IB teachers are also IB examiners, responsible for marking exams from IB students around the world. Our students benefit greatly from this knowledge base as teachers apply their additional insights to classroom teaching and learning.
Regardless of whether ISKL students elect to take the full IBDP or a combination of IB, AP, and HS diploma courses, all High School students are empowered and encouraged to take leadership positions across ISKL’s extensive range of extracurricular activities, spanning service learning, clubs, sport, performance, art, and music. “ISKL believes in the importance of hands-on experience as our High School students are responsible for running many of the clubs and events, participating in executive positions, running meetings, and being accountable for outcomes. It is excellent preparation for university and the workplace” says Mr. Ortiz.
In addition, all Grade 9-11 students participate in ISKL’s unique Global Action Program (GAP) designed to build students’ awareness of emerging global issues by involving them in a range of cultural, environmental, and service opportunities within Southeast Asia. GAP’s unique experiential learning provides students with authentic opportunities to explore the physical and cultural environment of our region. While the GAP experience supports the ISKL mission of becoming “responsible global citizens,” student reflection upon their contributions to the communities they visit also supports IBDP requirements.
Mr. Ortiz concludes, “ISKL’s mission is to develop well-rounded global citizens who are ready to take advantage of all the opportunities ahead of them – wherever they may be in the world. With the option of IB, AP, and HS Diploma courses, ISKL provides an educational framework that can be customized to meet the individual needs of each student. It’s a very powerful asset in the world of international education and a valuable tool in unlocking the many different doors of global opportunity.”
About Michael: Michael Ortiz has been teaching IB Mathematics for 25 years in five different international schools, the past seven years at ISKL. He has served the role as IB and AP Coordinator in two different schools, the past four years at ISKL. Within the IB Organization, he has been an Examiner, a Deputy Chief Examiner, a Principal Examiner, and a Workshop Leader. Michael earned an MA in Secondary Education and a BA in Mathematics in the United States.