LONDON — Rows of sweating, fidgety college-bound students sit waiting to collect their diplomas, half listening to the platitudes offered by principals and head teachers while their parents sigh with a mixture of pride and relief. It’s high school graduation season.
A century ago a high school diploma was both a certificate of academic prowess and a ticket to a good job, but in today’s competitive global market employers expect much more — as, increasingly, do universities. And where once upon a time every student in a given country worked for the same credential — a diploma in the United States, a baccalaureate in France, O-levels or A-levels in Britain — secondary school students, and their parents, now face a bewildering landscape of choices.
On Tuesday, more than 111,000 students will receive the results of their examinations for the International Baccalaureate, or I.B.
Starting from a handful of schools in Switzerland in the 1960s, the I.B. has spread to 139 countries around the world, with the most rapid growth in the United States, where nearly 7 percent of applicants to universities will have an I.B., although the qualification is offered in only 2 percent of American high schools.
In a survey being issued Monday university admissions officers in Britain, the United States and Europe were asked to compare their own country’s secondary school qualification with the I.B. in nine different categories including business skills, communication skills, creativity, the ability to cope with pressure and detailed knowledge of a subject. British admissions officers rated the A-level superior in assessing detailed knowledge of a subject. However in every other category the I.B. was rated either equal or superior to other qualifications.
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