Frequently asked questions
A Levels are an Internationally recognised qualification for entry to Higher Education. The International AS an A Levels are the gold standard and recognised as a passport to success in education, university and employment. They are taken by students in over 160 countries.
Academia International School is the only school in the region of Basel that teaches British A Levels. Many international schools offer the IB (International Baccalauréat), however, here at Academia, we feel strongly that IB is not the best programme for everyone. We have many years of experience in preparing students to succeed at A Level.
We have chosen IGCSEs and A Levels precisely because of the flexibility and choice this curriculum provides. In years 11 and 12 our students can study 3 to 4 subjects they are passionate about and interested in. This means breadth and range in a student’s programme is much more flexible and can be adjusted and adapted according to the individual student. For example, while some students will want to supplement an A Level STEM focus (Physics, Chemistry and Biology) with a language or an elective such as Art, other students will benefit from the opportunity to focus on their three sciences having already completed a broad academic programme with their IGCSEs.
A Levels are recognised all over the world. Universities will specify the grades and the subjects required to enrol in their degree programmes. A Levels are so highly regarded that in the USA, good A-Level-grades often mean students get credit and can directly enter the 2nd year of study. The depth of study and the autonomy that students take for their learning, prepare them for university study.
Our academic programme is comprised of four years: Two years of foundation building called IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) and two years of A Level study called AS and A2 (Advanced Study).
Students take exams after their second year (year 10) to receive their IGCSE certifications in each subject (up to 9 subjects). From there students choose up to 4 subjects to study up to A Level. AS exams are taken at the end of year 11 and continue to take the A2 exams at the end of year 12. The final A Level grade combines the scores from AS and A2. Sometimes, a student may take the AS and A2 exams in the same session.
The International General Certificate of Secondary Education is the world’s most popular international curriculum for the secondary education. IGCSEs provide a broad, globally recognised, international secondary school leaving qualification. Students are able to pursue a variety of paths after their IGCSEs including continuation to Advanced Levels (A Levels) for further studies in the UK, US and Switzerland. IGCSEs are regularly updated, extended and feature development of subject knowledge and critical thinking skills using globally relevant content.
I want my child to develop competencies such as inquiry and critical thought. I was under the impression that IGCSEs and A Levels were more focused on rote leaning and test preparation. Is that true?
The IGCSE is a 2-year course ending with an internationally recognised formal qualification via examinations in year 10. The A Levels are a 2-year course ending with internationally recognised qualifications also via examinations in year 12. Both curriculums place great emphasis on the development of critical and evaluative thought. The ability to synthesize, compare, analyse and criticse information is essential both in the classroom as well as being assessed in exams.
At our school cross-curricula project work is part of our curriculum. Self and peer evaluation are inherent in our teaching and learning. Application and experimentation are central to our science curriculum. Without a schedule packed with obligatory competency-based assessments and projects, our curriculum allows space for authentic, timely development of the above-mentioned skills.
I heard that students only take 3 classes in the final two years. Isn’t that a bit restrictive? I don’t want my child to limit his or her options.
Students first graduate with a very broad secondary education with IGCSEs. This is equivalent to a US high-school diploma or a Swiss secondary school-leaving certificate. Afterwards 3-4 well-chosen A Levels will not restrict any students’ future as universities accept a broad range and variety of A Level combinations. For certain paths such as medicine or science it is argued by many that the depth and rigor of an A Level is the very best preparation a student can have. We have an enrichment programme of stimulating electives. Students can therefore broaden their curriculum at any level. Our electives are non-examined and designed to nurture creativity without performance pressure.
I heard the A Levels are very academically demanding. What if my son or daughter isn’t cut out for such academic rigour? What routes would they have open to them?
The beauty of our system is that we have the greatest number of options and choices open to students who are able to graduate in year 10. There is no other international system with such options. IGCSEs are independent, official, internationally recognised, stand-alone, secondary leaving certificates which can open vocational paths and further education paths in Switzerland (with an appropriate level of German) and the UK. In the US IGCSEs alone will enable students to enter junior or community colleges. We’ve had several American students supplement their IGCSEs with A/S Levels and SATs enabling them to graduate in year 11 with acceptance to well regarded US universities winning places on competitive courses. Our system is the most flexible international system in the world.
Yes, as stated above, A Levels are recognised in universities worldwide. Each university will specify the required grades and criteria to enter its courses.
Universities like students who come with A Levels because:
Our experience is that Cambridge Advanced qualifications such as Cambridge International AS & A Levels are consistently robust and reliable, and prepare students very well for higher education.
Admissions Officer, University of Newcastle, UK
Yes. In Switzerland specific subjects are required including German or French depending on location.
Recent data in the USA shows that:
- Students with A Levels are more likely to be offered places at College (higher % than the national US average).
- At the end of the first year, students having completed A Levels have a higher Grade point average (GPA) than those who entered College with IB.
- Students are less likely to drop out of College if they have taken A Levels or AP, rather than the IB.
- Students who took A Levels are more likely to finish their Degrees on time (compared to other examinations).
Academia doesn’t look like a traditional school from the outside. Why aren’t you located on a more traditional campus?
It’s true, we don’t look like a traditional school and we quite like it that way! We are proudly and purposefully non-traditional. We are an international ‘vertical’ city school. Spread over 7 floors, our classrooms are bright, modern and well equipped. We have break out work-spaces; different level seating; chill areas and quiet study zones. We have light and airy student space on the 6th floor with views over the rooftops of Basel.
We welcome all kinds of students. Our goal is to help develop academic curiosity in our students. We encourage students to question the status quo. We talk about the power of perception and bias. We provide academic and emotional support to each of our students and our approach is one of open dialogue. We are flexible in the grouping of our students and do not insist on rigid age dictated grade levels. This means if students are strong at a subject then so long as the timetable allows, they can move ahead in that subject. Our relaxed atmosphere should not be mistaken for an ‘anything goes’ mentality. Our standards are high and we value excellence. Students are guaranteed a place at our school only if they are respectful of our school values and community. Persistently disruptive students are not guaranteed a place at our school.
We have a mixed student body. Roughly 60% are expat students meaning they are from countries outside of Switzerland including the UK, US, Italy, Germany, France, India, Japan, Russia and Pakistan. The other 40% have a Swiss background and have chosen our school for many reasons, but particularly because they may have been studying in other international schools in different parts of the world and would like to continue studying in English. Our school is fairly evenly balanced between boys and girls.
As we are a city center school we don’t have playing fields and courts on our school campus. This means we need to approach sport from a perspective more in line with that of a Swiss school. We encourage our students to join local sports clubs where they are able to integrate into the local community. Local sports clubs usually involve a higher level of sport than found at the school level. We have had several students who are exceptionally talented at sports and have competed on national and even Olympic levels. This has included extraordinary talents in ice-skating, tennis, football and golf.
As an international school following an English-speaking curriculum many of our teachers have QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) and are experienced UK teachers. We also have teachers from the US, Canada, Australia, France, Spain and Germany. A high proportion of our teachers are educated to Master’s level in education and we have several examiners on staff who know the IGCSEs and A Levels very well. Aside from their experience and qualifications, one of the most important attributes we look for in our teachers is a sense of care and commitment and willingness to reflect on their teaching practice.
Yes, we have several members of staff who have experience with the UCAS and Common Application.
Yes, we have several elective classes that run all year around. The goal of these classes is to broaden our students’ academic journey by offering hands-on learning, leadership development, computer skill, life skills and fostering imagination:
- Life skills
- The envoys
- Prom committee
- Student council
- STEAM inventions lab
- Computer coding
Academia International School is part of the Academia Group, one of the largest education providers in Switzerland. Over 1,200 committed teachers and motivated staff work in over 20 locations to help customers reach their personal educational goals and make the most of their potential.