Students of the elite International Baccalaureate programme fear that they will find it almost impossible to get into many top Swedish universities when a proposed new system for converting their grades is introduced. Now IB schools says they fear for the programme's future in Sweden.
Under the new system, which has been proposed by the country's higher education authority, UHR, students who previously needed 40 points to receive the full Swedish score of 20 will need a full IB score of 45 points.
Now, many IB students say the new system will put them at a disadvantage when applying to Swedish universities. They claim it will make it harder for them to get into lower-ranked Swedish colleges than into Oxford or Cambridge.
“This change in conversion would devalue the grades of extremely high-achieving IB students undertaking one of the most difficult high school programmes in the country,” writes Lovike Cedervall, an IB student who has launched a petition to stop the plans being put into effect.
The International Baccalaureate is a high school qualification traditionally favoured by international schools, but which has risen in popularity among Swedish pupils attracted by its reputation for academic rigour.
But the growing popularity of the IB – it is now offered by 32 schools in Sweden – means UHR's proposal to change the system with immediate effect will plunge hundreds of pupils into uncertainty.
“We will have to apply under the new system even though we weren't informed before we applied,” Cederwall told The Local.
But Erica Finnerman at UHR, who devised the proposed new system, insists that the change was justified after Sweden changed its own system for setting grades in 2011.
“It is now harder than it was for Swedish students to get full points,” she told The Local.
In the IB, 0.2 percent of students get 45 points, compared to the 0.24 percent of Swedish pupils who receive 20 points in the Swedish system, Finnerman says. The study used scores from pupils who studied the natural science programme.
“Our ambition is that grades should be comparable and harmonised with the Swedish system,” she said. Finnerman also pointed out that a final decision had not yet been taken on implementing the proposal.
Martin Davidsson, of the Association of Swedish IB Schools, says the report was flawed:
“No university in the world demands 45 points. Oxford and Cambridge only require 40,” he said, adding that Swedish students would be put off from applying from the IB if the recommendations take effect.
The UHR report had made unreasonable comparisons, Davidsson claimed:
“They've chosen to compare IB pupils with pupils on the Swedish natural sciences course, despite the fact that many IB pupils are actually more focused on the humanities. They've also based their comparison on the scores of IB students from around the world, rather than just Swedes.”
If the proposal is accepted, Swedish pupils will be put off applying and many IB courses will shut, he said.
“As far as we're concerned, this is a question of the programme's survival.”