|This article does not cite any references or sources. (November 2012)|
The European Baccalaureate (or EB) is awarded to students who pass the final year exam at a European School. These are mainly attended by students whose parents work for a European institution. There are currently 14 European Schools. (This diploma should not be confused with other types of educational qualifications which also bear the name Baccalaureate like the International Baccalaureate. In the German language, the European Baccalaureate is called the Europäisches Abitur, not to be confused with the German Abitur.)
The European Baccalaureate is taken at the end of the seventh year of secondary education. It is awarded only by the fourteen European Schools. The EB should be distinguished from the International Baccalaureate (IB) and the baccalaureate of various national systems. Details of the examination are set out in the Annex of the Statute of the European School and in the Regulations for the EB, available from the schools.
The EB is administered and directly supervised by an external examining board appointed annually by the Board of Governors. The examining board consists of up to three representatives of each member state, who must satisfy the conditions governing the appointment of equivalent examining boards in their respective countries. It is presided over by a senior university educator appointed by each member state in turn, assisted by a member of the Board of Inspectors of the schools.
Article 5 (2) of the Statute provides that holders of the Baccalaureate shall:
- enjoy, in the member state of which they are nationals, all the benefits attaching to the possession of the diploma or certificate awarded at the end of secondary school education in that country; and
- be entitled to seek admission to any university in the territory of any member state on the same terms as nationals of that member state with equivalent qualifications
The EB is a two year course and assesses the performance of students in the subjects taught in secondary years 6-7.
The first awards of the EB were made in 1959.
The EB is marked in percentages out of 100, and, in contrast to many national systems (e.g. British A-Levels), comprises a wide range of compulsory subjects and 3-5 elective subjects. Compulsory studies include mother tongue, 1st foreign language, mathematics (5hours/week or 3/hours a week course), philosophy, one science subject, history and geography (both taught in the 1st foreign language), and gym. These also depend on the orientation that the pupil has chosen at the end of year 5. The choice of elective subjects is large (see the list below), although the subject may not be available if the class size is too small.
|Course||periods per week||Notes|
|Column 1: Compulsory|
|Mathematics||3 or 5|
|Religion or Ethics|
|Column 2: Compulsory if not taken in Column 3|
|Biology||2||(if no other Science has been taken.)|
|Column 3: Optional|
|Language 4||4||only if studied in the 4th and 5th year|
|Latin||4||only if studied in the 4th and 5th year|
|Ancient Greek||4||only if studied in the 4th and 5th year|
|Economics||4||only if studied in the 4th and 5th year|
|Column 4: Further Optional|
|Advanced Language 1||3|
|Advanced Language 2||3|
|Advanced Mathematics||3||only with 5-period maths from Column 1|
|Column 5: Complementary|
|Elementary Economics||2||only if not taken in Column 3|
|Art||2||only if not taken in Column 3|
|Music||2||only if not taken in Column 3|
A minimum of 31 periods a week must be taken, with a maximum of 35 periods, although this is sometimes extended to 36 or even 37 periods. At least 2 Column 3 subjects must be chosen; a maximum of 4 can be taken.
The total mark consists of:
- 20% coursework from 7th year
- 30% written exams in January
- 15% oral exams in June (where applicable)
- 35% written exams in June
Consequently, there is a comparatively heavy workload for the students; the system enforces not only a rounded knowledge of all subjects but also allows students to specialise in individual fields. Students are obliged to have a strong skills in one foreign language (in years 2-5 of secondary school a 2nd foreign language is also compulsory). The final pass-rate is very high (almost always over 95%), in part due to the practice of 'weeding out' candidates who are not academically strong enough to complete the Baccalaureate.
This process starts from an early age whereby many pupils either leave, are asked to leave or fall foul of the 'three strikes' rule (fail a year 3 times and the student will be asked to leave). Failing the same year twice also means leaving the school. Failing and repeating a year is a fairly common occurrence from age 10 upwards; roughly up to 5% of pupils will fail in each year. There is no qualification offered at an intermediate stage, comparable to the German 'Mittlere Reife' or British GCSEs.
However, the pluridisciplinarity the EB offers is advantageous to students wishing to go on to university studies, in France and Germany especially. Most of the English section students and a significant minority of students from the other language sections apply to British universities. Recent experience (2011-2012 and beyond) has shown that students applying to British universities are encountering growing difficulties, sometimes serious, in having their Baccalaureate qualifications adequately recognised.
In a study based on a sample of over 500 former European School pupils, Kelly and Kelly compared the performances at British and Irish Universities of students who had taken the EB with the performances of students who had studied A-levels.
This showed that, in terms of the probability of getting a good degree, an EB score of:
- 80 or more is roughly equivalent to 380 UCAS points awarded for A-levels (3 A grades).
- 70 to 79 is equivalent to a UCAS score of 340-360 (ABB to AAB)
- 60 to 69 is equivalent to 300-320 UCAS points (BBC, BBB).
Even students with a bare pass at the EB (60-64) are more likely to get a good degree at university than students who achieved 280-300 UCAS points (BBC, BCC, CCC). The full study can be downloaded from here:
Under the rules and regulations of the EB the pass level is set at 60%; anything under that is a fail. Due to the difficult nature of the exams students are seldom awarded more than 90%. Like their French and German national and regional counterparts, the European Schools have by and large successfully managed to counter the threat of steady grade inflation.
As of 2012, however, many UK universities have in fact begun calling for an 8.5 or even 8.7 as equivalent to 3 As at A-level. Entry requirements in the UK vis-à-vis the EB have risen suddenly, decisively and, it would seem, unfairly. An 8.7 for the EB is certainly rarer than 3 As at A-level, and calls for a much wider range of high-level academic skills. The European Schools apparently need to do all they can in the present climate to convince a wider audience of the real and substantial value of the Baccalaureate qualification.
One major disadvantage of the EB is that there is no adequate provision for complaint in the event of an exam paper which is perceived to be flawed or unfair. Apparently, no proper means of redress is available at present.