Story/Interview December 5, 2022
Meet Grace, one of world’s first online IB students
Grace Tetley joined King’s InterHigh this academic year and became one of the first students to undertake the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) online, all from the comfort of her home in France, just outside of Geneva. The 16-year-old decided to undertake this journey so she could pursue her many academic interests in various subjects all at once while connecting with others from across the globe.
We interviewed Grace to find out more about why she decided to start her pioneering journey, what her experiences have been so far, and where she hopes her online IBDP experiences will take her.
What are your hobbies and interests outside of school?
I’m interested in so many different things, including Scouts, photography and web design! I am also currently volunteering with an NGO called International Lawyers and Economists for Development, which supports women in sub-Saharan Africa, for which I have used my interest in technology and web design to update its website, design a pitch video and run the social media account. The NGO runs workshops for women in entrepreneurship which has a really big impact on the local communities and economies – I’m so proud to work with them!
What was your experience like in mainstream education?
My story is quite unusual because I’ve never been to a mainstream school, aside from nursery. As I learnt to read at the age of three, my mum thought home-schooling would be a good option, particularly as she was a teacher. Honestly, I loved my home-schooling experience as I could learn at my own pace, zooming past topics I picked up quickly and spending more time unpicking those I needed to explore in more depth. It also opened up opportunities to lots of extracurricular activities like Scouts and sports through which I’ve made so many close friends.
What made you consider online education?
As I grew older, home-schooling became increasingly challenging as the material was more complicated and exams-focused. So, last year I decided to undertake two IGCSE courses at Wolsey Hall Oxford. This was totally different to King’s InterHigh, as they didn’t have online lessons so it was more independent and self-led. Instead, they offered a textbook and videos which I could go through in my own time and then I was assessed based on my understanding.
I decided to choose King’s InterHigh as I still wanted to learn independently, but I wanted more support than I previously received as my exams became more advanced. Some of my favourite subjects like biology or history are hard to learn by myself. As I had experienced homeschooling and studying online, King’s InterHigh seemed like the most sensible and natural next step for me.
What made you interested in the IBDP?
For a while I was considering King’s InterHigh’s A-Level courses, however I decided to undertake the IBDP for three main reasons. Firstly, I don’t have the clearest vision of what I want to do in the future, so I wanted to keep as many options open as possible. Secondly, as Geneva is so international, my parents and I thought we should choose a more international course, as this would suit me really well. Finally, I also enjoy a really broad curriculum, for example in history I don’t want to be tied to European history as I had previously learnt about Eastern hemisphere history and beyond, and found it fascinating so I didn’t want to limit myself. I knew the IBDP allows me to cover this broad subject area.
I also have friends studying the IB and they really enjoyed it! They said they liked the fact it covers so many different subjects because they can explore so much, although they did warn me it would require a lot of work.
Did you have any concerns about joining the online IBDP before you started?
I had a tad of imposter syndrome when I started! I was worried about studying maths, as I’m not very confident about my skills. Maths has been a lot of work for me over the last six weeks! Additionally, I have friends who studied the IB last year in a physical school, and I was so impressed by the essays they submitted! I had concerns I wouldn’t be able to live up to this standard.
How do you feel about these concerns now?
I’ve grown in confidence so much over the past six weeks, however my doubts haven’t completely gone! I’ve tried my best to overcome my imposter syndrome and have found some great techniques for this. For example, I analyse sample essay answers and look out for key words and phrases and the structure they often use. I can then emulate this in my answers. Whenever I hit this structure and include the right terminologies, I get a boost of confidence!
King’s InterHigh’s maths peer club tutoring has also helped so much to boost my confidence with numbers! I’m so grateful for this club, as it allows me to share my concerns and overcome maths problems with my friends each and every week, which makes me feel supported.
What is your favourite part about the online IBDP so far?
I love working with people based all over the world! This really brings the ‘international’ part of the International Baccalaureate to life. I am often sitting at home in Geneva in a virtual classroom with students in Australia, as well as Norway, Antigua and many more countries! Everyone comes together to share different cultural backgrounds and experiences, which is fascinating.
I’ve also loved joining the newspaper team as we’re about to launch a new school publication! For this, I’ve worked with different students and teachers I may not have otherwise gotten to know and I’ve been able to use my website skills and love of technology to take this newspaper to the next level. We all meet every week with Mr Wallace and Ms Fishman to plan out our newspaper sections, which will cover news about the world, campus updates and an opinion column. This is only for IBDP students currently, however we are really excited to eventually open this up to A-Level students across the school!
What are your favourite subjects?
I have lots of favourite subjects! I have really been enjoying my history classes, as well as biology and my English language and literature courses. I particularly love our inquiry lessons in English as we get to discuss many topics such as our thoughts on poets and the difference between literary and non-literary texts. Last week, we were discussing William Blake’s life and how his work connects to other poems and since then I’ve been thinking about this in relation to other poems. The classes are so fun. My teachers are really nice and make the lessons super interesting, especially in biology, which makes a huge difference.
What skills do you feel you have gained since joining the programme?
As this is my first time learning with others, I’m gaining lots of new skills. In particular, my teamwork skills are being put to the test, as I’m trying to soak up different opinions and perspectives from my international cohort while expressing myself and speaking up about my own thoughts. I’m also learning how to research and investigate topics thoroughly, which is fun! I feel these skills will really help me throughout my life beyond school.
Have you connected with others in your cohort?
Honestly, our cohort has been so connected it’s absolutely amazing! In our first week, we created a very basic spreadsheet to which we added and collated the names of all the students in our cohort. We turned this into a very extensive list of all students along with WhatsApp details, social media handles, interests, countries, and more. We’re constantly talking to and supporting each other and have created little subject subgroups, which is fab for more in depth discussion. This all started from a small spreadsheet. I’m so proud we built this community.
King’s InterHigh also gives us access to a website which allows us to study with others virtually as you would in a library. This has been so nice and helped us connect even more!
How does it feel to be amongst the first students to study the IBDP online?
It’s been really interesting to inform and mould the online course, so it’s even stronger for the next generation of students coming in from September 2023. I feel like such a pioneer! It’s also great this course is being delivered by a school which has so much experience in online education, so we can build our ideas for improvement into their existing resources and online learning tools. For example, we use virtual reality a lot, which helps bring the curriculum to life! This allows us to feel like we’re sitting next to our classmates, when in fact they’re sitting in completely different countries and continents.
What is different about the IBDP to more traditional study like A-Levels?
Because it has been designed for people all over the world, it is much broader than A-Levels. We talk a lot about how theories and topics relate to different countries around the world, rather than focusing on the UK or Europe specifically.
Do you feel this course represents the future of education?
Yes, in that in the future, I think students will have a lot more choices when it comes to their education. If a student wants to learn from their computer and study online, they should be able to fulfil this! However, this won’t suit every student. Offering students choice is key!
What is your parents’ opinion of the IBDP and were they supportive of it being delivered online?
Both my parents thought it was really interesting. They know I love technology so together we thought it was a great option for me. My mum used to be a teacher so I was also confident she could support and help me along the way.
Do you have any advice for new students thinking about applying?
If you’re going to apply for an online school, you need to make sure you have activities outside school to delve into. For example, I love scouts! You also need to make sure you like technology and you’ll be happy working in front of your computer all day. Finally, I would suggest purchasing a virtual reality headset as this is such a key part of the course. I love the virtual reality elements of our learning!
What do you want to do after school – and how will the IBDP help you achieve this?
I would like to go to university but I’m not sure what kind of job I would like. I’m interested in law, international relations and history! I don’t have a clear vision for my future, so that’s why I chose to study the IBDP as it gives me lots of options!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
The last thing I would like to say is the online IBDP is affordable. An IB school in Geneva would cost so much more! This makes a high-quality IB far more accessible for all types of people no matter where they are in the world. I’m so proud to be part of this!