Just recently the Independent Examination Board announced the launch of their newest qualification – the IEB International Secondary Certificate (IEB-ISC) for their Further Studies programmes. This is an exciting development for the South African based assessment body (of which we are a recognised Distance Education provider for the Advanced Programmes) which is now positioned to be  a significant player in the international assessment community with a special focus on the African continent.

The move is also the next step in the IEB’s strategy to ensure that its qualifications remain globally relevant, recognised and sought after. The assessment body has gone to great lengths and expense to ensure that this new qualification is comparable to existing local (the National Senior Certificate) and global (UK General Certificate of Education) qualifications that mark successful achievement at the end of secondary education and provide entrance to tertiary institutions.

Three major drivers have precipitated this significant development:

1. The Department of Basic Education is no longer allowing the National Senior Certificate to be offered outside of South Africa.

2. Schools, parents and learners alike have increased interest in a globally recognized alternative to the National Senior Certificate.

3. The IEB has recognized the need for an assessment framework that facilitates distance education and online learning modalities better. 

And so with quality assurance performed by the Stellenbosch University Unit for International Credentialing (SU-UIC), the IEB-ISC has been launched in order to serve this significant need on the African continent. 

But what does this have to do with the Advanced Programmes?

A significant component to the IEB International Secondary Certificate, will be what we currently know as the IEB’s Advanced Programmes. These qualifications have already been benchmarked by UK-ENIC as comparable to the overall GCE Advanced level (A-level) standard and this has been so for a number of years. With the IEB including this competency and capability into their International Secondary Certificate, the international relevance of the qualification starts at an already significantly advanced position (see IEB international recognition).

In doing this, the IEB has taken the decision to rename the Advanced Programmes as Further Studies and these certificates will be written under the revised name as of 2022 already. Along with the name change are some other technical changes that are important to note and, for these, I’ll quote directly from the IEB circulars released in this regard (which can be found here and here):

“For all intents and purposes, the curriculum content and skills in Further Studies are identical to that of the Advanced Programmes. There are two exceptions in certification and assessment structure, namely:

1. The pass mark for all Further Studies subjects is 50% (this was 40% in the Advanced


2. In Further Studies Mathematics learners may offer Paper 1 only (Further Studies

Mathematics Standard) or both Paper 1 and Paper 2 (Further Studies Mathematics

Extended). Both the extended and standard Further Studies Mathematics were

benchmarked at an overall GCE Advanced (A) level standard.”

What is the significance?

Well for Advanced Programme Mathematics (now Further Studies Mathematics), the implications are quite profound in that learners will have an opportunity to achieve certification and qualification on only what was previously “Paper 1” (which constituted Calculus and Algebra in terms of knowledge domains). Achievement of above 50% in this exam would yield a Further Studies Mathematics Standard certificate. This is significant in these advanced certificates in that it will make achieving certification more attainable for many learners as they will have the ability to focus on only Calculus and Algebra if continuing with an elective is a “bridge too far”. 

Having said this, the opportunity to study further via the elective domains (formerly “Paper 2” which constitutes Statistics or Finance and Modelling or Matrices and Graph Theory) continues to be an option and learners who achieve, on aggregate, over 50% when writing both exams will be eligible for a Further Studies Mathematics Extended certificate.

For Advanced Programme Physics/English/Afrikaans, the major significance is the increased pass mark of 50% or above and the name change. Other than that, these qualifications and examinations remain very much the same.

How are our programmes adapting to the new framework?

In Advanced Programme Physics, which will be known as Further Studies Physics moving forward, there isn’t any need to adjust the structure of our program. We will, however, in acknowledgement of the increased pass mark, be mindful to provide more opportunities for reinforcement, revision and exam preparation so as to support our learners as best as possible to achieve that valuable qualification.

In Advanced Programme Mathematics, there will be some marked changes to our programs so as to support the new structure of the qualification.

Grade 10-11 Further Studies with Advantage Learn’s AP Programmes

In Grades 10 and 11, our programme will continue in very much the same way as it has been with all learners expected to take one of the electives on offer. Educationally, it’s important that all learners are exposed to these electives as they discover their talents and interests and, from a qualifications perspective, it’s important that we start this journey with the highest qualification possible in mind, Further Studies Mathematics (Extended). 

Grade 12 Further Studies with Advantage Learn AP Programmes

In Grade 12, before our elective block, learners will then be given the option to choose to pursue Further Studies Mathematics Standard, which focuses attention on Calculus and Algebra and one examination at the end of Grade 12, or Further Studies Mathematics Extended, where learners will then pursue both the Calculus and Algebra domain and one of the electives (Statistics / Finance and Modelling / Matrices and Graph Theory) and need to write two exams at the end of Grade 12. 

Learners who opt for Standard will undertake a revision and reinforcement block of learning during the elective block so as to work towards achieving above the increased pass mark in the final exam while learners that opt to pursue Extended will then continue with their chosen elective in that block of learning.

Final word

The repositioning of the Advanced Programmes within the IEB’s International Secondary Certificate is an exciting development in the High School Qualifications space and it further entrenches the international recognition and importance of the Advanced Programmes which will soon come to be known as Further Studies. The fact that learners have an option between Further Studies Mathematics Standard and Further Studies Mathematics Extended is also exciting as it is a significant opportunity to broaden the reach and throughput of these important extension programs that are underpinned by the philosophy and track record of better preparing learners for University study.

We are looking forward to taking the new developments in our stride and contributing to the growth and success of the IEB’s International Secondary Certificate on the continent.

This article was originally published on 26 Nov 2021

About the author
Crispian Lees

Cris is our Head of Education at Advantage Learn. A chemical engineer by qualification, he is passionate about Maths and Science education and is a proud South African and Durbanite.

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