Where Aspirations Become Reality: Options in Senior School

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Dulwich College Shanghai Pudong

January means Options time!

That's when our Year 9 students begin making decisions about what to study for the upcoming I/GCSE programme. It's an exciting but stressful time of year for both students and parents, as the choices they make shape their path to the IB, university, and beyond.

Knowing just how important the Options process is, Dulwich Pudong goes above and beyond to empower students and their parents with the information and support they need to make the very best possible choices for the future.



What are Options?

From Year 3 through Year 9, Dulwich Pudong students follow the National Curriculum of England and Wales modified for our international context. In Years 10 and 11, they embark on I/GCSE courses.

I/GCSE stands for the (International) General Certificate of Secondary Education, a challenging and academically rigorous course of study widely recognised as the best preparation for the IB Diploma Programme (IBDP). It is the world’s most popular international curriculum for 14 to 16-year-old students.




The particular I/GCSE courses we offer here are selected by our faculty from several different providers, primarily EdExcel and Cambridge International Examinations. Selection is based on expert judgment and previous experience as to which ones provide the very best preparation for the IBDP.

Why are Options important?

Put simply, Options are important because they are when the rubber hits the road for students, when their aspirations start to become reality.

I/GCSE courses play a big role in preparing students for the IB which in turn plays a critical role in how they position themselves for university applications. So, in a sense, the Options process is when students really begin to grapple with the age-old question: what do I want to do with my life?

No wonder they are exciting but stressful!

Options at Dulwich Pudong

Every school approaches Options somewhat differently. We are very fortunate at Dulwich Pudong that our large student body and deep pool of faculty expertise allows us to offer a truly wide range of Options across English, Languages, Science, Humanities, Mathematics, and the Creative Arts.



This includes several subjects of our own design and assessment such as DICE (Design, Innovation, Communication, Entrepreneurship) and Chinese Literature.

DCSPD students select up to nine I/GSCE courses. The overall goal is to ensure rigorous academic advancement but also allow students ample time to take advantage of the holistic curriculum offered here through activities such as sport, service, arts and music, and leadership.

Kate McTigue
We try to keep as many doors open as possible.
- Kate McTigue, Deputy Head of Senior School

"What we try to do with options at Dulwich Pudong is to keep as many doors open as possible for students," explains Kate McTigue, Deputy Head of Senior School (Middle School).

DCSPD students are encouraged to take a broad range of I/GCSE subjects. One of the trends right now is to break down the "3 sciences" culture of Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. The knowledge and experiences students derive from other I/GCSE courses such as Music, Physical Education, and the Arts are invaluable in building life-long skills as well as differentiating themselves as university candidates later on.


We also offer students the opportunity to build upon their language interests and capabilities by offering multiple language pathways such as Chinese as a First Language, Second Language, or Foreign Language in addition to Modern Languages courses. English is taken as a compulsory course at First Language level or as a Second Language.


How do we support students?

The Options process is formally introduced in Year 9 at the beginning of Term 2 with an introduction by Ms. McTigue. Our holistic support system is designed to empower students to develop self-awareness and begin to take ownership of their long-term choices.

Support comes primarily from five sides:

1. Academics

Each subject teacher reserves one class period to introduce their subject in the context of the I/GCSE course. 

In addition, all of our Senior School staff maintain an open-door policy for students. In fact, during the Options process students are encouraged to proactively approach faculty with questions. It is the perfect opportunity for them to begin to take an active role in shaping their own future.

2. University Counseling

Our University and Career Counselors also begin formally working with Senior School students in Year 9. They have dedicated time in the Year 9 curriculum to overview the university applications process as well as explain the how the I/GCSE leads up to the IB which then links to university and beyond. It is at this point that students begin visualizing the entire learning pathway they are on.

3. Wellbeing

Options can bring stress, so wellbeing support plays a significant role in the process. Pete Rogers, Director of Wellbeing (Senior School), presents a session to students on using emotional intelligence to help make quality choices. Too often students make choices related to their studies which only take into account intellectual outcomes. When students begin to harness their emotional intelligence as well, their choices become more thoughtful and focused.

4. Parental involvement

Although Options is the time for students to begin making decisions for themselves and taking ownership of their long-term personal journey, parents play an indispensible role in the process. We invite Year 9 parents for an Options Workshop followed by an Options Evening supplemented by individual Student-Parent-Teacher conferences. Final Options booklets are countersigned by student, parent, and form tutor.

5. Students helping each other

There is perhaps no better support than students who have been through the process sharing their wisdom with students just embarking on the process. This happens in two ways. One is the annual Options "speed-dating" event where Year 9 students are able to get direct feedback from Year 10 students in bite-sized chunks of time. 

Another important way is the Options Handbook put together by our Senior School Student Voice Prefect team in which they compile their experience and advice.


How do we support mid-process joiners?

One concern prospective families often have is joining a new school in the middle of the I/GCSE or IB course of study. It is certainly a valid concern and in general it is not recommended. However, at Dulwich Pudong we do regularly get students who join in the middle of the process.



We have a great track record of successfully supporting and integrating mid-course joiners, even ones who come from a non-British school background. We have a unique support structure in place for these students, which we call "wraparound care". Senior School senior staff work with the new joiner on an individual basis to co-create a personalised map leading to successful completion of the programme.


Our results

The way we approach Options is informed by 20 years of experience. It is carefully designed to put students on a path to personal success and the results speak for themselves. Our students regularly score well above global averages and are highly valued by the world's leading universities.




  • Options is the gateway to the learning journey that leads students through our Senior School (Upper School) and beyond.
  • The way we do Options at Dulwich Pudong is unique, informed by 20 years of experience.
  • Our staff go above and beyond to make sure our students are on the path to success.
  • We empower students to take charge of their own long-term choices.