Sciences at Berkeley International High School

My daughter is an incoming freshman at Berkeley High school within BIHS. She wants to take the most challenging math and science classes available to her, and also go for the full diploma. I now realize that within BIHS, no science is offered at the higher level, and only biology or chemistry are offered on standard level. Moreover, physics is not offered at all within the IB program (but was a few years ago). It looks like she could take AP physics C in senior year on top of all the IB requirements BUT without having had any physics high school courses in prior years. Can someone who has had students interested in the sciences at BIHS tell me what they did? The IB organisation provides a science option within the IB program but it looks like that Berkeley High school did not implement it. 

-Interested in sciences within IB 

Parent Replies

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Hi there,

I have two kids in BIHS, an incoming senior and incoming sophomore. There absolutely is higher level science offered in BIHS. Please check out the BHS Course Catalog (available on the BHS website) and look at the BIHS course progression. Courses labeled IB are (relatively) equivalent to AP courses, and are very challenging. If your student is interested in challenging science courses, they can take AP Chemistry their sophomore year, and then in junior year they can take two IB science courses, and more in senior year if they wish. Also, not every student in BIHS chooses to go for the diploma. For those who do, the IB diploma requirements do not begin until junior year. As long as they are fulfilled, a student can organize their schedule any way they wish. For more information, I urge you to check out the BIHS website:

For more in-depth information about IB diploma requirements, go here:

I also urge you to contact Chris Young, the IB coordinator, with any questions: chrisyoung [at] and to consider joining the BIHS Etree and the Parent Action Group.

I can't speak for BHS, but I did IB in a similar situation (no high-level sciences, a standard IB Physics program, and a separate AP Physics C option), and at least there me and my peers skipped straight to AP Physics C (in addition to other normal IB requirements) and did just fine without a prior physics class. The only catch was making sure you either had calculus under your belt or were simultaneously taking calculus (since this was a common choice, our school structured the IB Calculus class in such a way that we hurried and covered the important basics [basic derivatives and integrations] so that we could do AP Physics C just fine).

Hope things work out for your science-interested kid!


I have a senior and a sophomore in BIHS. The eldest is on track for the diploma and the sophomore intends to get it too. So far the science department experience at the school has been good. My eldest had 9th grade bio and 11th grade IB Enviromental Science with the same teacher. Mr. Campisi is the only IB teacher teaching IB Enviro and is both a good teacher and an incredibly enthusiastic one. He really cares about the kids succeeding. The IB Bio teacher, Nick Plescak (sp?) is reputed to be just excellent and the course is supposed to be quite hard. It is true, there is no longer an HL level IB science course and that is really too bad. My eldest is going to take AP Physics during the senior year regardless of not needing science for the diploma at this point and that will be on top of three other HL level courses. It is a big load. I have heard that IB SL Bio combined with HL level math the junior year is onerous but the right path for some kids. I am grateful that BIHS offers a range of difficulty levels for the students so they can be in the program and complete it, diploma or not, at the appropriate level of intensity for their learning styles and interests. My child chose not to continue with HL math and found SL math super easy. Just one student's experience of course but it was one way to balance everything out and still participate in lots of activities, take some courses that were more challenging and try to keep some sanity during junior and senior year. Good luck!

I am really excited to read this question! But here's an option outside of the BIHS box to consider. 

I took a community college math class when I was in high school and it was a great experience. When I attended Community College as a college student, I met a lot of high school students who were taking college courses. I discovered recently that middle school and high school students could take college courses for free and I thought: we need to have a program at the library to let people know about this option and get someone from Peralta Colleges to explain all the requirements. So that is what we are doing!

This Saturday, August 27th, 3-4pm, Tamika Brown, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management at Peralta Colleges, will be at Berkeley Public Library North Branch to talk about how high school students can take college courses, as well as many other options available to all of us through community college. As someone who benefited greatly from my community college education, I wanted to let other people know about this great resource. 

Your daughter might be a great candidate for this option, or maybe you know someone who is interested. Fortunately for me, a school guidance counselor let me know about this option. 

In California, any high school may give permission for a student over the age of 14 to concurrently enroll in a Junior College. California State policy provides double funding for the student. Please check out the Peralta College System, they have fantastic Science courses. Currently the ENVMT program is actively seeking high school students for enrollment in its environmenyal science program. Target population in CA for dual enrollment is intended to provide enrichment for students who have special academic or vocational needs. Admission requirements are set by the secondary school. So in other words, your high school  administrator just needs to approve and sign off on the concurrent enrollment form and the parent also needs to sign off, then the student may attend the college courses and even earn transferable college credit to a 4 year university. Both institutions get the funding for the enrollment, so there is no reason for the high school to oppose the enrollment as long as everyone agrees the student is ready. To get more details on this, please attend Creek to Bay Day on Sept 17th where BLC will be hosting an event along with Merritt College, dual enrollment consultants will be happy to field your questions at this informational event. RSVP at his link: