By Nolan Musselwhite '20
Being sibling schools, NCS and STA have remarkably similar curriculums, with requirements and core courses varying only slightly. However, it is these slight differences that I’ll examine here, differences which often arise in debates regarding school restrictions and culture.
1. Credit Requirements
One way in which the STA and NCS curricula differ is the minimum amount of academic credits required to graduate; while STA requires 17.0 credits, NCS only requires 16.5. While some argue that the STA requirement ensures that students remain rigorous in their studies, ensuring that their academic course load is sufficient throughout their high school career, others argue that it is overly restrictive, and that the NCS requirement allows students to have more choice with their time, whether they want to take an elective of their choice or devote more energy extracurriculars. One student remarked that the distinction can be “frustrating,” as she believes that it creates disparity with class selection; an STA student might not be able to take an elective he wants, while a similar NCS student could, because the STA student must fulfill a credit requirement in specific fields.
2. AP Restriction
NCS limits the amount of AP classes a student can take to two per semester (special permission notwithstanding), while St. Albans doesn’t. While some feel the NCS limit prevents a student from overburdening themself, and provides a necessary safeguard lest someone find themselves in over their head with coursework, others see it as overly burdensome, preventing students who can handle the workload from taking the classes they’d like to. One NCS student expressed this discontent, arguing that students who have a “clear understanding of themselves” and “know when they are able to push themselves and when to not overburden themselves” should be given the opportunity to take on a tougher schedule. Another student agreed, arguing that he prefers the STA policy, especially the NCS policy “makes it really difficult” for students interested in schools that require a minimum amount of APs to meet those requirements.
3. Religion Courses
In the Religion department, STA requires at least three semesters of courses; The Bible in Form III, Ethics in Form IV, and Encountering God in Form VI. NCS, however, requires only two semesters of courses, including Living Religions of the World and one elective class. While some argue that the NCS requirement indicates a lack of interest in the religious studies, others argue that it allows students to focus on a specific area of religious studies that interests them, and thus gain greater insight into a specific topic. Indeed, one St. Albans student remarked that he’s “really enjoyed” the religious classes he has taken, but questioned whether they should all be required. He also rebutted the idea that the NCS requirement displays a lack of interest in the religious studies, as several STA religion electives are primarily composed of NCS students.
Overall, no clear resolution arises as to which school has better curriculum policies, as each takes a different approach, an approach lauded by some and disliked by others. In the end, the similarities far outweigh the differences, and students generally seem satisfied with their schools’ policies and curriculum guidelines.