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"Students Gamble on International Baccalaureate"

  

33 members have voted

  1. 1. Your view of the article?

    • Unfortunate but one-off
      0
    • Unfortunate but relatively rare - not IBO's concern
      17
    • Unfortunate but relatively rare - IBO's responsibility
      4
    • Symptomatic of general trend/failure to supervise IB schools
      10
    • EPIDEMIC!!!
      2


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"Students Gamble on International Baccalaureate"

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/education/article6735896.ece

(Click on spoiler to read article).

Joe Robertson is having a terrible summer. Despite being one of the brightest boys at a consortium of three state schools in Hertfordshire, he has just discovered he does not have a university place. And more than three-quarters of his schoolfriends are in the same boat.

Sitting in the garden of his family home in St Albans, Joe, 19, who was head boy of his school and has a string of A and A* grades among his 12 GCSEs, says: “I was disappointed when I received my exam results a couple of weeks ago. They were not what my teachers predicted.”

His mother, Yvonne, nods vigorously. “I feel the boys have been used as guinea pigs in a disastrous experiment,” she says.

In 2006 the BeauSandVer consortium — consisting of Verulam, Beaumont and Sandringham schools — decided to teach the international baccalaureate (IB) to its cleverest pupils. Tony Blair, then prime minister, announced that every local authority would boast at least one state school offering the qualification.

The following year, when the schools held a meeting about the IB, Joe went along. “They were really pushing people to join up,” he says. “It was offered only to people who had done well at GCSE because it was thought to be very demanding. We were told the class sizes would be much smaller than the A-level classes.”

Yvonne adds: “We asked what risk there was in being in the first cohort. They said, no risk at all.”

Joe was among the first pupils at Verulam to take the baccalaureate instead of A-levels. His teachers predicted a high score for him, and on that basis he was offered a place at Edinburgh University to study economics and management.

When the IB results came, however, Joe found he had done much worse than his teachers expected — as had most of his friends. Yvonne says only one IB pupil at Joe’s school gained enough points to meet his university offer. Four out of 31 across the consortium failed completely. “Quite a few of my friends are trying for universities abroad,” says Joe, “some in Australia, as they have missed out on British universities because of this.”

Their parents say other schools considering introducing the baccalaureate should think carefully first. In recent years 190 British schools have adopted the IB, which involves studying six subjects in the sixth form and is seen as a tougher alternative to A-levels for clever children.

“It’s important that parents realise that introducing the IB to a school is a really risky option,” Yvonne says. “I would say, ‘Do not go near it,’ after Joe’s experience. The IB is far harder than A-levels and not well understood by British universities.”

Among Joe’s peers at Verulam is a boy who had been offered a place at Cambridge if he scored 38 IB points; with just 34, he knows he is unlikely to be admitted. Likewise, Sahib Phull, 18, has probably lost his place at Durham to study biomedical sciences after scoring 29 points, five lower than the 34 the university stipulated and nine fewer than his teachers predicted.

“If he had done A-levels,” says his father, Garsh, “ he would have been home and dry. We are very upset.”

The parents are not taking their disappointment lying down. Letters, phone calls and e-mails have been fired off to universities, teachers and the IB board. On Thursday they even lobbied the local MP to try to persuade the board to upgrade their children’s results.

The IB course at Verulam was plagued by hiccups. The school’s head, Paul Ramsey, has admitted to problems, including closures because of an arson attack and, later, snow. In German, Joe’s IB class was taught by five teachers in two years, and his physics teacher, who suffered from stress, was on leave before the exams.

The main difficulties, though, were more deeply rooted. Unfamiliar with the course’s demands, some teachers were too optimistic in their predictions. Similarly, the marks some gave the pupils’ coursework — which counted towards their final scores — were routinely lowered by the IB exam board, in one case by 55%.

The pupils ran into another difficulty too. Although the Universities and College Admissions Service has created a conversion table (see panel) for A-levels and the IB, many universities ignore it when making offers. While the standard offer of a place at Oxford and Cambridge is conditional on three grade As at A-level, some IB pupils have been asked to score up to 43 points, equivalent to six As. Joe was asked for 34 points by Edinburgh — which equates to four As at A-level; he scored 32. A-level applicants for the same degree course were asked for only three Bs.

Parents believe that the IB organisation, which sent officials to the BeauSandVer meeting at which pupils were invited to sign up, did not monitor the schools closely enough. The IB ombudsman, Anthony Flatley, has rejected demands that the results be re-assessed, saying there is no precedent to change grades because a school is inexperienced at teaching the IB. He suggests that the fault lies “in the classroom”.

Flatley’s response has infuriated the father of the boy at Verulam whose Cambridge place is in jeopardy. “The school says it can’t do anything; the local council says it can’t do anything; the IB organisation says it can’t do anything,” he says. “From their point of view our son took a gamble — which he didn’t even know was a gamble — and it didn’t pay off. How would they feel if it was one of their children that had been put in this position?”

I'm just curious to see what people's opinions are in terms of where the blame lies for this sort of thing and whether there ought to be a greater degree of IBO involvement with schools, rather than a franchise-esque model in which they allow a school to be an IB school, and then have little else to do with it.

Edited by Sandwich
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Who's at fault?

It's easier to see who's not...

The students and parents are unaware of the 'risk.' And it's not their fault that the marks were moderated down.

The teachers attended training, and they had examples of work and graded accordingly. And then for the Joe fellow, he had '5 teachers in 2 years' for German. That's not good! His physics teacher was unavailable due to stress. While the teacher does have a responsibility to his students, he's not in the position to fulfill it. Also, the IB blames teachers and takes no responsibility for inexperience.

A parent pointed out the IBO should have monitored more closely, but that's laughable. How on earth can it regulate how something is taught to this extent? Also, teachers [and anyone would] get snippy when they feel someone's encroaching in on their territory. They don't like being told that they're doing something wrong, so anything invasive wouldn't be effective. It'd be counter-productive and you'd get bad mojo.

I say why try to pin the blame on one or all of these parties? The important thing is now assigning jobs to fix what went wrong. No one's fully guilty and no one's fully innocent. Even the student has the responsibility to know what he's being tested on. Yeah, the first batch has it tough, and I think they earn the right to complain, but they still carry some responsibility. We're not little kiddies being spoon fed everything.

About the poll... I don't know which one to pick! I'd want something like.. It's unfortunate and happens frequently, but the majority of the blame doesn't fall on IBO's lack of supervision.

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Sounds a bit like my school, which has now gotten its act together I might add. I had 3 teachers for Physics, 2 for Maths and 2 for English.

And our top 2 scorers were all A* students at the GCSE level. And the top score was 31. Point is, low scores happens but they're a combination of reasons and no party can be isolated for the cause of a bad result.

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I don't blame the IBO at all for this incident, as a previous poster said, they can't monitor all the schools, they can only provide the criteria and model for those school to follow and for those schools who do follow the model, they usually succeed.

Well I think the strongest fault lies in the school. It jumped at the opportunity of doing the IB programme without being prepared. Their teachers are obviously unqualified if their students did so bad on the exam. I also place blame on some of those students. They had plenty of chances to go online and be proactive in searching up and preparing for those exams if they knew that their teachers weren't teaching them. The parents also should have known all the dangers of becoming the first ones to try IB.

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Well I think the strongest fault lies in the school. It jumped at the opportunity of doing the IB programme without being prepared. Their teachers are obviously unqualified if their students did so bad on the exam. I also place blame on some of those students. They had plenty of chances to go online and be proactive in searching up and preparing for those exams if they knew that their teachers weren't teaching them. The parents also should have known all the dangers of becoming the first ones to try IB.

I have to agree with this. The school could have prepared themselves for the IB programme before attempting it. Perhaps I am thinking about something that can't really be done, but couldn't a school take the IB cirriculum and study it for a few years, make their students take old IB exams and then see if the IB programme is teachable at the school? Kind of make it like a trial run to prepare the staff to teach the way IB wants them too. As well the students could easily have coem online and reviewed the content that they needed to know and done old pratice exams.

Also Iunderstand that even if they did this the first batch of students that actually took teh programme probabaly would have scored low anyways, but then the school can look back on what went wrong that time and fix it. I feel that the students in the article over reacted terribly. They could have prepared themselves better for the exams, or mayeb they couldn't, but either way if the school manages to keep the IB programme at their school after all this complaining the next years the school could be more prepared to teach the students what they need. As well as get better teachers perhaps that may actually stay the whole time the students are in IB ... not a good idea to switch area different teachers I don't think.

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Well I think the strongest fault lies in the school. It jumped at the opportunity of doing the IB programme without being prepared. Their teachers are obviously unqualified if their students did so bad on the exam. I also place blame on some of those students. They had plenty of chances to go online and be proactive in searching up and preparing for those exams if they knew that their teachers weren't teaching them. The parents also should have known all the dangers of becoming the first ones to try IB.

I have to agree with this. The school could have prepared themselves for the IB programme before attempting it. Perhaps I am thinking about something that can't really be done, but couldn't a school take the IB cirriculum and study it for a few years, make their students take old IB exams and then see if the IB programme is teachable at the school? Kind of make it like a trial run to prepare the staff to teach the way IB wants them too. As well the students could easily have coem online and reviewed the content that they needed to know and done old pratice exams.

Also Iunderstand that even if they did this the first batch of students that actually took teh programme probabaly would have scored low anyways, but then the school can look back on what went wrong that time and fix it. I feel that the students in the article over reacted terribly. They could have prepared themselves better for the exams, or mayeb they couldn't, but either way if the school manages to keep the IB programme at their school after all this complaining the next years the school could be more prepared to teach the students what they need. As well as get better teachers perhaps that may actually stay the whole time the students are in IB ... not a good idea to switch area different teachers I don't think.

I think it would have been reasonable for the school to 'study' the IB curriculum for sometime. That would actually help a lot! But then, didn't the article say the PM was pressuring a bit? Plus school politics and all. Wanting to be the first successful IB school in the area or whatev. Fail.

I also agree that the article's a bit biased. Enraged parents wanting their say.

However... the students and parents[from powa2's post]. How would they know they aren't being prepared well? Haha that's like saying they should have some inborn sense that their teachers don't know what they're doing. What if the teachers didn't provide a syllabus? Have you ever looked up your school's syllabus in a subject outside of the IB? Sometimes, teachers provide it at the beginning of the year, but it's not like you're going to Google the syllabus without someone telling you to. And parents... are kinda clueless. They want to be involved, but they often aren't. And then they blow up when something bad happens, but if the school/teachers succeeded, the parents would only think of how smart their children are. They wouldn't really praise the teachers. Ehh

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It is up to the students to monitor their own progress at times, when teachers fail to do their job.

This is a huge problem in the US and other places. You get an A in the class and think it means in your mind...means 7 in IB. and then people fall short of things. I have gotten an A for a semester for chemistry and failed to answer 8/9 questions correctly for a chapter we breezed through. Had to go back and learn things.

The parents are ridiculously uninformed, and therefore appear very stupid in regards to the article. Their begging, and the presentation of the "fact" of lowering 55% scores is the school's fault.

One of the Biggest problems is not IBO. I will tell you this as I saw it in my own school, and I am the leading class.

When it came time for the visit, all the sudden, we were getting chinese letters on bathroom doors and posters of other countries. People were hand-picked to talk to IBO, and the whole visit was a guise to what was really going on. As a school, we are very unprepared. Our teacher positions are sometimes filled with people not even speaking the language to the extent its needed.

Schools are eager to start their programs, without preparation or actual long-term plan. they dont care about the students and it is true, we are used as experiments to see what works (often failing).

The problem is with the students as well. Get educated on what international standard you are being asked to perform and self-study those things your teacher is failing to teach you. It might not be your job now, but college classes are similar to this. you fail to cover a topic for MCAT in physics, you learn it on your own. You dont go on and think..wow i pulled an A = 15 on MCAT.

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Coming from a school whose IB average is very high, I can say it has a lot to do with the school. To a great extent, being in an excellent school was the reason for me scoring as well as I did. Of course it's all up to the student in the end, but your school sets up the foundation for doing well in IB. If the school lacks that foundation, even the best of students won't score well, as supposedly happened in Alice's example.

We had our set of incompetent teachers, too, which showed in the economics grades of my class, for example, but the subjects that were taught by experienced teachers went extremely well for the class as a whole: in ToK, for example, I think more than a third of the class got an A and there were very few Cs and no Ds.

On the other hand, the article seems to exaggerate the difficulty of IB: 34 points is certainly not equivalent to 4 As in A-Levels, and a 43 is not 6 A-level As.

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sounds like the PM and gov. officials made schools jump onto a sinking ship to me

it seems like the schools were pressured into offering the course as quick as possible for the sake of qualification and reputation gain (sounds kinda like my school in a way)

as for their shoddy marks, i think the main factor was that the school was unprepared and inexperienced - especially considering the number of teachers that they had for a single subject (which is INSANE)

personally speaking, my group is the first batch to go through as well and only the german ab initio kids and sat their exams (all got 4+ so we did good -_-)

it's more the preparation and dedication from the students PLUS how the teachers navigate the coursework that determines how well the students achieve so putting the blame on the IBO is a bit = ="

p.s - how do those A's in A-level work anyway? @[email protected] (we don't have these things in Australia!!)

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ok.

i come from said consortium of schools, although i cannot claim to know the boy in question (in the below year, ie. second batch.)

the article is very biased about what has happened. here is a link to (admittedly school released statistics) http://beaumontschool.com/news/beaumont_news.php. as you can see student achieved 41 and 43, teaching clearly not as bad as stated. and although that average is of beaumont students (beausandver consortium made of beaumont sandringham and verulam), and therefore probably a statistic more successful than the consortium wide result, it shows the teaching was not of dire proportions. lets not forget the facts here, the boy did not fail, he got 32, a very tolerable mark. what has happened is that his grades have been slightly over predicted by new teachers (which i believe can vaguely be expected, seeing as they have never taught it before, so wouldnt know exactly where to place them). i also fail to accept that because he was head boy (so what?) and that he got a's and a*'s at gcse (ok, who the hell didnt!) proves that it was not his fault, it was the teachers. what id suggest has occured here is that he has had is grades overpredicted (or even he flunked some exams ffs!), he therefore applied to a slightly harder course to get on, and missed it. my responce is "where the hell was his back up offer then!" (for those that dont know, in the uk you get to accept two uni offers, one main choice, and one backup, with (almost always) with lower grade requirements to take if you miss you're first one).

why on earth they are trying to lump the blame with the ibo, god knows!

admittedly though, verulam is a bit crap, it just got satisfactory on its ofsted this year, so don't think im trying to get the schools out of a hole, its just i blame the mother.

this is clearly a case of a pushy mother, who i suspect probably works in the media. how else can you explain the story of Boy gets slightly worse exam results than expected. The mother clearly cannot see that her wonderful son has not done quite as well as she wanted, and will try and blame anyone except say that her son was not good enough for durham!

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The main problem is that the teachers overpredicted, which makes the students careless, resulting in lower results. But it's not as if everyone failed (4 people not getting the diploma is a very normal fail rate) and the guy in question got an ok grade. Fine, so it wasn't as brilliant as they expected but it seemed to me that they expected IB to be a walk in the park after getting As and A* at GCSE or something.

The pupils ran into another difficulty too. Although the Universities and College Admissions Service has created a conversion table (see panel) for A-levels and the IB, many universities ignore it when making offers. While the standard offer of a place at Oxford and Cambridge is conditional on three grade As at A-level, some IB pupils have been asked to score up to 43 points, equivalent to six As. Joe was asked for 34 points by Edinburgh — which equates to four As at A-level; he scored 32. A-level applicants for the same degree course were asked for only three Bs.

This is ridiculous. A levels students only take three subjects, they can't ask for more than 3 A's. But if 3 A's translated into 33 points, Oxbridge cannot afford to give out offers for 33 IB points from a combination of 6 subjects! The problem here lies not with the offer but with the conversion.

Unfamiliar with the course’s demands, some teachers were too optimistic in their predictions.

Is this the IBO's problem? Well, IBO can provide training workshop and provide teachers with material to familiarise themselves with the programme. They can't tell teachers what to predict for their students.

It seriously sounds like the school is a bit full of themselves - they're overemphasising the fact that the IB is for cleverer students. They basically crammed all the best students there and felt that automatically means that all students would do well. When it doesn't turn out that way, they blame...IBO? As I understand it, to be granted permission to offer IB, they look at the schools' facilities more than anything. The problem here seems to be the teachers, and IBO can hardly monitor each and every teacher that come and go. That's the school's problem! Sure, teachers are trained before they can teach IB but that doesn't mean if you go to one training you automatically know everything about IB. Since everyone in the world took the same exam, and other people managed to score well...how does any of this translate to being IBO's fault? They didn't mark down the school just because of its inexperience, just as they now can't mark up the school just because of inexperience.

Yes, they were the guinea pigs. Yes, it does suck. Welcome to life.

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I believe that the fault lies with the school. I was part of the "first batch" at my school, meaning we were the first year to go through the IB. Hell, we're even our school's very first graduating class (our school's pretty new). Nobody failed and five out of twenty three people got 40 or above. I really think that the strength of our grades lies with the teachers. Sure, we had one or two who were questionable in their teaching methods, but on the whole our teachers were experienced with the IB and very dedicated in making sure we knew what's what. Our IB coordinator is amazing...she really took care of us all. When we were unhappy with one of the Maths teachers, actual steps were taken to help us! It wasn't just a case of unanswered complaints.

In short, I don't think it matters whether or not the class are "guinea pigs" for the school. It matters on the experience and dedication of the teachers. Obviously it depends on the student as well, but I really don't think the IBO should be blamed for this. These students should have been given access to lots of IB resources as well as experienced teaching. To me it sounds like the school didn't do a very good job of this. Don't blame the IBO. They've had plenty of students from all over the world achieve top grades with no complaints. "First batch" doesn't necessarily translate to low scores. It's if the school is prepared enough that counts.

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This is evident to exactly how tough the IB really is, yet most universities fail to recognize the effort that we students have to put in completing the IB Diploma. Having said that, I do empathize with that student. Schools are inherently incapable of treating students fairly or accentuation their areas of strength (Not all of them of course)

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That seems to be a school that wasn't sufficiently informed about the process, if that's their fault or IBO's is not obvious, but I think it's the responsibility of the school to make sure they know enough about it. But also, to get 2 points lower than predicted is not bad, I'd say. My friend got 3 points lower and that wasn't a big deal. There are still plenty of universities that will accept 32 points, even if Edinburgh doesn't.

However, I wish universites would try to understand what IB is about and value it higher than they do right now!

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This scenario is interesting.

I know that my school has a very low IB pass rate, mainly because we are public (most of my school is not the crem de la crem), have no funding, and have students who have not been in advanced programs before.

No one gives a **** that we usually score low-parents, most students, some faculty, and our school district.

A few teachers are raising the bar (History and chem) and our scores are going up (half class got sevens in history)

But if 26 kids passed, that would be a record.

Just based on that I think that IB doesn't need to interfere much, although it should make sure that schools have the student pool, the funding, and all of that. Check up yearly and thats it. A little interference.

And also I have heard that first year IB schools do not always perform well...that might be the case here

Edited by Center Field

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It is absolutely ridiculous, the parent should blame their children and school for low scores in stead of ibo. The most hilarious thing was that the parents actually lobbied to get their children's grades higher. Every IB student undergoes the same challenge, it would be so unfair if they are given remark or higher grades just because of the parents. I am also the first batch of IBDP graduate, and all students obtain the diploma and pretty good score. Also, GCSE is so simple, it can't be used to indicate student's true ability.

Edited by slft

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I don't think the IBO is at fault. If students in other countries can do well on the IB exams, why can't these students? Everyone studies the same material for an IB subject. That said, I do think the teachers have an influence on how well the students do. Teachers who have experience with IB and know what they're doing will obviously better prepare students than teachers who are inexperienced and don't know what to do. And if they didn't overpredict, then the students wouldn't have gotten their hopes up so high.

It's sad, but not much can be done now.

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I don't blame the school or teachers or the IBO. I blame the students.

Sure, the school and teachers were inexperienced and maybe they could have had an actual long term plan, but isn't the case with other schools in other parts of the world. And if the IBO "re-moderated" their grades, that would be unfair to 680,000 students across the world. The IBO would be criticized for being sympathetic for students who can't study, and therefore lesser their reputation.

The students should have known they are taking a gamble: it's the first batch for crying out loud! They should have researched the program a bit more before actually becoming an IB DP student. Furthermore, they should have researched course content online, and perhaps bought some textbooks/course companions, and make sure that the teachers are on track. If they had done their research thoroughly, they would have known that IB is academically challenging for some, meaning they should take the program seriously. And the parents are at fault too because they should have provided assistance to their children, perhaps in paying for the textbooks.

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