Problems with IB

This post is about some of the biggest problems that I have with the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma programme. I just want it to be completely clear, however, that I love the programme overall. Everything I’ve heard about alternatives; such as A-levels, the American system, the French Baccalaureate, and the Queensland system; make me think that IB is truly by far the best of the ones I know about.

At the bottom is a quick glossary of IB-related terms for those that aren’t acquainted with the IB.

EE poor marking

My first problem is more of a whinge than anything else. I haven’t got a great deal of evidence about this. But first, the backstory.

I did my EE in Music, which is my strongest subject, and the only subject I got a 7 in as my final result. I put a lot of effort into my EE, not at all leaving it to the last minute, and doing a lot of research and work well ahead of deadlines. I made sure to consult with my supervisor frequently, and took his suggestions into account and made many corrections to my EE. My supervisor was really good, very efficient and quick to get back to me after any queries. The essay was well referenced using the MLA format (IB specifies that any system may be used, as long as it is used consistently). In the end, I was predicted to get a high A for my EE.

The IB gave me a B. Keep in mind, I wasn’t predicted to be near the borderline, but to get a solid A. Another student doing a Music EE, who was far less hard working with it—frequently missing deadlines and causing trouble for their supervisor many times—also got a B. Not only a B, but one point higher than I got overall.

I’ve been told (informally) that our school would challenge my result if they had more weight behind them. If we were one of the bigger older IB schools that would have their challenge taken seriously. This result cost me one point, as I also got a B in ToK (also a relatively sketchy grade, but I have nothing to point at for that).

All this comes from a fundamental problem with the way EEs are marked. The person who marks them isn’t necessarily educated in the subject of the EE. My topic was quite esoteric, and as such would have been fairly inaccessible to a marker who does not know and understand all the music terminology. It’s really a simple fix: EEs need to be marked by people who have had extensive experience in the subject of the EE. It’s not perfect, because even then they may not have access to everything they need to understand the EE (for example, in the case of a music EE, they don’t typically have to listen to the music being studied). However, this simple change would produce much better results for all the students doing their EEs. For such a core part of the course, it’s embarrassing that they don’t have proper examiners already.

Group 6

Many fans of the British A-levels criticise IB for being too generalised. I’m not going to get into how terrible their assessment is (that’s a debate for another day, perhaps), but I will say I might agree with that criticism, albeit for a different reason. I believe IB is either too general, or not general enough.

The problem comes in with group 6, named “Arts & Electives”. The choice is either an art (Visual art, Theatre arts, Music, as well as a pilot dance programme), or an elective from groups 2 – 5. If you don’t want to do an art, you could do a second second (a third?) language, a second humanity or science, or from group 5 you could do Further Mathematics or Computer Science. When compared to all the other groups, which are mandatory, this seems unfair. Why is it required that everyone study a second language, or a humanity, but not everyone must do an art? Alternatively, why is it that someone who may want to do Further Maths or Computer Science would not then be able to take an art? In this sense, group 6 is not held as an equal to all the other groups.

But not to be a complete whinger, I do have a solution to this particular problem—or, to be specific, I have two possible solutions that would solve this problem that they could consider.

  1. They could make group 6 mandatory, like all the other groups are. Everyone would have to do a single subject from each of the six groups. This could a problem for people who want to, or for whatever reason need to, do two subjects from the same group, such as two sciences, however I believe the IB has some subjects that count for two groups, which would allow a person an alternative way to do two subjects from one group. I can’t be sure exactly how this works, as my school didn’t offer any such subjects.
  2. This is probably the better option: relax the rules a little to allow people to opt out of any one of the groups if they wish, not just group 6. If a particular person didn’t want to, they could choose not to do a Second Language, but they would then be required to do an Art, as well as groups 1, 3, 4, and 5. Instead of doing their Second Language, in this case they could fill it with a subject from any of the other groups, such as a second Science, Further Mathematics, or even a second Art.

Either of these solutions would solve the inequality that The Arts face under IB, but the second would by far be the better one for students, giving them more choice in their subjects, whilst still maintaining most of the IB Diploma’s prized well-roundedness.

“Core” weighting

IB has a concept of what it calls its “core”. This is the EE, Theory of Knowledge, and CAS, which are done by all diploma candidates. The thing is, although they’re core in name, they certainly don’t get treated as core. For the EE and ToK, a maximum of just three points are available, and CAS is worth no points: it’s pass or fail. With CAS, this means a student that just barely does enough after much nagging by their supervisor is on equal footing to one who puts a huge amount of effort into it throughout the two years on their own initiative.

In my school, we spent two periods a week on ToK, as well as two a week on CAS (SL subjects got 4 periods, and HL got 6). We were also given some amount of time at school for the EE. Needless to say, all of these also require a great deal of time outside of school, especially the EE. For all this, why are these core requirements only worth 3 points, compared to 7 for all normal subjects? I propose that the matrix for ToK and the EE be changed to a 5 point maximum, such as the one shown below:

A B C D E
A 5 4 3 2 2
B 4 3 2 2 1
C 3 2 2 1 1
D 2 2 1 1 0
E 2 1 1 0 Fail

The only part I would strongly state is that an AA would be the only way to get 5, and two Es is the only automatic fail (as it currently is). The rest could be changed, and someone more skilled than myself could probably work out a better system than I.

The advantage of this system, as well as rewarding effort in these subjects more than it currently does, is that it allows for a slightly finer gradation in the marks awarded, as shown by the 5 for an AA, but a 4 for AB, whereas they were previously both awarded 3.

Furthermore, I would award up to 2 points for CAS. This way people who put more effort into their CAS programme would be rewarded more than those who barely do enough. Under this the grades available would be a fail, 0, 1, or 2. Students who fail to complete their CAS would fail their diploma, as is already the case, but then students who only barely do enough would pass, but add 0 points to their total. For achieving a greater level with their CAS, students could get 1 point, and for going above and beyond what is required, they could gain themselves 2 extra points. How these gradations would be determined I am not exactly sure, but my suggestion would be:

Fail Failed to reach the level required to pass
0 As previously: reached the minimum required level to pass
1 Did a good amount of extra CAS work, but failed to document correctly
2 Did a good amount of extra CAS work, with thorough documentation

Under this system, the core requirements would, combined, be worth the same as any individual subject, bringing the total maximum possible IB points to 49. At the moment many students who do incredibly well in their main subjects slack off at the core, and fail to put any effort into them. I don’t believe it is fair that this is not accurately reflected in their scores, and my proposed solution would solve the problem. Someone in my year got 42 points, including only a 1 for their EE and ToK. They received a C and a D, I think. They also were not very involved in CAS, so under this system they would have gotten 42 or 43 out of 49 (86% or 88%), which looks much less impressive than 42 / 45 (93%).

If the IBO wanted, they could find some way of giving out one more point, to bring the total to a nice round 50, but I can’t see exactly why that would be necessary. Perhaps they could give schools the option (heavily moderated, of course, especially in the larger school known for doing shady things in order to boost their marks) to give students who they think deserve a bonus point for all-round attitude and effort in school and school life/community. This isn’t a central part to my argument, though, and I would be perfectly happy with a score out of 49.

Glossary

IB: International Baccalaureate, the high school programme run by the IBO (International Baccalaureate Organisation). When used here, I am usually talking about the IB Diploma programme.

IB Diploma programme: The main IB programme, where students must take 6 subjects, one in each of six groups—Language A1 (mainly literature), Second Language, Individuals and Societies (Humanities and social sciences like Geography, History, Economics, and Psychology), Experimental Sciences (the main three: Physics, Chemistry, and Biology, but also Design Technology and a few others), Mathematics and Computer Science (CS can only be taken in addition to a normal Mathematics course, however), The Arts & Electives. Three of these must be taken at Higher Level, and three at Standard Level (4 HL and 2 SL is also an option, though not commonly taken). In addition to this, students must complete a CAS, EE, and ToK “core”.

CAS: Creativity, Action, Service. Currently, CAS is pass or fail. If you fail CAS, you are automatically not awarded your IB Diploma. Students have to undertake a variety of activities that meet these criteria. Creativity is things like the arts and languages, Action is sports and physical activities, Service is community service, and helping people. Previously, 50 hours of each was required, but now the requirement is simply to have put in a consistent amount of work into each of these, and to be able to show documentation (photos, videos, and written reflections).

EE: Extend Essay. A research essay with a 4000 word limit that each student must complete in a subject of their choice. It does not have to be in a subject they take, or even a subject offered by the school, although this is recommended. Students are assigned a supervisor within the school who can help them and give them advice. Assessed externally via a specific marking grid, although the criteria are quite vague in many cases.

ToK: Theory of Knowledge. This is a basic philosophy-like course about understanding how we know things, teaching IB students to question their understanding of the world. It is assessed via an internal presentation in groups of up to 5 (individual presentations are also allowed), and an externally marked essay on one of a group of assigned titles.

Problems with WordPress

About two weeks or so ago now, I was working on another blog post about the power of a tool named Prey. Months ago, I created a draft post where I posted a link to an interesting story regarding Prey, and then left for a while.

When I came back to work on it again, I was working for a couple of hours, and I had pretty much finished. I decided it was best to save it, even though I know WordPress should autosave anyway. It was at this point that I experienced a problem… Continue reading

Just my luck

I seem to get everything I need right after I need it.

I recently helped in making a film, and just a few days after the deadline for submission, the rainy season finally started. We had been waiting to try and film in the rain for weeks prior to that, and ended up doing the scene without the rain.

The day after the actual screening, my YouTubesubscriber box had a video titled “HOW TO MAKE FAKE BLOOD! – Special FX!“. The film had a scene with some fake blood in it, and although our props manager did a pretty good job of making the blood, it wasn’t perfect. On the plus side, the lower quality projectors actual made the blood seem better than it was on a high quality screen, by seeming darker and thicker.

Similar, but not quite identical, Final Cut Pro X was announced literally days after I finally finished downloading the older version of Final Cut Studio.

I’m sure if I went into it I could think of many more examples if I went into it. What examples of something like this can you think of that happened to you? I’m interested in seeing your feedback.

Respecting Authoritative Decisions, even bad ones

In part 1 and part 2 of this series, I talked about why the (then) recent decisions relating to school prefects and head students were terrible choices. Now I’m going to talk about why I will still respect those decisions. There really isn’t much to be said about it. The fact is that even though I and my peers don’t think the decision that was made was a good one, it was still made by authoritative people.

To continue the analogy of sport from the first post in the series, if the referee was to make a blatantly wrong decision, the players and coaches would have to accept it. Even the best people with authority make bad decisions. In some cases, they have time to think over their decision before hand, and this should decrease the likelihood of making a bad decision, but even then bad decisions will be made.

Now, that was a bit of a false analogy, because this decision was a deliberate one. It wasn’t made as an accident or misinterpretation of events. However, the result is still the same. An incorrect decision, but one by which you must stand. The teachers in charge made a bad decision, but for a good reason. They had to make the decision to promote the school, and more specifically their new prefect system. They chose the people they chose so that it would seem that they were giving equal and fair opportunities to everyone. Because of this, I’m going to respect the decisions that they made. I’ve moved on, and so has everyone else. I wouldn’t even be writing this if I hadn’t teased that I was going to in the last post, which was made shortly after the teachers made the decision, and before I had gotten over it.

Bizarre Choices, and the Justification of Them

This post is part 2 of my “poor decision making” series. It’s based on my experiences the weekend of the 12th March, when I was on a trip with my school for its prefects.

I talked in part 1 about why I was unfairly the subject of negative bias because my parents were teachers. In this post, I will talk about why the decisions that were made were not the best ones. Had my reasoning in this post been listened to, I would not necessarily have gotten the position; however, a number of those that were chosen would most likely have not gotten the position either.
It’s worth noting that the information I am basing this post off of is not directly from the teachers. It is second hand, from other students who say they have talked to teachers. So please, take this with a grain of salt.
I’ve heard two things about why the people were chosen. The first, is that they were people who don’t do too many activities. This supposedly means that they will have more time to devote to their duties as head students. Now, it’s interesting to point out that the student who found this out from the teacher actually mentioned to the teacher that they were not a good pick because they didn’t do many activities (meaning that—for some of the students—they were not particularly active and well-known in the school community). To me, it sounds like this reasoning is the teachers’ way of justifying what they already know to be a poor decision. Otherwise, did they ever think that maybe students who already do a lot of activities are very good at managing their time, and thus they are able to take on more duties? And perhaps students who don’t already do a lot of activities aren’t as good at managing time, so more duties may put too much pressure on them?

The other thing that I’ve heard was that they were chosen because on the trip, they played cards with others a lot. This supposedly means that they are already good at getting along with others. Now, on the one hand, I can see that there may be some logic in that. However; I know that myself, and others, didn’t play cards because it is antisocial. To us, playing cards did not seem like a good way of demonstrating leadership qualities such as good team skills and communication with the whole group. Again, it seems like some very crafty justification for the decision the teachers made.

I do have one more complaint about the decision-making process. This time, it’s not based on what I’ve heard second-hand from the teachers, but from what I’ve heard first-hand from one of the students who was picked. Specifically, the student who was picked as head boy. Now, on the one hand, he is actually an incredibly good pick for the job. He’s very well known, quite outgoing, he speaks well in public—even if he doesn’t enjoy it—but I actually disagree very strongly with him being picked. Why? Because he didn’t really want the job. He had to be talked into accepting the position by the three head teachers.
What’s the problem with that, you may ask? There are two problems: one which is simply about fairness and equal opportunity—something the head teachers had discussed with us earlier when telling us why they were choosing two boys and two girls, even though the ratio in our school is boys:girls 2:3 at best—and the other is to do with specifically choosing a person who is best for the job. As I said before, the person who was picked as head boy would have been the best person if he had wanted it. However, because he didn’t really want it, and was instead talked in to taking the position, he won’t be likely to do it as well as someone who really wanted the position and was working as hard as they could to show that they are good for the position (and to overcome negative bias that was already there against them).
The other reason, fairness, is very much related to the more logical decision of someone who wants the position being someone who will work harder at it. It simply doesn’t seem fair to give the position to someone who doesn’t want it—or who may only have agreed to accept the position for their CV—versus someone who really does want the position. It isn’t fair that other people who wanted the position missed out to someone who just isn’t that interested.
Part three in this series will talk about why I respect the teachers’ decisions, and will therefore give the head students the respect that the position should warrant. 

I do have one more complaint I could make about another person that was chosen, but because there’s a chance that he will read this, I won’t. Instead, why don’t you leave me your thoughts on the matter? Do you think it’s fair that a person who is better suited for the job, but doesn’t really want it got the position? I would be very interested to see a counter-argument to this. Please feel free to leave a comment about anything you like, and remember, you can comment anonymously if you feel the need.

Negative Bias? The overcompensation for the appearance of bias

This post is part 1 of my “poor decision making” series. It’s based on my experiences last weekend (12th–13th March) when I was on a trip with my school for its prefects.

 

My school recently introduced a system of prefects, and I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of them. The prefects who were chosen went on a training trip with the head teachers. One of the purposes of the trip was to pick from the team, four “senior” prefects: a head boy, deputy head boy, head girl, and a deputy head girl. It is the decision of who was picked for these four top positions that I am writing about.

This post is about the problem of what I am calling “negative bias”. Basically, negative bias is when someone overcompensates for something that may be construed as being bias towards someone, and it in fact becomes so that they are bias against them.

One real-world example where this could be easily seen is in sports. Let us take a hypothetical match between the Broncos and the Rabbitohs. Let’s say the referee in this match supports the Rabbitohs. Because he wants to do his best to be neutral, he deliberately becomes stricter against the Rabbitohs then he normally would be. While this should dispel any of the complaints of bias, it is then very unfair for the team being discriminated against. It would most likely actually have been fairer if the referee had acted as he normally would, although in this situation people would perceive the ref as being bias towards his preferred team.

While this particular example is unlikely to come up—sports tend not to allow referees to work when a team they support is playing—I experienced a very similar situation this past weekend on my prefect trip. I was one of the students interested in being head boy or deputy head boy, and I think I would have been a very good candidate for either of these positions. However, my parents are teachers at the school, and so had I been picked (even if it was based purely on merit), it would have seemed to the parents of others (who, at international school, are often very quick to complain) that I had been picked because of my parents being teachers. This is the perceived bias talked about earlier. Instead, the teachers responsible for selecting head students will have ruled me out as a candidate for the job. Ruling me out is overcompensation for the appearance of bias.

Now, obviously, I can’t say for certain that if I weren’t a teacher’s kid, I would have been selected. But I do strongly believe that had the situation been different, I would have been selected. I can say this based on who was actually picked, and other circumstances around their selection, which I will go into in the second post of this series.

So, what do you think? Have you been in any situations where you, or someone you know, have been the subject of negative bias? Do you think that there are any situations (perhaps even the ones I mentioned), where negative bias can be justified? Let me know in a comment below. If you’re a student at the school, I encourage you to consider posting anonymously if you’re talking specifically about the people who were chosen.

New Logo

I’ve recently created a new logo for Music Meets Tech.

You can clearly see I’m no graphic designer, but I think it’s quite nice. It gives the general idea of what this blog is about.
I designed it on my Mac in Adobe Photoshop, using a variety of images which belong to me, or were found on the internet.
Unfortunately, the logo isn’t quite what I had in mind, because Blogger wouldn’t let me have more than 200 pixels in height. It’s a bit more squished than it would be otherwise, but doesn’t lose anything important.
Let me know what you think of the new logo—or the design of the site in general—in the comment section below. You can post with nothing but your name and email address, or even anonymously (although it’s always nice to see who the post comes from).