Thursday, June 15, 2006

IB & me - secondary education

Here in the UAE, all state schools teach in Arabic, as you would expect. Rashid School for Boys and Latifa School for Girls are private schools for UAE nationals where British curricula and exams are delivered in English, although all Arab students study Arabic, and must pass the national exam in order to graduate from high school.

My own international school offers I/GCSE and the IB, while other schools offer I/GCSE & A Levels to international students, or cater to particular nationalities: I know of Indian, American, German, Japanese, Russian and French schools each following its own national programme. No doubt there are more besides.

The IB Diploma programme is based on the belief that specialising too young limits the individual’s options. Accordingly it is modelled on a hexagon with five specialist compulsory subject groups, and one group of electives, which includes all arts subjects plus additional humanities, languages and sciences……sigh……. Will education ministries and society in general ever accord the Arts equal status with academic subjects?

(Oh come on, let’s call them commercial, shall we? Unfortunately, the Arts have become hostage to commercial interests - to be consumed not practised; but that's just one of my hobby horses, so let it trot off for now.)

Other requirements are: a Theory of Knowledge course, an Extended Essay, and a minimum 150 CAS hours over two years, which is to say 50 hours of Creativity, 50 Action and 50 Service. It’s a built-in guarantee that in between their studies everyone will get some exercise, have some fun, and think about other people’s needs!

On the other hand, I think that many students get stretched too thin, as over-enthusiastic or over-anxious teachers (and I have my moments) try to bring A Level depth to IB breadth. How much does an eighteen-year-old have to know to gain access to the next educational proving ground? Overkill 101, anyone?

Further reading of the IB school lists (looking at job opportunities: see previous post) revealed that, while all schools must offer an art in the hexagon, they don’t necessarily offer all of them. Theatre Arts requires considerable resources, and only makes economic sense if Drama is provided lower down the school. Damn! Even so: France, Germany, Spain, Croatia, Netherlands, Greece – the list rolled on!

I don't actually mind what art a student takes at IB, as long as they take one, something just for them, to expand their spirits and lodge something in their make-up that is not about achievement, responsibility, and all the burdens that begin to descend upon their shoulders only a couple of years later, as their desired university place brings their first serious debt. But I would like a job teaching those who want to do Theatre Arts!

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