This year’s recent IB Diploma results were celebrated around the world, with students achieving higher scores than last year and a pass rate of 88.96 per cent. Changing the way it assessed students, the International Baccalaureate made a bold decision, introducing a dual route option of either exam or non-exam assessment as a result of the pandemic. By reducing content, shortening papers and revising course expectations, the IB took measures to ensure that students were still able to meet the benchmarks set, despite disruption caused by home schooling.
With educational reform high on the national agenda, this year’s IB results demonstrate what the UK curriculum can learn from the International Baccalaureate, which as a system has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by Covid more effectively by taking a holistic approach to assessment. Across all subjects, the IB provides increased focus on coursework, whether through field studies for geography, oral assignments for languages or projects for the sciences and maths. This approach helps to equip students with the necessary tools for further education and the world beyond.
Historically, coursework can make up 20-60 per cent of a course and is internally assessed, but moderated by the IB. This year however it was externally assessed, contributing to the overall grade students received. However, international schools in the UK still needed to provide predicted grades, similar to centre-assessed grades from A-level schools.
“The IB provides increased focus on coursework, whether through field studies for geography, oral assignments for languages or projects for the sciences and maths.”
The difference between the two was that the IB provided boundaries within which to predict, which came from historical data, and which helped to make the grading far more robust. Moreover, the IB introduced appeals channels for schools to break this distribution, which made them fair and reasonable and added a human approach to the grading process. It also limited the amount of inflation on grades, which we will undoubtedly see with A-Levels in the coming weeks. Through predicted distributions and the reliance on coursework, the final marks are far more robust than A-Levels are likely to be, something that is welcomed by universities.
The increase in the IB Diploma pass rate this year was mirrored by students at Southbank International School in London where I teach, with students celebrating a pass rate of 100 per cent. All 68 university applications were granted their first choice, indicating that the IB is a curriculum that fosters confidence and determination in young people to attain their goals.
But it’s not just about gaining a place at a top university. The IB is unique in the way it nurtures independent learning with students from as young as three encouraged to be inquisitive and not to accept the status quo. Through weekly presentations to their peers, students build their confidence and resilience, taking on board feedback and considering different viewpoints, all important attributes for preparing young people for the real world.
“Moving to a different model of assessment for A-levels has been difficult and is likely to create much controversy when results are announced next month.”
Covid has led to a complete shift in the way students are assessed across the board. But with A-Levels traditionally more focused on final exams in order to grade students, moving to a different model of assessment has been difficult and is likely to create much controversy when results are announced next month.
The IB on the other hand has a more robust grading process due to its use of coursework and predicted grades, with coursework allowing for different ways of learning that better prepare students for working life. In my opinion, both A-Levels and the IB should shift away from traditional exams in order to grade students, after all, how often do we take exams in the workplace?
Make no mistake; the working world is changing rapidly. For young people starting out in their careers digital skills are crucial, along with an appreciation for diversity and inclusivity. These are all pivotal features of the IB, with students coming from many different countries, resulting in a system that encourages openness to the outside world, an eagerness to see other perspectives and an acceptance of people who may be different from ourselves.