I blogged a while ago during a scholarship session and also during a research conference presentation. My rationale was that the helped me capture my thoughts and contributed to my understanding, in real-time. And for anyone reading the posts they would, hopefully, get a more authentic view of what I was experiencing. So today, having been given the chance to take part in a session about the International Baccalaureate (IB) I thought I’d try the same again. I suppose in some ways this is a different form of note taking, although once my post is published my colleagues who were also in attendance could, if they wish, challenge my ideas, or my interpretation of what we had discussed.
I don’t have a lot of knowledge or experience of the IB but have worked with Masters students who teach in this setting. Through working with them I developed an interest in this area and at the University of Dundee we have several programmes accredited by the IB and a number of our undergraduates have undertaken placements in IB schools. I really value the fact we have students who are in this environment and I can learn from them.
During the session today we covered a range of topics and issues related to the IB and the various programmes running from early years through to the post-University Diploma level. There was a rich discussion about the principle of International Mindedness and this moved onto multilingualism (although I am still not clear what that means). This got me thinking about the difference between learning langauge to understand global issues, or studying the development of langauge, versus the nuts and bolts of learning language for day to day communication. The same could be said about native languages and I think this debate is often overlooked but if technological advancements continue (the translation engine Google Translate learns fast!) as teachers we might be left behind. This thinking led me (during a break…) down a wiki-hole as I went looking for research on this topic. I really enjoyed reading this paper, a Masters thesis submission from a student in Copenhagen (who I assume, was not writing in their native language!). I then found that while Google Translate still can’t perform at the level of a capable native speaker it might be getting closer:
analysis found that the translation engine was far from able to produce error-free text – however, judging in relation to international testing standards, the level of accuracy is approaching the minimum needed for university admission at many institutions (Groves and Mundt, 2015)
Another area I am most interested in, as you may know, is professional development. The IB appear to value this highly and offer a programme of official workshops. This in turn led to a discussion about accreditation, validation and who overseas the quality control of training or the IB examinations themselves. The discussion quickly moved on to concerns over moderation and who is checking up on the marking. We quickly lost track of whether this issue of checking up is the right thing to do or not. This appears to be accepted, by most in education, and I couldn’t help think of Ivan Illich (1971) and his idea of the ‘schooled’ society. And a phrase that keeps sprining to mind is ‘who polices the police’.
As I reflect back on the day I thought there was a really good discussion of the merits and underpinning values of the IB programmes and this moved, at times, in to the nature of education itself. I seem to always return to this question, and the more I consider it, the less sure I am about the answer. Perhaps that is the attraction of adopting a traditional, top-down view of education and the purpose. If you follow curriculum guidance and pass your tests and do as you are told then you will be rewarded. But the IB learner profile includes competencies and characteristics including being: open-minded, risk-takers, principled, inquirers and thinkers. Given a choice I’d have a preference for this sort of learner, but then who am I to say if this is right, or not!
Groves, M. and Mundt, K., 2015. Friend or foe? Google Translate in language for academic purposes. English for Specific Purposes, 37, pp.112-121.
Illich, I., 1971. Deschooling Society. London, UK, Calder and Boyars.