Now, I’ve already discussed the benefits of partaking in the International Baccalaureate Diploma program in my previous post.
However, there are drawbacks as well.
By the end of the two-year program, I did reside to feeling a sense of accomplishment and gratitude for finishing an arduous journey along with the skills, experiences, and connections I’ve gained throughout the process.
But did I personally think it was entirely worth it? No.
Don’t get me wrong. IB has definitely challenged me and allowed me to grow, and I know others who have truly felt as if IB positively propelled them in ways that they would not have been able to do so themselves.
Nonetheless, let the tirade begin…..
1.) IBO’s Constant Changing of Rules/Supervisors
If it’s one thing that made a large part of my IB experience incredibly frustrating nearly up to the point of resignation or acquiescence, this was it. Because I’m keeping this blog PG/G, I will not resort to strong language however much as I would like to.
While I respect the coordinators and the supervisors who tried to help the students as much as possible, the dates for deadlines and certain processes were very ambiguous. I understand that the teachers tried to coordinate as much as possible and allocate time for students’ procrastination, but the method that SOME went about doing so was annoying and seemingly – I kid you not – sadistic. I mean – really? I sincerely wanted to ask some teachers who hurt them so badly but thinking of how I disliked some of my teen peers, I was able to understand. If I were a high school teacher, I would use the little extra power I receive to the fullest advantage and use the “real world” as justification for my bitter ways.
Yes – I’m biased, and though I wouldn’t say that I was the smartest kid in my IB class, I do believe I was hardworking despite being mismanaged at times. I managed to end up with 32 points for the accreditation of my IB diploma. However, if the “smarter” or my more hardworking peers also experienced the same frustration in the process of writing their Extended Essay or finishing some of their Internal Assessments – not because of the difficulty but some of the nonsensical methods and deadlines, their actions speak a lot for the program as a whole and the way the program was run at my school.
Normally, certain students may have found certain assignments or projects harder than other or may have connected to certain teachers more than others, but there is no denying that some teachers were just clearly much more efficient and helpful in the approach to assigning our projects and assignments. I may have been blessed with the better ones for the most part, but I heard complaints from other IB peers about other teachers and other IB subjects.
If I had to name one of the most common running jokes among my peers and even teachers of IB, it would be CAS. CAS stands for Creativity, Activity, Service and is a mandatory component of the IB component of the IB Diploma program that students must complete to receive their diplomas. There are variations of this for other IB Diploma related certifications. From mandated hours previously to “experiences” currently, students are required to document how they “challenged themselves and grew” categorized under certain IB learning outcomes through the various activities they engage in their day-to-day lives. Theoretically, CAS is supposed to be enriching, but in my experience, it was rather tedious. I’m going to make another list for this. Why? It’s more simple, effective – and because I can. Clearly, I have very strong feelings about this.
Why CAS is dumb:
1.) It is unnecessary.
Most high school students alerady participate in extra-curricular activities and try to improve themselves in whatever hobbies they participate in or take on new challenges. Maybe it is unfair to assume as those who decided to take part in the IB program were already fairly well-rounded and ambitious students, but I know many other students not in the program who nevertheless progressed far in their pursuits. The point I am trying to make is that though CAS is designed to help IB students maintain more of a balance between academics and other activities, it is unnecessary as most people have hobbies outside of academics in which they try to improve themselves.
2.) It disregards personal hobbies.
CAS requires certain signatures of approval per activity by an adult who is neither related to you nor a friend along with a few other requirements. This disregards self-taught activities or activities where unrelated adults aren’t available to supervise. Examples include hiking, camping, playing an instrument, dancing, going to the gym, etc. Many resources are available to almost anyone with an internet connection or a library if one wants to delve into a new hobby. Of course, experts and teachers are preferable, but not everyone has the financial resources, want, or as much of a necessity to get one.
3.) It’s awkward.
Even if I did have a supervisor present for an activity, I, personally, found it slightly awkward to explain the process of emailing them or signing a physical form in order for them to read my reflections of personal growth. Of course, many were pleasant and enthusiastic – or at least acted like it – about learning and receiving insights about how an activity they oversaw was helpful for my personal development. However, the entire procedure of following a certain format for these reflections that allowed for others to read them added a large sense of falsity to them. I believe that growth in a personal hobby is a private matter that I should have the ability to choose who to share with. Of course, the reflections and activities we chose to add were our decision, but the stringent guidelines and approval process added to the current nonessential nature of the IB CAS.
4.) IBO changes too many rules and is inefficient.
As seen above, this not only applies to CAS but is one of the reasons CAS is cumbersome and pointless. This organization seems to change rules nearly every year that once students start asking teachers or older students about how it works, the explanations are brief and vague with a request to attend a future informational meeting, which, might I mention, are filled with abstruse flow charts leaving everyone more confused than before. This may be partly to blame for the coordinators at the school I attended who were seemingly more frustrated and annoyed by the questions, jokes, and approvals they had to make regarding CAS activities.
In my experience, the deadlines for CAS hours or “experiences” were ambiguous, requests for in-person signatures for activities students completed across the country or in other countries and cities were made last-minute or were not clear to anyone in the beginning, and the informational meetings were even less productive than the last costing students time to relax or study.
On a more positive note, CAS did have its benefits from what I’ve witnessed. The mandated CAS service projects that happened across the school and community led to beautification efforts or other beneficial undertakings. Other students did reap at least a few benefits from taking on new activities and challenges that they would not have done without CAS. This perhaps includes myself , because while aspects of CAS such as trying to challenge myself, extroversion, and reflecting come to me more naturally than others, these activities may have been unconsciously perpetrated knowing when knowing I had to log another CAS activity.
While CAS did have its benefits, the cons outweighed the pros and were mentally taxing on students and teachers alike and was mostly a compilation of a lot of B.S. (not all but a lot) on the parts of students. A few others might disagree, but I doubt the majority will.
3.) IB Exams, Projects, and Scores
The IB exams are understandably different than AP exams as they require more writing, a different structure and content, and the sole use of blue or black ink pens (crazy – I know). If your IB program is small and only a part of your school than a separate school, then there’s also the advantage of taking the test with a small group of people at a different timing than the AP students who you are at least acquainted easing some of the nerves.
Of the IB exams I had to take, IB Spanish might have been the most frustrating regardless of the content (bear with me). Its material was designed to trick you more than the other exams meaning it was based more on the way one wrote the test than the knowledge of the content itself. The similar could be said of the other IB subject tests, and while I received college credit for Spanish and it was not nearly as hard as some subjects like Math HL or Physics HL that certain students had to take, my caution to you is: these tests are more difficult – dare I say? – than College Board’s. By difficulty, I mean unfamiliarity, refreshing of old content, and lower margin for receiving a “7” on the majority of IB exams as opposed to “5” on AP. Certainly, it’s achievable, but requires more commitment to mastering the test.
Speaking of scores, score breakdowns also create certain aggravation if you find out you may be 1 mark band away from a higher score for one of your tests or essays or – god forbid – your diploma.
To be fair, however, IBO has a good system in which it grades Internal Assessments by averaging scores with ones teachers give on larger projects and essays and its overall system is decent.
Oh yeah – 2 more things – the PRICE and MAKEUP EXAMS. The exams are much more expensive than AP exams and IBO offers no makeup exams until November of the following school year. Just saying.
So do I have a final verdict for – should I take IB? Yes – and no (I hate it when anyone says this, but to be honest, many things depend on one’s life).
I’m generally more extroverted and like meeting new people even at school, so IB was confining to me in that sense despite extracurriculars and other classes in my schedule. Therefore, while I did create strong bonds with some of my closest current friends, there were also others I grew apart from, and other personalities who I viewed as “just being there.” They were all acquaintances and nice people, but I grew to dislike the comfort and monotony of seeing the same faces in most of my classes. I realized I also could have created close friends and even more and focused on more of my hobbies like theatre and music had I not done IB. ‘
Yes, I’ve learned valuable global mindedness, skills I would not have been able to until later and about myself, and truly pushed my limits, but were the all-nighters jacked on coffee, several of mental breakdowns and tears at school, and at least a stage of nihilism worth it for a bit of shiny bling and a resume-builder for a college I probably would’ve probably have gotten into regardless? Again – I hate myself for this – it’s hard to say depending on the end goal because I also try to look for the good, but I definitely know that I just wouldn’t do it again.
Whether you partake in the IB program or not is up to you, because it does have clear benefits and drawbacks. It really depends on your end goal, but life is forgiving. Just keep moving forward, and all will be well. 🙂
Until Next Time,
Keep It Animated!