An IB Teacher Speaks Candidly
IB combines the latest dumbed-down fads in teaching methods, and substitutes with a social framework, which all adds up to learning that is a “mile wide and an inch deep”. Other teachers have told us that these methods are the basis of what is recommended by most school “reform” programs and mandates, and that it is why there is a a failure to educate. It is more about social and attitudinal molding, and usually results in chaos for the students and makes it impossible for the teachers to teach, especially at the elementary level.
Following is the unedited letter received from an IB teacher abroad.
May 17, 2012
What do I have to say? Well so much that I can’t get it all into one email.
I have worked in three IB Schools in South America and the Middle East and in each one have experienced nothing but chaotic teaching and students lacking basic skills in Maths, English and Science. I have seen a good school brought to its knees academically after the introduction of PYP and in a space of 7 years have seen 5 PYP coordinators and as many heads of primary leave or being given the axe. I have seen confused and unhappy parents who feel that their concerns are being ignored (which they are) and I have seen students worsening in their basic skills year on year until they are arriving to begin their final years of primary with no basic maths, English or Science skills.
PYP coordinators vary in their approach to the system but that’s part of the problem because ask around and you will find that there is no defined way to teach PYP. However, use of text books is strictly discourged and I have seen one very sad year where all our great Maths and English books were collected from classrooms and locked away… leaving a great free for all in the classroom. I have not yet met a PYP coordinator who can pinpoint exactly how they expect us to teach… rather they resort to vague ramblings about attitudes and learner profiles. We are expected to reward students on their adherance to the learner profile rather than on specific academic achievement. We are not encouraged to grade or place students and as a result the students themselves, the parents and teachers are ignorant of progress or attainment.
PYP training courses are as vague and woolly as what goes on in the classroom and yet it costs 1000’s of dollars to train all staff in IB methodology after which they still have no idea what they are supposed to be doing. I have been on a number of these courses and have been given different answers to the same question often on the same course. If you ask a question that is too awkward or that directly contradicts the phliosophy that question will not be answered.If you ask the same questions in school you are quicky branded as a trouble maker. This seems to be the main job of PYP coordinators… to single out anyone asking awkward questions and to whisper in management’s ear that such and such a person is negative (favourite word used to describe anyone who puts their head above the parapet).
Apart from the underlying agenda of IB which anyone with eyes and a brain should be able to spot (and very neatly exposed in your website) the actual academic advantages of IB are very difficult to measure in international teaching. Most international schools have transient students and so it is more than impossible to prove the fact that “little Johnny’s” inability to perform well in his new secondary school is anything to do with the fact that in his most vital years he was playing around in a PYP curriculum school and reached grade 6 with no reasonable literacy or numeracy skills. There are such a host of other factors that can so easily be pointed to… the teacher (long gone) school policy, emotional upset and so time after time the IB escapes under the radar when looking for accountability.
PYP is loved mostly by parents of children with learning difficulties because there is no benchmark against which they can be measured and found wanting. However, they are doing their kids a disservice with this because at the end of the day they need to realise that their children do need help to achieve basic skills, which in some PYP schools are never addressed because the focus is all about the attitudes and the learner profile. Some teachers also love it because there really is no accountability on their part. Sure the kids are “assessed” but these are usually on rubrics made up by the teacher i.e. “can produce a poster about hot air”. Rubrics are not often related to actual academic benchmarks because many PYP schools throw such things out of the window as being old fashioned or not child friendly.
There is a lot of emphasis on student led lessons… not workable in my opinion because most students, unless geniuses, need leading by a qualified and experienced teacher (sorry “facilitator” because of course teacher is a no-no word in many schools). I love the words “life long learner” espoused by the IB. For this I read… they will need to be life long learners because it will take them the rest of their lives to learn what should have been taught them in school. Of those teachers who are really concerned about the students’ progress you will find that those who are not afraid to tell the truth will say that they teach National or some other curriculum in their classes and just “pretend” to teach in the PYP way.
You may find that people will be reluctant to post on your website because of the fear of repercussions. I feel so strongly about it all that I need to say something… though at the end of the day I too need a job and for most international teachers IB is fast becoming established in most schools ’round the world. I have really tried to understand it and get involved in it and have been on many training courses to this end but at the end of the day it still all leaves me where I was at the beginning. My next teaching post will be, I hope in a non IB school providing there are any left in the world.
~ E.B., Mid East