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How a “non-profit” is ruining the world’s brightest students

I’ll start off by saying that this article is a hot-take. A lot of readers may not necessarily agree, however, it is necessary to articulate the unfiltered concerns of many fellow students among these uncertain times.

Put simply, some of the world’s most brilliant, ambitious, and hardworking students are being given an ultimatum. — A vast generalization, yes. But is it the truth? well, this article aims to adjudicate just that.

I’m sure readers have heard the words “unprecedented” used in association with the pandemic more times than they can remember, but it's the truth. This global situation is one that has not been seen to this extent economically, and if one sector has been most affected, it has to be that of Education. The Coronavirus truly exposed the rot in the education system, worldwide there have been protests and outrage against the lack of care for student wellbeing. However, one organization in particular trumps all in impenitent; the International Bacclereature Organization (IBO).

For those unaware of the IBO, it is a “non-profit” organization that provides a “standardized” education at the global academic level. Unlike students in A-levels or Advanced Placement (AP), The IBO ensures that its students are all rounded, making its students some of the most capable candidates for post-secondary education. It would not be an understatement to say that the world's brightest reside in this program. Generally, the rigour is an accurate representation of a student’s calibre, which is arguably unique to the IB compared to other academic streams.

Now, why is ‘non-profit’ and ‘standardized’ in quotations? Well, with the cancellation of exams across all educational institutions from the pandemic, each stream had its own way of dealing with final examinations. Students of AP courses were subject to an online exam that was notorious for cheating and grade inflation, not surprising considering the country in which the majority of AP students are from. A-levels and academic streams cancelled exams entirely, leaving the majority of the final culmination of marks to previous in-class assessments.

The IB however, decided to utilize an obscure and inaccurate mathematical algorithm that essentially favoured inflation and other socio-economic levels that were inherently discriminatory against the majority of its students. Not only were final marks based on assignments that had little emphasis throughout the year, but the IB decided to purposely mark close to grade boundaries in order to encourage students to purchase remarks. The definition of a non-profit is one that encourages marginal social benefit over marginal private costs, they operate to do more positive for society. Yet the deliberate action to mark closer to specific grades in order to encourage the sales of remarks is one that undoes this title. The standardization of the organization can also be called into question with its huge discrepancies within schools and compared to districts around the world. These actions combined prompted the international outrage by students and parents alike, known as the IB scandal. It culminated to the extent that there were whistleblowing documents submitted against its own internal hierarchy and Education Ministries across the globe tried to intervene.

With over 25,000 students in support of online petitions advocating for justice for the IB students of 2020, many students would agree that the final marks do not aptly represent their competence as students.

Petition for justice to May 2020 exam takers, resulted in 25,000+ signatures

So what did the IBO do to remedy this injustice? — absolutely nothing.

They attempted to amend their past stupidity by implementing a new system that favoured inflation by using Predicted Grades, which the IBO themselves said were inaccurate 55% of the time, to grant higher marks to certain candidates. However, that plan did not amount to anything and barely changed the issue at hand.

The November 2020 candidates would be addressed more in this written piece, however, similar to the lack of actions from the IBO it is apparent that they were forgotten. Little was done to accommodate or aid in their success, and they were essentially ignored while IB tries fixing their issues for May 2021 — again fixes are stylized in that manner because the IBO repeatedly implements meaningless and frankly useless changes that suffice to say are performative. They still have not implemented an action plan for all IB schools and depending on geographical regions, students are polarized between online education and in-person. There are two schools of thought for this matter, the first being that online is unfair as it does not teach students adequately and thus in-person has an advantage. The other being vice-versa in that online is deemed as ‘inflated’ with no rigour control standard for every IB school, and in-person students are risking their lives for less competitive advantage for post-secondary.

The only agreeable positive is the assumption that IB students may be considered more for post-secondary programs, considering they are the only students internationally to have a more accurate representation even despite their issues. However, this pandemic shows that these institutions care not about the students but rather the money they bring in — after all they are firms and exist to maximize profits. This puts our IB students back at a disadvantage. The worst part, these students are underrepresented without a voice other than speculation, which is ridiculed because of the inherent subjectivity, but how can one even prove something as subjective as bias with objectivity?

Let’s recap: IB students are in one of the most rigorous secondary education streams globally, it is internationally recognized and fosters many ambitious students. It is marked as a non-profit and as standardized, yet lacklustre actions from the IBO in response to a global pandemic proves otherwise. Students across the world that chose to take other ‘easier’ streams are being put on a pedestal inherently, and these bright minds are given the ultimatum. They were made to look incompetent due to inaccurate grading which determined final marks, and the ones who benefited are the ones who can afford to lose. There has been no justice for these students, and instead of the IB changing policies and curriculum, the IBO refuses to act in the correct manner truly making it unfair for the students who go the extra mile to obtain a more qualified degree.

These students are the future generation, and more so than other streams. It’s not to say that other students cannot succeed, but it is simply not fair for other academic streams to obtain an advantage for half the work. These individuals deserve fair treatment at the minimum, and if given these circumstances they will aid society by leaps and bounds.