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IB: A Program or a Product?

by Lena Auerbach

Flash back to sixth grade. Sitting at square tables in squeaky chairs as our teachers handed us each a shiny new colored folder. We were told these were our MYP folders, that we would put all of our best work in it and would keep it all the way through tenth grade. That seemed impossibly far away. All throughout middle school, we were told to relate our projects and work back to certain IB learner traits, a term we all used but never bothered to learn the meaning of. It seemed like we would never finish it. But we did. Only then did we finally get the information on this elusive “IB Program” and why we’d spent so much time writing reflections to put in a folder that, contrary to what the sixth grade teachers said, we don’t have anymore.

As a sophomore, I was excited to go to the IB meeting this year. I was finally going to get to hear about all of my options, how the program works. I wanted to know which types of learners were more suited for AP versus IB, how the two of them differ. I wanted to hear from both AP and IB students, to get a perspective on why each student thought their program was right for them. I was hoping to walk out with some insight into what’s best for me. Instead, all I walked out with was some serious frustration.

I’m going to be honest here, because it has to be said. I felt as if I was not presented with my options. I was not being guided towards the right educational path for me. To me, it seemed as if I was being sold a product. Instead of comparing the IB and AP programs, the AP program was thrown under the bus. The way it was presented made it sound like the kids who do AP don’t care about learning. They just want to get the grade, rush through things, and be done. On the other hand, IB kids are worldly. IB kids have open minds, bright futures, and a special way of thinking. They’re the intellectuals, the creative spirits, the ones who will go on to change the world. Us AP kids like to rush through the test, turn it in, and never look back. We’d end up with cubicle jobs while the IB kids traveled the world eradicating poverty or something like that.

Don’t get me wrong. I think the IB program is wonderful. B-CC students are lucky to have the opportunity to take classes that teach information in a different way than the regular classroom setting. But I left the assembly doubting my love for learning because I’m planning on doing an AP track. I felt as if I was made out to be some mindless drone who just wanted to pass. Obviously, I’m sure this isn’t what was intended. I know the administration doesn’t want anyone to feel pushed into the wrong classes, and that they’re just trying to tell us more about the program. Unfortunately, that’s not how it came across at all. And I’m surely not the only one who feels this way. Sophomore Keyana Alexis says about the presentation, “It seemed like they were telling us that IB was the only thing you could do to go to college and AP wouldn’t prepare you, only IB would, which isn’t really true. Even though IB prepares you, so does AP. AP is still a college course.” Keyana says to improve the presentation, “they should be more realistic [and authentic] in the way students talk.”

This is a matter of opinion. Different students went to the presentation on different days, so we didn’t all hear it the same way. There are people who found nothing wrong with the way the IB program was presented, and that’s good. But for some of us, we just wished we had been more informed about our options rather than being made to feel inferior because maybe, we want to take two science classes rather than one.

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