As it is a particularly special occasion for me today, I hope you will bear with a little nostalgic reminiscing as an introduction to my report. Several amongst you will have heard some of what I am going to say before, but for others it will be new information and possibly useful in explaining the raison d’être and the functioning of ASIBA. It is thus with some emotion that I present to you today the report for the year 2006 – as some of you are already aware, I am leaving the Cité Scolaire Internationale and the Anglophone Section at the end of this school year. My new duties, although challenging and exciting on one level, will, I regret, also take me away from what has been my educational home environment for eighteen years, namely the British option of the International Option to the French Baccalaureate – affectionately called ‘OIB’ by all its practitioners.
From its beginnings back in the very early nineteen-eighties (the last century in fact!) the OIB developed steadily from a handful of adventurous precursors taking the exam to today’s cohort of well over five hundred. My own school is representative of that development, with my first OIB class containing just six students whereas we have more than sixty in our present Terminale classes. Typically, too, the largest part of this growth has taken place in the last five years.
Despite today’s success, however, the OIB has not always been as confident as it is now of its longevity. Over the years – and I am sure long-standing colleagues will vouch for this – we have had to battle not only for the recognition of the exam on a national and international scale, but for its very existence. Much of the resistance has come, ironically, from inside the French system where the exam. is often seen by those unfamiliar with its workings as elitist and selective. Several years ago we were almost relegated to the level of being an ‘only-marks-over-ten-count’ minor option but a concerted and durable effort by OIB fans nationwide helped the diploma retain its status and we were able to carry on as usual. Another massive challenge was in 1999 when our British ‘overseers’ (for want of a better word), the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate announced that, although they were happy to continue to support the exam in an advisory capacity, they could no longer finance the large administrative back up and quality control system which had been the case up until then. OIB teachers and heads everywhere reacted rapidly and effectively and within weeks, in this very lycée, ASIBA was born, a small and fragile embryo in a world in which it would have to fight to survive. And survive it did! Under the efficient and inspirational presidency of Peter Woodburn from Ferney Voltaire, we celebrated our fifth anniversary in Sèvres with eminent guest speakers from both British and French academia.
ASIBA membership at that time was quite small, as was the total number of schools in France offering the British Option. Due to the increase of the latter, however, the former has also grown considerably and I can now proudly say that membership has increased from just a handful of schools in 2000 to 27 members from 16 schools in 2006, with a potential for ten or so more this year. The number of candidates these schools represent has also risen from 280 in 2001 to a staggering 524 today, an increase of around 87% in just six years.
These rapidly increasing figures – and the figures behind them with regards to numbers of candidates to prepare and examine and teachers to train and inform – only go to emphasise the need for ASIBA to help maintain the well established quality of the whole British Option set up. This year has seen continued funding of the twice yearly Inspectors’ participation in teacher training meetings – we are indeed extremely lucky to have Claire Sladden (HG) and Adrian Barlow (LL ) working with and for us on the option and their energy, devotion and true professionalism are greatly appreciated by all. Adrian was also able, thanks to ASIBA funding, to meet with his French counterpart, Mme. Josée Kamoun to ensure smooth preparation of the literature exam paper.
On the communications front, Peter Woodburn has revised and extended the website which is now an invaluable asset to those starting up the option in their schools as well as those already familiar with its functioning. The general handbook has been updated and published on line and I have revised the Handbook for Proviseurs (in French), to try to ensure that procedures and recommendations are available to and followed by the French administrators involved in the option. Finally, we now have an ASIBA logo (designed by a parent volunteer) to use on all official communications.
ASIBA funding has so far been limited to the activities described above but in the future we may well see more developments as subsidies go beyond the levying of membership fees. Already this year we have had our two first donations, one from the parent body in the Lycée Honoré de Balzac and the other from English National Programme theatre activity in Ferney Voltaire. We hope this is a trend that will continue and indeed grow in future years!
I would like to end this report with extended thanks to all those who have given up their time and energy to helping ASIBA function as it does today. This goes not only to the people and donors mentioned above, but also those who work on a regular basis towards our aims and goals – Ivan Karaivanov, treasurer, Glenys Kennedy, vice-president and David Gage, our unflagging and ever present and efficient secretary. To these people and all the other Board members I have had the privilege and pleasure of working with, I extend my most sincere thanks and best wishes for the future of our association.
4th May, 2007