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The new version of the OIB

The academic year started with the new British OIB examining structure in place. Both British and French authorities had confirmed it. The fact that this new structure for administering the examination is up and running is of major significance for ASIBA. It is, after all, the most important factor in promoting the continued well-being and development of the examination. The creation of ASIBA and of the new administrative structure date, of course, from the same period, during which the British OIB community was attempting to secure the short and medium term future of the Cambridge version of the examination. The Schools Chair, Philip Shaw Latimer, started his first year in this role with a double responsibility, since he took on the role of vice president of ASIBA at last May’s AGA in Paris. It seems important now to stress two facts. Firstly, those closely involved in ASIBA will no doubt continue to play central but separate roles in the administration of the examination. It is Important to stress this idea of separate roles within separate structures. The second fact is that it is important to distinguish ASIBA’s role and function from that of the new administrative structure.

Fund raising

During the course of this year a fundraising sub committee was formed, chaired by Philip Shaw-Latimer. The other members are David Gage and Magdalena Martin. Certain parents from outside the committee have offered expert help. So far, thought has been given to the operations that could legitimately be funded in this way; this in turn helps us to have a general idea of the amount of money we wish to raise. The BRED bank, has already offered a donation of 1500 euros, via an agreement with the British Section of St. Germain-en-Laye. At last year’s AGA the consensus was that ASIBA should raise money to support the examination, but that it should not pay for any part of the examination itself. Accordingly, the Association’s funds have been spent this year on a project directly connected with supporting the examination. This was the day’s training of new teacher-examiners for OIB Language and Literature, which took place at the CIEP (Sèvres) on March 25th. ASIBA was able to offer money to finance the travel and accommodation of those whose attendance could not be financed in any other way. The attendance of the moderator, Peter Doughty, was important and could no longer be paid for by Cambridge: this was funded by ASIBA. We also offered to pay travel and accommodation expenses for teachers from the “state” sections. In the event, only one such teacher was unable to find money from other sources. It seems clear that the next stage in ASIBA’s contribution to quality control of the examination could well be to offer finance for a larger training operation for all teachers of a given subject. Here ASIBA’s financial contribution could be much greater. This is a project to discuss at the AGA. Such an initiative can only be relevant, of course, if the need for such training is clear within the administrative structure that runs the exam, and if the Schools Chair convenes it. Another way of saying this is that such training will not be “ASIBA training”, but “ASIBA-financed training”. This is as it should be, and it is important that the community sees it this way.

Finding and distributing funds

The Association’s assets come, at present, from membership fees paid mainly by the private sections. I must say that a push to ensure the membership of state sections (or rather of the Lycées Internationaux in which state international sections operate) seems a low priority among ASIBA’s objectives. Some may say that this widens the divide between private sections who are full ASIBA members and who pay full financial contributions and state sections, which are not members or not full members. To counter such ideas, it seems important to stress that the attendance of teachers from state sections at the recent training event was not in any way affected by their membership or non-membership of ASIBA. Association money was, rather, a means of including teachers from state sections. We hope that, in future, when larger, more costly events will take place, they will be financed by funds from donors and not only by money redistributed form the private sections. The goal will still be to narrow, not to widen the gap between the different kinds of sections offering the OIB. This is particularly important since new sections offering the British OIB are mainly state-financed rather than private.

Is the OIB flourishing?

There are several measures of this. One is the rising number of candidates for the Cambridge OIB. Another is the number of new international sections offering this examination. After the opening of the OIB section in La Baule came news of interest on the part of the British Section of the Lycée International de Colomiers and of the Lycée Français de Bruxelles. It is not yet clear what role ASIBA could play in facilitating the entry of such schools into the OIB circuit. First contacts for mentoring of new schools and sections during the start-up period tend to be, quite naturally, with the Lycée International de St Germain-en-Laye. An English language teacher from Brussels did indeed visit that school on a fact-finding mission in March. On a broader front, the extension of the OIB to other international sections offering new languages, and the development of these into sections actually preparing candidates for the examination, continues. This is a good sign in terms of diversity (one of the strengths of the OIB) and candidate numbers, but does not lead to simplification of the overall structure. Diversity costs money. It is clear that as the number of schools offering the Cambridge OIB grows, ASIBA will have to try to be one step ahead in predicting new costs and in finding ways of covering them. It is clear that we will have to continue to press for an annual revision of the subsidy paid to Cambridge by the Ministère de l’Education Nationale in the light of rising numbers of candidates. The most important question will remain: “How much moderation in how many centres can we get with the subsidy paid by the Ministry?”

Contacts with the partners

Since this is the first year of the new examinations structure, contacts between Cambridge and the MEN have been cordial and fruitful. ASIBA continues to look towards the mid-term. The Association renewed contact with the British Council in Paris, in the person of David Kirwan, its Deputy Director, who agreed to make an official approach to both the DRIC and the DESCO. After receiving his letter, these two bureaux arranged a meeting with our two designated representatives, Glenys Kennedy and Philip Shaw-Latimer, in late February. The report written after this very cordial meeting has already been sent, but is included with this mailing as a separate document. Discussion mainly centred on the logistical and financial issues connected with the running of the OIB and this year’s new procedures. There was also agreement that the OIB website at the CIEP address should be linked to the DRIC and the DESCO sites; and agreement, too, that the twentieth anniversary of the first OIB examinations (due in 2005) should be fittingly celebrated, perhaps through a colloquium. Our partners within the American OIB sections have contacted us informally to ask if they might become members of ASIBA. This would fit with certain of our aims but would necessitate a radical modification of others. No official contact by a representative of the American sections has yet been made, but this issue must still be discussed, and a decision of principle made at the AGA.

Information and communication

ASIBA has agreed to spend a modest amount of money (to be paid directly to Cambridge) on the creation of an official OIB website. This will be developed by professional services within the Cambridge board, and hosted, we hope, on the CIEP server. This could become a tool of great importance for teachers and moderators as well as for members of the public with strong interest in the examination and the schools offering it. Sue Randall has said that she wishes the schools to define what they would like to be on the site. Here, once again, a rigorous division of responsibilities is important to keep in mind. ASIBA will pay the bill for developing and maintaining the site: the schools themselves, consulted by the Schools Chair, will define and update what should be on it. ASIBA’s emerging role in this as in other projects will only be understood if the community involved in the examination is well informed about it. Please use this report to promote such understanding. The AGA of the Association is on the 26th May in Sèvres from 10h30.

Peter Woodburn
May, 2003

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