Meetings of the board during the year
There has been only one board meeting since the last AGA. I believe that this is as it should be. Each board meeting involves moving many people over long distances, and means members giving up time from their jobs. It seems to me that the Association must accept meeting infrequently but must be determined to pursue as many areas of action as possible between meetings. A list of points for action was drawn up at the last meeting. Many of these are covered in what I have to say in the rest of this report. We can review these action points explicitly later in the proceedings.
The fundraising sub committee, chaired by the Vice President, met during the first part of the year and reported to the last board. Members had until the end of January (but in effect until this meeting) to consider its recommendations in consultation with their schools and parents’ associations. Discussion of these recommendations, which essentially concerned the gathering of money from former students, follows as part of the AGA agenda. I suggested at the last board meeting that an EGA to which potential new members could be invited should be organized at the CIEP in Sevres. This was because membership was still such a pressing issue at the time of that meeting. I then changed my mind (and the Association’s strategy) by suggesting that members continue spending time on contacting other schools individually, and persuading them by telephone and all other means. This work has essentially been done by the Vice-President and me. This strategy has worked in so far as the Association now counts as members all but one of the schools in France currently offering the OIB. The application form and cheque from Aix (the Lycee, not the parents’ association) were received on Tuesday of this week. Aix was the breakthrough school- that is the first of the state sections which had not taken out ASIBA membership, to reconsider its position. Other state sections have followed. Donna Philip was instrumental in helping to engineer this breakthrough via discussions with Adelia Hackenheimer, which I followed up within the school by talking to Mme Lafon and the president of the Aix parents’ association. All of this was underway in October. It has taken thus five months to clinch membership. In such protracted negotiations (if the expression is not too big for the facts), the projected EGA would have been a distraction. The idea discussed at the last board meeting of inviting proviseurs from member schools to the EGA was, in my estimation, by no means guaranteed to be a success. I base this in particular on the attitude of the proviseur of Grenoble, who was tempted by the idea, but thought it was the duty of the “Education Nationalé to organize a meeting of proviseurs of International Lycees. I do not know how far he got with his attempt to persuade the authorities of the necessity for such a meeting.
The last school in France to join ASIBA will no doubt be Strasbourg. Both Philip and I have followed things up in this quarter and there will soon, we feel, be a positive reaction from the parents’ association. It has to be said that the position of Reims, one of the state schools that was a founder member of ASIBA, is still ambiguous, and still needs to be clarified via new commitment to the Association. One school outside France currently preparing OIB candidates has not yet joined: this is the Institut International de Lancy in Geneva.
It is worth highlighting that since board meetings can only be few and far between, the Association’s ability to act coherently and persuasively if need be outside formal meetings is what is likely to make it effective in the future. I think we are becoming more and more convinced that we are capable of such action.
One very strong mandate was given by the last meeting to the Vice President: to inform the DRIC and DESCO of the disappointment felt by Cambridge about poor or non-existent written communication, and delays in both paying and reviewing the annual subsidy allocated to Cambridge by the French authorities. This meeting took place after the last board meeting. I’d like to invite the Vice President to tell the meeting where things stand on this now.
The Newsletter was taken over by Donna Philip, who has worked on this recently and will inform the assembly shortly about the forthcoming issue. Simon de Nicola, a Ferney-Voltaire parent, has volunteered his design skills for this publication again. Paddy Salmon has found a Sèvres parent willing to take over design and updating of the website, which at the moment remains functional and unchanged.
The last board also discussed the funding which ASIBA offered some time ago now for the future Cambridge OIB website. It was felt that the schools’ group needed to decide rapidly what they would like to go on the site. At the Heads of OIB Sections meeting, the schools sensibly thought that the main content should be based on the existing OIB Handbook. This, however, needed thorough revision before it is turned into web pages. The Handbook has now been thoroughly revised and re-edited and a strategy is being worked out to ensure that all those who need to be consulted are involved in the final version. This includes of course two subject coordinators and two subject Inspectors, as well as the Schools’ Chair. The Association is as ready as ever to provide funds, but cannot do so until there is the right content for the website.
This was one of several issues raised in the context of the last ASIBA board meeting which were taken forward to the Heads of Section meeting which followed. It may be worth underlining that this sequence of meetings was both useful and logical, since it gave the opportunity to the Association to raise points about the OIB which could only be decided upon or otherwise addressed by the Heads of OIB Sections.
Another significant issue carried forward from the board meeting to the Heads of Sections Meeting in the same way was training of teacher-examiners. It was agreed that the most supportive role that ASIBA could play in maintaining quality in the examination itself would be the providing of funds for regular training of these key people. It seems worth pausing at this moment to ask the meeting to define for new members briefly the crucial role played by teacher examiners and why we as an Association think regular training is so essential.
It seemed difficult for the Association to support such training in a context where it was organized on an ad hoc basis. The particular difficulty concerned fund-raising, at the moment the most uncertain part of the Association’s activities. If large scale training and regular training of teacher examiners were ever to be undertaken, and if these were supported on a large scale by funds from ASIBA, then the Association would need to know about the size of the sums needed at least one year in advance.
There are implications here for how the examination is planned and how the Association conducts its mid term planning. ASIBA can only raise funds on a large scale if it knows what it is funding. It cannot define what it funds itself on its own, ignoring the needs and wishes of the schools and Cambridge. But as soon as its funding forms part of the basis of quality control for the running of the OIB examination, in a way which is clearly supported by a consensus of all schools and Cambridge, then it will become absolutely necessary to be able to predict the sums needed and to find them each year. If ever the Association commits to funding on a large scale in a way that cannot be maintained, then this will simply contribute to the factors of uncertainty and instability weighing on the exam.
At present, a start has been made on making training more regular. Building on last year’s experience of organizing training sessions specifically for new examiners, sessions have again been organized this March for colleagues taking on oral examining for the first time. This time both English and history-geography are involved. ASIBA is funding the presence of the Cambridge Subject Inspectors at this training and at the same time offering travel and accommodation expenses to teachers to attend if they cannot find any other way of getting their costs covered.
The above could all be termed positive actions. We must also take action in terms of predicting and heading off or limiting the negative factors which may impede confidence, a sense of coherence and certainty, or a sense of clear and effective organization in this examination.
The Association must, I feel, maintain a list of the factors of uncertainty and instability, so that we can address these in mid term planning. At present they can, I think, be summed up as follows. (I will, of course, give the Members the opportunity of commenting on this list after this report.) On many of these action has, of course, already been taken. On many, future action will be needed, whether or not we feel we have already progressed on them.
AT THE DRIC / CAMBRIDGE LEVEL
- Lack of regular communication between DRIC and Cambridge
- Lack of regularity in paying and revising funds
- In the mid term, the continued problem of finding subject Inspectors with all the right qualifications (a role that Cambridge plays and that is not an easy one)
- Generally anything which adds to the amount of work that Cambridge does and to a perception that the examination is costing them too much in terms of time and administration
RUNNING THE EXAMS
- Perceived incoherence in the role of oral inspectors while in France
- Lack of payment for teacher examiners who mark written scripts
- Problems at the paper setting stage, with Cambridge Inspector and French Inspecteur General holding incompatible views of roles and of who has the final word
IN TERMS OF THE SCHOOLS’ ORGANISATION
- Lack of a second subject co-coordinator in each subject, so that the work the subject falls on one person only
To list them in this way may seem negative, but I feel that realism in creating such a list of factors and planning action on them before they reach crisis point may, in the end, be one of the best things we can do for the mid-term stability of the examination. Many of these issues will be further discussed in the session which follows this report.
Administration of the Association
The financial year has now been changed so that it runs from September to the end of August. This coincides with the schools’ academic year. I will ask David Gage to confirm any action we need to take at AGA level about this.
The treasurer will report upon the fees position and the balance in the Association’s account: a reasonably healthy balance for an Association whose expenditure remains small and targeted, at present. She will also report on the position of the BRED bank, which promised a donation about a year ago and have still not paid.
The details of the Members included in the original version of the statutes are now out of date and must be rewritten so as to allow for modifications of addresses, etc and to allow for the addition of the details of new members. Again, I will ask David to comment on the best way of doing this.
Certain officers sitting on the board warned at the last AGA that they might not be able to continue serving, or that the period during which they could continue serving might be limited. I propose that we discuss this at this AGA, since matters of this sort will affect the membership of (or elections for) the board.
I would like to remind the members that this AGA will be followed as usual by a brief meeting of the new board during which the officer’s roles are to be decided for the forthcoming year.
This has been mentioned above, but must be highlighted. Since the founding of the association, no new members had joined at the time of the last board meeting. Now we have 5 new members, and are nearly at the point of full membership of all sections offering the British OIB in France. Two schools new to the OIB Schools’ group have taken out membership, despite the fact that they are not presenting candidates for the examination this year (their first candidates will sit the examination in 2006, I believe.)
Making ASIBA more representative has been an issue from its inception, as has been membership of the schools running “public” or “state” sections (as opposed to private ones funded by 1901 associations.) This expansion of membership to include more sections and more “state” sections must be seen as a great step forward. We can now speak and act for all (or nearly all) schools, in our negotiations with the many powers that be, and all schools are providing monies to subsidize training.
Communication with all schools, especially schools that may not find it possible to attend all meetings, is now crucial. We will, I think, need to communicate bilingually soon.
At the moment we can have a clear and achievable ambition: that all OIB schools will be members of ASIBA and will contribute financially via their membership to initiatives and policies designed to maintain or improve quality control in examining, such as the training policy currently under consideration by all schools.
Keeping these objectives in mind, the Association can look forward to a new academic year during which the OIB is bigger and more inclusive in terms of numbers, more cohesive in terms of the schools involved, and more than ever convinced both about the quality of the courses and the examinations themselves and about our ability to communicate these qualities to the world at large.