In the life of any organisation, these annual meetings are, I suppose, in many ways privileged yet highly-challenging moments. They enable us and oblige us to review the objectives which we set ourselves in the past, to assess our work and achievements so far and to remind ourselves, honestly, of those aspects of the tasks we have agreed to undertake which are still on-going, or frankly still in their infancy. Most of all, however, we should relish these moments as a great opportunity to set ourselves clear and ambitious goals for the year ahead.
At our last AGM in Fontainebleau in May 2007, Donna PHILIP, our previous President, reminded us of the creation and role of ASIBA.
Since 2000 our Association has existed with the clear, unambiguous mission to support and to promote the British Option of the French Baccalauréat.
Before we go on to review what action the Association has taken over the last year in order to achieve this end, it might be helpful to consider what we mean by this support:
We need above all to strive to protect and to enhance the quality of the examination and its credibility in the eyes of all those who are partners in it, remembering that the collaboration between British and French educational authorities which underpins the OIB, makes this examination one of the most exciting and stimulating educational experiences which exist for students such as ours:
- The French educational authorities consider the Baccalauréat to be one of the most important parts of their educational structure : they must feel confident that the International Options operate the same, rigorous standards both in the examinations and in their assessment and that the same rules of neutrality and fairness are applied;
- British universities must feel confident that the standards of the examination are high and Cambridge Assessment, our educational authority, needs the guarantee that they are giving their approval to an exam of the highest quality;
- Our teachers, students and their parents need to know that this examination structure is demanding, fair and internationally respected.
So how has this support been given?
1. FINANCIAL SUPPORT
It goes without saying that ASIBA must in no way be seen as giving support to the OIB in any fashion which could be construed as interfering in the transparent neutrality which must be guaranteed in any exam structure.
Nonetheless, the financial support which ASIBA provides is both highly-effective and increasingly essential:
- Every year, ASIBA finances the visits of our Cambridge Inspectors in both specific subjects ( English and History/Geography) who come to France to run training sessions for the teacher/examiners of the OIB. These training sessions have so far been organised twice each year and constitute one of the major guarantees of quality control for the examination itself and for its assessment. I would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to our two current Inspectors, Adrian BARLOW and Claire SLADDEN, for their professionalism, efficiency and the generosity with which they give of their time and energy for the benefit of the OIB.
- The Association, by funding training sessions, helps to ensure that ALL teachers within the OIB structure are able to access the professional expertise necessary to ensure the quality of the examinations.
- ASIBA has, when required, contributed to financing liaison between Cambridge and the French educational authorities, another essential part of this unique structure.
- ASIBA has been increasingly active in promoting the OIB through giving information to schools, students and parents and by being recognised by both our French and British educational authorities as a reliable and acceptable partner in discussion.
- The ASIBA web site has proved to be an excellent communications tool – for this we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Peter Woodburn and the team at Ferney-Voltaire.
At our 2007 AGM and at the meeting of the Board of Directors in January 2008 goals were set and reviewed:
- To encourage all OIB schools to join the Association and to be regular in their payment of subscriptions! Today there are 32 Members, representing 20 schools. Philip will be telling us how we are faring on the second aspect!
- To enhance the effectiveness of our web-site: mission largely accomplished and still on-going.
- To initiate the essential task of translating the OIB Handbook (that indispensable tool for the operating and examining of the Option) into French: we are now at the stage of selecting from a list of possible translators and deciding on costing.
- To launch a full assessment of the real costs to schools of the OIB in order to decide on future funding initiatives. Philip will be telling us about his work on this.
- To organise meetings for Proviseurs / Recteurs who are involved in the OIB in order to encourage dialogue and the giving of information. It had been hoped to set up such a meeting here today, but the organisation of the school calendar this year has not made this possible.
- To organise information meetings within our schools or in a more general forum to give parents fuller information about the OIB. Donna PHILIP has provided a PowerPoint presentation to help with this – it just remains to organise the meetings!
At the beginning of this report, I expressed my own view that the most exciting part of an AGM is to set ourselves clear and ambitious goals for the year ahead.
Many of us feel that the OIB is, today, at a crucial and exciting stage of its development. ASIBA, therefore, is facing equally crucial and exciting challenges.
Why do we feel this?
- When ASIBA was set up to help support the British Option, there were 285 candidates and 4 examination centres.
- In the 2008 examination session there will be 624 candidates and 7 centres.
This explosion in candidate numbers means that the whole training, examining and moderating structure is under strain. Additional financing must be found. What should ASIBA’s role in this be? Should the Association be actively encouraging greater financial investment from the French and British educational partners? Should ASIBA itself be helping to fund more initiatives? If so, where would the necessary finance come from?
- Communication and diffusion of information is more than ever essential in our task of promoting the OIB. Our Association must be increasingly innovative and energetic in its contacts with all partners in this educational undertaking.
To conclude, I would look back to the clouds which hung over the horizon of many aspects of international education in France during the 2006/07 academic year and then to the wonderfully-encouraging comments we heard at the Colloque on International Education in September 2007.
I would look at the explosion of candidates for the OIB as a wonderful proof of the excellence of this examination structure.
The OIB IS a great exam which ASIBA is proud to support.
At the Model United Nations Conference in Dublin two weeks ago, the Guest Speaker at the Opening Ceremonies gave an inspirational talk to the 800 or so young delegates. He was talking about the origins of the United Nations and how a handful of dedicated people used their energy and selfless investment to change the world.
The task facing us may not be quite so daunting, but, at this challenging moment in the development of the OIB, ASIBA has the responsibility and, I’m convinced, the energy and commitment to translate idealism into concrete action and to get on with the job.