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In October 2011 ASIBA was unexpectedly asked by the CIEP to fund the deficit caused by the number of teachers attending the OIB English Meeting on the 13th and 14th October. The sums asked were €673 and €947. I wrote to M. François Perret and M. Jeannot on 21st March 2012, indicating that we were ready to help out on this particular occasion, but that we did not expect the situation to recur. We had understood that the CIEP had for a number of years now, undertaken, very generously, to fund the lunches and reception of the English teachers. We hoped that they would anticipate numbers more accurately in future. While not doubting the good faith of the CIEP, I am a little concerned that they seem to be unaware that with the growth of the OIB generally, the number of teachers attending training meetings is also going to grow.

On November 23rd I attended, along with Peter Woodburn and James Cathcart and many others from the OIB GB community, the day’s conference on the OIB which was held at Lycée Janson de Sailly. We were reassured to hear the commitment of the DREIC, the DGESCO, the AEFE and the Inspection Générale to the examination. The presence of a delegation of 13 Russians, with simultaneous translation in both English and Russian, I took to be a sign that the MEN sees the exam as now ready to become more globalised. If that is indeed the case, we should hope that they are now thinking more seriously about the funding which will be necessary to ensure that this growth does not jeopardise standards.

At February’s meeting, the treasurer indicated a surplus of €10,000 in the bank. While this is certainly encouraging – with members increasing and readier to pay their subscriptions on time than in the past, perhaps – we should think carefully about how we should plan to spend this. My position on this is that with many new schools coming to the OIB, a lot of whose teachers may feel inadequately resourced and trained in this exam, we should look to additions to the training days of October and March. There might, for example, be a need for much smaller and more localised training to be funded around the country with some of the national teachers, who now, increasingly, are being asked to take on OIB classes, sometimes with 30 or more in the class, when they have not had the required training or back-up.

I am standing down this year, as I shall be retiring in July. I have thoroughly enjoyed working for ASIBA over the years, and I would like to pay tribute to the efficiency and generosity of the team particularly at board level but also beyond. David, Ivan and Derek are always very competent and helpful and Peter, with his foot in both camps, the board of ASIBA and the Schools Chair for the British OIB, is a tower of strength and expertise. Thanks to all of you.

James Cathcart has indicated his willingness to stand for president and I would feel very happy about handing over the reins of responsibility into his capable hands. These are still early days for ASIBA, which has been going now for 12 years. It came into existence at a time when the British OIB was under a very real threat to its continued existence. Now, the problem is less of the threat to its existence, but more of a logistical one concerning how the OIB should develop. There is a real need for the MEN to acknowledge that if this examination is to grow, there will have to be effective financing made available, in order to maintain standards and secure Cambridge CIE’s quality control. Sections like St Germain, particularly, cannot be expected to shoulder the administration of this exam in an ad hoc fashion, given the expansion of the examination in the last few years. While not exactly exponential, it is very nearly so, and there is a real problem building up for the future in terms of both increased moderation and teacher preparation and training. Without these two things in place, the danger is that Cambridge will pull out for lack of assurance regarding quality control.

For the moment, however, while “rosy” might be a slightly over-optimistic portrait of the OIB, as it is currently, I am confident that its future is very positive and there is an enormous amount of goodwill, which can be depended upon, to ensure that it will be going places successfully. ASIBA will, I think, always be a necessary player in the on-going drama of the OIB and it will have an even greater role in the future as the exam expands.

I may be retiring, but I should like to keep links with the OIB and ASIBA and if there is a role later on for school visits, help with training, or promotion of the exam, I should be very happy to be called upon from my base in Normandy.

Paddy Salmon
14th May 2012

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