The fact that the British OIB continues to expand must be a source of great satisfaction for all ASIBA members. The rate of expansion is strong, especially in some of the newer centres. After a dip three years ago, progress has been consistent, overall numbers moving from 251 in 2002 to 286 in 2003, followed by a massive jump to 352 in 2004. This coming year some 400 candidates are expected to sit the examination. It should be noted that several new schools are joining the British OIB schools’ group, a fact that will inevitably lead to further expansion quickly. A projection based on simple extension of the graphed line of recent growth would suggest that we will reach 500 candidates by 2008. This is based on the following graph, in which the “best fit” is straight line. There is a possibility that this will go curved as growth becomes exponential.
Of course, it is not possible to say if rates of growth will be maintained, but it is clear that our old ways of thinking about the examination as rather exclusive may have to change. The examination might, of course, include one thousand candidates or more annually and still be termed “elitist”. But expansion of the examination has partly come about because of simplification and reform both of programmes of study and of the examination itself. This has to be seen as one reason for drawing in more schools and more candidates.
Further expansion is likely to tax the ingenuity of the schools less in terms of curriculum and more in terms of improving and streamlining the complex and delicate enterprise of examining, with more candidates in more centres spread ever wider across France and beyond. Even at present, meeting budgetary requirements while maintaining the quality of the examination is an annual struggle. Finding the money from all sources is part of the struggle. This can include the French authorities. One concern has to be that funding will not necessarily keep step with the needs created by expansion. The Association needs to work with the Schools’ Chair closely on this.
Much growth has taken place in the sections which are state (rather than privately) financed. Most of the recent recruits to the schools group are state sections. If one bases one’s predictions of their future on what has happened in the Lycée in Aix-Luynes, for example, (where numbers of candidates have jumped from 35 to 55 in the space of three years), one can foresee that expansion in the near future may be very rapid.
Such growth will impose some rethinking both on the Schools and on the Association. ASIBA will, I feel, in the near future need to focus its attention more on the needs of new schools, and what can be best done to support them. This was a need we did not, perhaps, foresee as so pressing when the statutes were formulated some 5 years ago. Nonetheless, we wrote the following at that point:
“(L’association a pour but…)
de fournir aux établissements pédagogiques ayant créé ou voulant créer une Section Britannique et/ou offrir l’Option Britannique toute aide jugée utile par le Conseil d’Administration;…”
It sometimes seems to me that at present not a month goes by without news of another Lycée that is thinking of opening an international section or starting the British OIB. An email received from Mme Lafon yesterday is a case in point. She sends her apologies, incidentally, for not being able to come today because of pressing personal reasons. She goes on:
“Je me suis permis de donner vos coordonnées à un collégue de Bretagne qui veut développer une section internationale. Je crois qu’il est indispensable de maintenir les liens entre nos sections et je vous remercie pour avoir trouver le temps de créer une telle association. Au plaisir de vous lire’
In schools where increase in the number of candidates has taken place, or where the OIB has been recently established, much work has been done by teachers. As Alan Baker has said, without the excellent work and enormous goodwill of teachers, there would be nothing. This work goes on many levels: convincing pupils and parents of the suitability of the OIB, designing curricula and programmes of study, setting up and conducting teaching, and, of course, providing support for pupils facing demanding courses. The Association may soon need to focus more of its efforts on supporting these activities undertaken by teachers, in some cases under some pressure, in schools new to the group and the exam.
At the same time as numbers of candidates have increased, the number of members of ASIBA has expanded. The division between private sections and state sections is no longer the issue it was. Many state sections have joined the Association, and in many of these cases both parents’ associations and the school administration have expressed an interest in ASIBA. Several of these schools have chosen to be represented by both parents’ associations and by the international section working within the school, giving two members and two membership fees of 85 euros.
Our first goal as a newly enlarged Association was to bring all members together for the first time. We have achieved this to a large extent via this meeting today. We planned to add guest speakers to our AGA in order for it to become a review of the OIB and not simply a meeting focused on the Association’s business. You have now heard our guest speakers, and I would like to express the Association’s thanks to Alan Baker, Josée Kamoun and Philip Shaw Latimer for giving their perspectives on the examination so eloquently. I hope that all members present will take an active part in the discussion and debate which is to follow this report. It is vital that the Association includes a wider number of points of view as it welcomes new members and becomes representative in a more balanced way.
Fund raising has been a goal for us since the association was founded. In the last Newsflash we gave details of how we are now spending more of our funds (so far, raised exclusively via membership fees), especially in support of training of teacher-examiners and induction of new inspectors.
Via the fundraising sub-committee and board meetings as well as last year’s AGA, we have been trying to find the best approach to fund-raising. We have discussed, within the last year, plans to ask parents’ associations which are members of ASIBA to raise more money by levying a small additional annual fee per family. It was felt that for associations with hundreds of members, adding one or two euros to annual fees payable by each family would be an equitable and painless way of supporting the work of ASIBA in covering the extra costs of the OIB. This was felt to be more easily feasible than mounting professional fund raising efforts and seeking money from private sector donors, or seeking for donations from former pupils of our international sections. The main draw-back with both of these traditional means of fundraising was felt to be the huge amounts of time they would demand of already busy colleagues and associations.
Several member parents’ associations have discussed the plan to levy the extra one or two euros, and responded in varied but positive ways. I am very grateful to all members who have discussed this with their local associations. This means that we have a means of fund raising which can be put into practice relatively rapidly, when the need arises and when a certain number of questions have been answered. The questions of the level of extra charge per family, and of which families should be solicited to provide such funding were among the issues on which various parents’ associations felt in slightly diverging ways. Some felt that all families in their international section should be involved; some felt that only families with children in the secondary school or in the Lycée should pay such a levy each year.
Some said that one euro added to a small fee might be perceived very differently to the same sum added to the larger fees charged by private sections, which fund their teachers’ salaries. It was felt that parental perceptions of fairness and equability would be paramount if this sort of system of spreading the increasing costs were ever to become a reality. It would be important that all associations who are members of ASIBA should contribute in a way which is proportional to their size. These problems and issues are all ones which can be solved. It is clear that individual parents’ associations will want all member associations of ASIBA to contribute, if not in the same way, at least in a way that can be perceived as fair.
For the moment, the Association has met funding needs out of the monies paid via membership fees. These fees have remained fixed at 85 euros per member.
They have recently been gathered for this year by our Treasurer, Magdalena Martin. If you have not paid your membership yet, I would appeal to you to do so after this meeting. Demands upon the Association’s funds are increasing and may increase further. This could lead to the need for an increase in fees. This is a healthy sign and one which shows that the Association is finding ways to support the OIB practically.
Funds thus gathered have been spent or are shortly to be spent on:
- subsidizing the attendance of certain teachers (teachers from state sections who could not otherwise obtain funding) at examiner training sessions
- subsidizing the attendance of Cambridge inspectors at such training
- subsidizing visits to France by Cambridge inspectors for purposes of induction or to create good working relationships with their French counterparts
- paying UCLES for website development work (an item of forthcoming expenditure and one for which money needs to be put aside this year)
It should be pointed out that we are no longer simply paying expenses. In paying for visits of Cambridge Inspectors to France, we are providing funding for daily consultancy fees, the rate for which the Cambridge board sets. How much further the Association might contribute financially to the running of the examination is an open question and one which needs debating. Plans have been mentioned in various meetings (teachers’ meetings as well as those of the Association) for ASIBA to pay for extra days of moderator presence in France at the time of the oral examinations, or for a stipend for the two subject co-coordinators from the Lycée International de St Germain-en-Laye, who otherwise receive no remuneration for their efforts. The Association should not rule out bold financial thinking, but should, I feel, keep firmly in mind the paramount importance of the year-on-year predictability of funding.
Lest the association be seen simply as a means of raising and channeling money (it is, of course, more than this), it should be stressed that many aspects of the associations’ work remain unsubsidized. These include all activities and travel of officers, members of the bureau and other members as well as all communication and publishing initiatives. There are several parents’ associations who subsidize the work of ASIBA via much more than just the annual membership fee. Thus the running of the Association, like the running of the examination itself, depends upon “hidden” subsidies from parents associations’ who make staff time available for administrative roles. We are very fortunate to have many members, parents and associations as well as teachers, who give their time and their money so generously, both to this Association and to the OIB. It is probably best, in the interests of fairness and transparency, that these “hidden” subsidies do not remain hidden for too much longer.
I would like at this point to thank the officers of the Association in particular: our highly professional secretary, David Gage, our very sympathetic treasurer, Magdalena Martin, and our dynamic vice president, Donna Philip. I would also like to voice our thanks to Simon de Nicola, the Ferney-Voltaire parent who uses his professional software expertise to produce our Newsletters. It is of course impossible to thank everyone, but I would like to add my thanks to a newer member, Patricia Comolet from Buc, who has made our cocktail possible this evening. This is the first money that ASIBA has spent on itself in all its years of running. We felt that the expansion I have already referred to and the first appearance new members at an AGA more than justified this expense.
Innovation or renewal is visible at many levels of the examination structure. New Inspectors are in place on both UK and French sides of the operation. ASIBA has helped or will shortly help in the induction process by paying for visits to France of new Cambridge inspectors. The first of these took place last summer. Mme Kamoun, the new “inspecteur général” for language literature was invited to the AGA today and accepted our invitation, a fact which gives us great pleasure. She had already prepared herself for her new mission by visiting Anglophone international sections in various parts of France. Her interest, not only in the examination, but also in the teaching that leads up to it, is very important to us, and I would like to thank her for it.
The Association continues to monitor and to support crucial parts of the OIB examination structure. Written examining seems to be working well. The priority for the schools’ group and for ASIBA remains, for the moment, oral examining in both subjects. The oral examining system is based upon the great strength of having two teacher-examiners working together in each examination. Nonetheless, it requires input of effort in terms of systems for standardizing and moderating of assessment and for training all participating teachers, both new and more experienced. ASIBA has promoted and supported such training, which has now occurred on several occasions. We have tried to promote predictable and regular training via clear policy and forward planning. We moved closer to this goal via a meeting which took place last July between the President and Vice-president of the Association and the Subject Co-coordinators in the two subjects, Nick Baker and Nicholas Bunch. This meeting was chaired by the Schools’ Chair, Philip Shaw Latimer.
We have asked that all aspects of those training events that involve our financial support should be reviewed by all of those involved, so that we can be sure that where the Association’s money is being spent, it is spent to best effect. Review of recent training in English took place, and was reported on by the Schools Chair at the Heads of Section meeting in November. There is general strong satisfaction among teachers about how this training is run. Expectations of training are growing and all teachers involved in the OIB must take part in ensuring that the increase in the workload of planning and running it is fairly spread. The Association’s thanks must go to all who have run such training so far, and in particular the Subject Coordinators and Inspectors. I think it is important that the practices of carefully planning and reviewing training should continue and develop. I would like all training to be judged against the overall aim of ensuring continued parity and objectivity of marking of oral examinations in the face of the problem of growing demands, and of fact the Cambridge inspectors cannot be everywhere at once. These problems are forced upon us by the growth in the number of candidates I referred to earlier. Only if we think in terms of a single goal of parity and objectivity can we tell if training is delivering what we need. I feel that standardizing exercises as well as training of examiners could help us achieve this aim in an economical way.
This goal of supporting and facilitating training to help support the examination was covered in some detail in the last Newsflash. This was emailed directly to Association members and to teachers on the OIB circuit. Communication of priorities and news of our actions remains a priority. More work can and should be done in this field, however. The ASIBA website and our Newsletters are only worth the effort that goes into them if they are read. We have moved to use of email communication for all Association business, and this greatly facilitates the job of our officers. We will need to find ways of checking who is reading what we are sending out!
In trying to federate teachers and parents’ associations from state and private international sections ASIBA’s role is an ambitious one. It is trying to federate the interests and energies of the various groups that have an interest in the continued well being of this outstanding educational venture. If we can form a large and coherent group, we can move from a defensive position of trying to foresee and head off threats to the OIB or problems in its running, to a more positive stance of promoting the success of what is first and foremost a piece of bold if not visionary educational practice.
I will allow myself two personal words to finish this report and my term as president. As a teacher, I know that what counts most in schools is the teaching and learning that goes on during the year, and not just the examination at the end of it. It is perhaps time that all of us involved in this venture talked less of the examination itself and more of the excellent courses, educational experiences and pedagogical practices which lead pupils towards it and prepare them for it. The examination is working well and with ASIBA’s support will continue to work as it grows even further. I would like the Association to celebrate with more clarity and vigour the teaching and learning and the work in class-rooms to which it gives sense and purpose.
The final personal word is about my presidency. I have occupied this post for several years and believe strongly that such an association such as ours stands the best chance of being most effective and most lively if all members are convinced that they can play an active part in it. It is in this spirit – because I want to see new ideas and new leadership in the Association- that I here formally declare that another member will be president next year. I wish the new president all the very best, and will, of course, continue to work with conviction for the Association.
Thanks to all members and guests for attending the AGA.
21st January, 2005