Concerns With International Baccalaureate: HB 1403 (2012)

Cornerstone Action supports   HB 1403, relative to providing pupils with curriculum and instruction regarding state and national sovereignty and establishing a committee to study the implementation of the International Baccalaureate program in New Hampshire.

There are four issues with the International Baccalaureate Program that communities have faced in their respective districts.

  1. Cost
  2. Pedagogy
  3. Political Affiliation
  4. Values education

I don’t believe the cost is a factor to this legislation, so I will focus on the other three issues with IB.  When you understand the issues with IB, it then comes down to whether parents should have the choice to seek a different and possibly a better-quality education for their children.  Without school choice in New Hampshire, there is a better chance of a child withdrawing from the public school system if the option provided in this bill is not available to the student.

The pedagogy used with IB is Constructivism.  Constructivism is a method used in many non-IB classrooms; however, IB uses Constructivism exclusively.

Constructivism is the method by which the teacher becomes the “facilitator” of knowledge.  Instead of using what most people would know as direct instruction, which means the teacher is more of an instructor, in Constructivism the teacher is a facilitator of learning.  This is done by the students inquiring or discovering knowledge instead of the teacher instructing the student on the academic content.

In many classrooms where direct instruction is used, teachers can certainly make adjustments to engage a student and allow for discussion and questions.  However in a Constructivist setting, the teacher is required to act as a facilitator.  This allows for the student to ask questions and discover knowledge with little instruction.

Proponents of IB will claim this allows for students to become critical thinkers. (I believe that many of us who never participated in an IB program have the ability to think critically.)  This may be a selling point, but I do not know of any studies by IB that can offer solid evidence that this is aiding a student’s ability to think critically.

Below are links to studies and articles that show Constructivism as a learning method actually puts students at a disadvantage. If one has to cover a significant amount of material in a specific amount of time, a slower process could mean that all of the content may not be covered.

These articles and studies will explain how this puts a student at a disadvantage compared to their peers in a direct instruction classroom.

http://www.cogtech.usc.edu/publications/kirschner_Sweller_Clark.pdf

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090326114415.htm

http://educationnext.org/eighth-grade-students-learn-more-through-direct-instruction/

http://www.jefflindsay.com/EducData.shtml

http://educationnext.org/harvard-study-shows-that-lecture-style-presentations-lead-to-higher-student-achievement/

The political affiliation with IB is another issue many parents have with the program.  The IBO is in partnership with UNESCO, the education arm of the United Nations.  While that affiliation may not be enough to cause concern, the main contention seems to be with the program itself and how it incorporates the political agenda from the U.N. in the program.

An example would be to go directly to the IBO’s web site: http://www.ibo.org/council/members/seefried/speeches/heartsminds.cfm

It is also a matter of teaching students that the “right” decision is not always clear-cut and that they have to learn to live and survive with moral uncertainty.  But this moral uncertainty must be underpinned by values which they have to be taught.  The question will always be asked: “But which values are you referring to?” All cultures share a number of common values and the first step would be to teach these, with the main one being not to do to others what we would not have them do to us.  I believe that all cultures and traditions are worthy of respect insofar as they are respectable and that they themselves respect the fundamental rights of men and women as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, approved by all the member states of the United Nations.  Since 1948, this declaration should have been disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions in the member states.  So a first step would be to check this is being done and where this is not the case, to remedy the situation as soon as possible. [emphasis added]

The goal is spelled out that the teaching of “values” to students must be done by promoting the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.  This document, which spells out the UN’s vision of human rights, conflicts with the individual rights asserted in the Declaration of Independence.

The UNDHR Article 29 states:

In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Under the Declaration of Independence, the purpose of the government is to protect the natural rights of each individual – the unalienable rights.  Under the UNHDR, human rights cannot be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

The United States Declaration of Independence acknowledges that we are born with rights and that government exists to protect them. Under the UNHDR, government grants, restricts or withdraws your rights according to its needs.

There are many more examples one could find at the IBO’s web site. For instance, the purpose of IB as a vehicle to change the values of their students: http://www.ibo.org/ibap/conference/2006regionalconf.cfm  At the 21st IB Asia-Pacific Annual Regional Conference members of the IB community gathered to present topics on “values education”.

These are some of the controversial and educational impacts of IB.  While this may be acceptable to some parents, others may see a need to withdraw from this program.  Sometimes that choice is not available within the public school, and parents are forced to enroll their children in individual IB classes or in the entire program.

Some states have offered parents “open enrollment” as an option, so parents can transfer to other public schools.  “Open Enrollment” offers some choice in education to parents.

I have personally tutored students who have been in Constructivist math classes.  Their experience has been extremely negative.  Often times they see themselves as dumb because they cannot figure out a math concept.  They resent their teacher for their lack of instruction.  Without private tutoring available, many students will suffer academically.

For those students who want to participate in IB, this program remains available to them.  For those who find it does  not work for them, it would be beneficial to offer them another option.

The adoption or removal of this program remains a local issue to be decided by the local community.  However, a school choice option empowers parents and local communities to make the best choice for each child.

For these reasons we urge you to support choice in education and support HB 1403.

—Ann Marie Banfield for Cornerstone Action