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IB Curriculum Changes 2019: Maths and Language A
By Dr. Zoe Badcock, AP and IB DP Coordinator

Curriculum Review in the IB

One of the refreshing aspects of teaching in an IB school is that the curriculum is beyond government interference and founded on the latest educational research. Each programme, PYP, MYP, DP and CP undergoes a systematic review, seeking input from practising teachers and educational leaders, and there is a growing body of research that shows that participation in one programme complements the next programme. In the IB Diploma Programme (Grades 11 and 12) each course has a seven year review cycle. If you’d like to read in detail about this process follow this link.

There are several members of the High School who are involved in curriculum reviews for their areas of expertise. I have been fortunate to be part of the curriculum review for Environmental Systems and Societies which went live in 2015 and I am now part of the next curriculum review for publication in 2022. Research presented at the IB Regional Conference indicated that participation by educators in these IB Educator Network (IBEN) processes, which also include being examiners, curriculum reviewers, workshop leaders and school evaluation visitors, helps schools achieve greater success in the implementation of difficult to assess aims of an IB education such as intercultural understanding, the learner profile attributes, interdisciplinary thinking and approaches to teaching and learning. There is even the suggestion that this leads to improved DP exam results.

What’s Changing in 2019?

In August 2019, Mathematics and Language & Literature courses will enter the first year of teaching for their new curricula. Both subject areas have undergone considerable changes and so we are already well into planning and preparing for these changes. In February, March and April, all our teachers involved in teaching these new courses will be attending IB led professional development workshops in Birmingham, Paris, Vienna and Switzerland. The IB has now published the documentation for these courses. This includes the course guides, the specimen papers and some teacher support material. As part of this preparation we are also paying close attention as countries, universities and colleges publish their acceptance of the courses. As we learn more about the changes we aim to keep our parent community updated and informed, particularly those involved in course choices for Grade 11 next academic year.

Language and Literature Courses

The Language and Literature courses have been updated to increase alignment between the “Literature” and “Language and Literature” courses, having more common types of assessment and we will be aligning our internal assessment calendars for these courses. There will be a reduction in the coursework demands of these courses which are currently very time intensive for teachers and students. Paper one will focus on a guided analysis of unseen text(s) and paper two will be a comparative essay. Paper 2 will be the same for both subjects containing four very general questions which can be answered using a variety of types of. The internal assessment will still be a recorded oral presentation but will have a global issue at its heart, helping meet the aim of developing globally aware students. At Higher Level, students will write an argumentative essay in school time. As part of all both courses, students will be keeping a Learning Portfolio. The hope is that the new courses will give teachers greater flexibility to be creative in how they deliver these courses, allow greater collaboration between Literature teachers and Language and Literature teachers and also more choice to students. The IB have a blog about these changes.

Mathematics Courses

Mathematics has undergone the largest change during this curriculum review. There are now two main options, Mathematics: Analysis and Approaches and Mathematics: Applications and Interpretations. Each will be offered at HL and SL so there are four maths courses from 2019 and all are being offered at ISZL. The Analysis course “is designed for students who enjoy developing their mathematics to become fluent in the construction of mathematical arguments and develop strong skills in mathematical thinking” (Sutch, 2018). The Applications course is designed for students who “are interested in developing their mathematics for describing our world, modelling and solving practical problems using the power of technology” (Sutch, 2018). All the courses develop mathematical critical thinking and have 60 hours in common. There is also an exciting “Mathematical Toolkit” that provides teachers with 30 hours during all the courses to explore more open-ended inquiry tasks. This means a greater focus on problem-solving skills and developing a process to determine an answer rather than searching for one specific answer. For those of you familiar with the current DP Maths options you may be interested in which courses most closely match the new courses. Mathematical Studies is most similar to the Applications SL course and the HL Mathematics course with calculus is most similar to the new HL Analysis course.

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With all this choice, the question is how to make a decision about which course to take. There are several factors that you should consider. With an emphasis on statistics, the Applications course is a great option for students interested in the Life Sciences while the Analysis course is suitable for courses with a substantial mathematical component such as Engineering, Computer Science or Physics.

University Recognition for Mathematics

Universities around the world have started publishing their future acceptance of these courses and will continue to do so from February 2019. Many UK universities have said that they will equally accept both options at SL and HL while others are accepting HL in either option or stating their preference for a particular HL course by course. When universities are stating requirements on a course-by-course basis, it appears that they are aligning new IB courses with the current A-Level maths requirements.

Here are two examples…

  • The University of Edinburgh requires Mathematics Analysis and Approaches at HL if A-Level Maths is a required course. For all other courses, any of the other options are accepted.
  • King’s College London requires Mathematics Analysis and Approaches at HL for Physics, Engineering and Maths and accepts either mathematics course at HL for Economics, Economics and Management, Chemistry, Computer Science, Psychology and Pharmacology. For all other courses, any maths option is accepted.

The key for any UK university is to check the requirements for each university but I suspect there will be some flexibility in the first couple of years with support from college counsellor letters and whichever maths course you take, there will be options open for you.

Some good news for those wishing to stay in Switzerland:  all SL and HL options are recognised, but you should check each university’s requirements. Germany, at the time of writing, had not published its requirements but this is expected very soon.

Around the world, universities are starting to publish their policies. New York University has unofficially suggested that any math course will be sufficient for all majors except for those at the Stern School of Business and the Tandon Engineering School. Students interested in those schools will likely need to take HL Analysis to be competitive applicants. The University of Toronto indicates that either HL or SL Analysis will be suitable for majors (courses) with a calculus prerequisite, e.g. engineering, business and science majors.

Having been following the developments as universities and countries announce their acceptance policies, it seems that all courses will provide students with interesting, problem-solving maths skills and will provide opportunities to access universities around the world but if you have a specific destination and course in mind, make sure you do your research.

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