Comment: Are some IB subjects ‘easy’?

A recent article, in which I participated, offering students possible pros and cons of choosing certain subjects at IB was seized upon by some as wrongly suggesting that one subject could be easier than the rest. This inspired me to write the following comment about the difficulty of IB subjects and preconceptions.

Whether you are about to start the IB Diploma Programme or another stage in your life, we all have preconceptions about what is to come or regarding the options we choose to take. Whether you agree with them or not, it is undeniable that these stereotypes are present – that is not to say they are always a bad thing, but they make us more conscious of decisions we are about to take.

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In the IB, or any other school curriculum or course, there is always a wide range of subjects to choose from. When we approach them, it is almost impossible to consider them as equals. This could be due to the fact that we already have a passion for some subjects and not others, we know people who have taken certain ones, our friends are leaning towards certain options, or we already have preconceptions regarding them – formed by past experiences, research, general views inside school or otherwise. It is important to note that preconceptions don’t tend to form out of the blue; they are often the construction or multiple factors individual to each person. Whatever happens during the decision-making process, in the end we should be taking subjects that we are passionate about and into which we are willing to put a lot of effort. They should be subjects that reflect our talents, interests and future academic pursuits. We should not be scared to choose a certain subject because of the way it is perceived by the general student body, because at the end of the day, we are the ones who will have to study that subject for four or six periods a week with homework, and we are also the ones who want an education that is engaging and demanding, yet fulfilling, rewarding and enjoyable.

Ultimately, isn’t life about challenging ourselves, proving that we can be wrong and discovering that our stereotypes were badly formed? It is impossible to be right about everything. However, one of the fulfilling outcomes we can achieve through learning and other experiences is to find that our preconceptions were wrong and in fact we were thinking closed-mindedly, or perhaps we were completely unaware about certain aspects of a subject, person, event, country, etc. I believe that this is one reason why the IB Diploma programme demands that students take a wide range of subjects, from the sciences, the humanities, the arts and the languages, as well as extra requirements like CAS, the Extended Essay and TOK. In the lower years at school, subjects tend to be quite isolated from each other, but the IB tries to show students the ties between these fields and the importance of multiple fields working together – therefore no subject is useless.

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Finally, the IB learner profile represents 10 attributes that they believe are important for all students and citizens to have. Relevant to this matter, IB learners should aim to be inquirers, thinkers, communicators, open-minded, risk-takers, balanced and reflective. At the end of the day, students at La Chât should always be encouraged to take on these qualities and express their opinions and question the world. I believe that it is a shame if students are held back from trying to strive to become such learners due to rash reactions – which could prove to be more damaging than any words a student could write – as it could discourage them from participating in the future.

Ultimately, teachers and schools play a huge role in the education of children. It is highly unlikely that one view or comment from one student, however it may be interpreted, can change the way a whole subject or department is viewed by others.