In this interview, I decided to have a conversation with my English A teacher who is also an IB Examiner. English is my favorite subject in the IB. And I often have conversations with my teacher about how others and I can improve our skills. Especially to understand the new changes that have been implemented recently for English A Language and Literature.
Question: What major changes have you noticed in the new IB English A curriculum? Are there any similarities to the past curriculum?
I’ve been teaching IB English for the past 7 years. For my students the past English Language and Literature curriculum was more interactive and enjoyable. They particularly enjoyed the creative writing task that was part of the old curriculum. The new curriculum, however, is more focused on critical thinking and the approaches to analysis have become far more focused and divided. This is especially reflected in the changes for Paper 1. In the past, this paper was a comparative analysis of non-literary texts whereas now it consists of two separate in-depth non-literary analyses.
Question: What are some major issues you have seen students struggle with in IB English?
Answer: Because many students join the Diploma Program after completing IGCSE or other equivalents of education certifications, they are not used to the structure and format of IB English. This is something that challenges students every year. Mainly because they have to go back to the basics of literary analysis to learn how to break down and evaluate the works we study in class. This is the major issue I have noticed but even then, through practice, there’s nothing students cannot achieve.
Question: As an examiner, are there any tips you can offer students on how to go about practicing analysis and breaking down text effectively?
Answer: An exercise I often have my students do is that we have weekly classes where everyone is given the same body of work or literature extract that they annotate with stylistic devices. And later they compare it with their peers. Annotating the works studied in class helps students think critically about the effect the text has on the reader. Along with what techniques the authors employ to bring about this effect.
Question: English Paper 2 will be assessed for the first time in May 2023, is there any advice you can offer as an examiner on what to expect and how to go about the paper?
Answer: The IB has provided several exemplar responses. I urge students to overview and study the examples in great detail because it will help them understand what is expected of them. As with any other subject or exam, as long as you understand the criteria behind the mark scheme and have an in-depth understanding of the literary works you have chosen for your exam, it should go okay. Practicing exemplar questions in class is also something I highly encourage because it will help highlight your strengths and weaknesses so that you can improve your skills.
In my experience, doing an Extended Essay in English was discouraged by some teachers. Do you feel the same way, is there a reason this happens?
Extended Essays in English are highly subjective which is why I can understand the apprehension some teachers may have against them. But I also believe that if a student wishes to write their EE in English it is my obligation to help and encourage them in my capacity as a teacher. I think that an English EE helps students refine their research and writing skills alongside their analysis skills. Regardless of what others say, students know their interests well and should have fun with their Extended Essay.
Question: Last, but not least, many students think that English does not require studying. Is this the case with IB English?
Answer: I can understand why many students have this mindset toward English. And having taught IGCSE English in the past, the creative writing-focused approach relies more on imagination and creative skill as compared to literary analysis. However, IB English is very different from English in other education systems. The critical thinking skills and in-depth analysis approach to evaluating texts can only be achieved through practice and active development of reading, writing, and thinking skills.