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Patriarchy and Privilege in the IB

An IB Education is defined by a holistic approach to learning through an integration of values and qualities that shape a balanced human being. It encourages one to think globally and be aware of their roles as global citizens. This includes sensitising them to a range of issues which affects humanity. 

In my journey as an IB student, I have been able to see that one of these issues is that of patriarchy and privilege. Thus, I will be going over my IB journey to reflect on how the DP Programme has helped to address this issue through its curriculum.


IB English A Language and Literature combines the study of non-literary texts (political cartoons, advertisements, interviews, speeches, infographics, etc.) and literary texts (novels, memoirs, plays, etc.). This subject has been tailored to allow students to critically think about the contemporary issues works may advocate for or against. As a more concrete example, non-literary texts such as political cartoons, public service announcements, and graffitis are often created around a central political message which students can engage critically with to determine the real-world implications of an art form of that sort being put out in the world. Students may specifically look at the effect on potential audiences, and how they critique existing social ideas. One of the feminist cartoonists we studied was Lisa Donelly, where we analysed her cartoons and unveiled the feminist truths behind. This enabled us to explore patriarchy through different experiences, how it shows up in different ways and affects people.

Literary texts that are studied in the programme actually attempt to do the same thing. Four out of the six texts that I have to study for the course have themes of both patriarchal oppression and the problematization of the patriarchy in them. One text is “The World’s Wife” by Carol Ann Duffy is one such collection of poems which subverts popular stories and myths into feminist narratives. This text advocates for the power of the feminist lens, and how tilting these stories actually empowers female readers, and liberates the characters through these narratives. Another text is “A collection of short stories” by Ismat Chughtai which captures the trials and tribulations of middle class Muslim families in India in the mid 20th century.

Thematically, the stories portray how patriarchy plays into familial structures and dynamics in subtler ways. This text examines the patriarchal values which may run down generationally throughout families and general society. This allows students to identify a pattern which ultimately proves that the problem is alive. It also brings to light the fact that patriarchy affects all sexes and not just one, an idea which is often misconstrued and the representation of which is often missing. The last text I will be talking about is “A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen. It is a very famous play which features the main character, Nora, and her struggle for individuality. This play helps students understand that patriarchy plays into the power dynamics of a relationship. In covert ways, it grants more power to one person in the relationship, creating a dangerous power balance.

These are more fine details and evocative ideas that I learnt in this course about patriarchy. In this sense, we can say that subjects like IB Language A are pioneers when it comes to sensitizing students to social issues like patriarchy.


Enrolling in the IB curriculum, in India at least, is a privilege not many can experience. To be honest, before I joined IB, I had very binary notions of privilege. I always felt like privilege was only restricted to a financial nature when in reality, finance is just one of the broad spectrum of privileges. Additionally, there may be common aspects of privilege that span throughout the spectrum. I take Economics HL as an example of a component of the curriculum that helps students learn nuances of this aspect of privilege. 

A great part of the Economics curriculum is an understanding of income inequality, and how the government is responsible for reducing it. As a more specific example,  we may investigate how taxes have an adverse effect on people with low incomes, and how this propagates into income inequality. In this essence, we have to critically evaluate our perceptions using factors such as its effect on population across demographics– income groups, castes, regions, etc. to help us evaluate economic theories or policies. This helps students broaden our minds and examine the effects of financial privilege in the real world. Moreover, while IB Economics discusses technical topics like free market economics, it also makes us think of its faults and implications to people with a lack of financial privilege. 


In conclusion, saying that IB makes students a more informed and critical person, especially on topics like patriarchy and privilege, would be an understatement. I guess they weren’t wrong when they said that the IB indeed makes you a global citizen!

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