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IB choices - help!

(27 Posts)
MrsSchadenfreude Sat 07-Dec-13 17:12:29

DD1 will shortly be making her IB choices. She has to do three subjects at higher level and three at lower level, but can't decide what she wants to do! She is good at: English, History, French (lived in France for 4 years and not far off bilingual orally), Art, Drama, Biology and Chemistry. She is less good at: Maths and Physics. She wants to do Maths at lower level (possibly Maths Studies) and Chemistry or Biology (she has to do one science).

She hates French with a passion (she has to do a language) and wants to drop it and do Japanese, German or Spanish, but I think she should continue with her French as it would effectively be a waste of four years if she drops it and gets no qualification. So my view is that she should do this at higher level (she disagrees), along with English and History, but she wants to do art and/or drama at higher level, so this would leave her with English, History and Art at higher level and Maths, Chemistry and French at lower (I think she will just have to continue drama as a hobby). Is this an OK combination? Or should she have French (as it's more academic) as a higher level subject? The problem with her French is that she speaks very fluently but doesn't write that well and has little clue about grammar niceties (her teacher is focusing on this, which is why she hates French now!).

tallulah Sat 07-Dec-13 18:05:01

What does she want to go onto? If she is planning to go to university then the subject she wants to take will presumably influence which subjects she does at the higher level.

If she hates French let her drop it, and she certainly shouldn't be doing it at the higher level. It isn't a waste of 4 years if she can speak it fluently. DS did Japanese and loved it, but found it very hard.

The school might also have an opinion on which should be higher/lower. Have you/she spoken to them?

adoptmama Sat 07-Dec-13 18:22:21

I'd let her drop the French. Nothing wrong with HL English, History and Art. Most unis do not require HL Maths even for things like medicine. The art will be both demanding and creative. She'll have CAS, TOK and her EE as well.
I see no benefit in forcing her to continue with a subject she dislikes for 2 more years. When she is applying for university she will be able to say on her personal statement she has fluent spoken French and will have a second language to demonstrate her linguistic abilities if she opts to. Japanese would probably be a really amazing choice, particularly given the need for more speakers of Asian language in the job market.
I would not limit her choices to what you feel are her strengths. These are her choices, she has made good ones, and having French at SL/HL would be no better for her Diploma or uni application than adding a new language. In fact, adding a new language strengthens her appeal as a candidate as she is showing that she can learn more than one language and is not afraid of challenges.

MrsSchadenfreude Sat 07-Dec-13 18:27:02

Thank you both, that's really helpful. Unfortunately she has no real idea what she wants to do later. She would like to be a children's book illustrator, but realises that she will probably have to have a fall back option.

adoptmama Sat 07-Dec-13 18:55:03

The great thing about IB, over A levels, is that for children like your DD, with no firm career choice or uni options made, they keep a very broad base of subjects. So if, in a couple of years time she is sure she wants to go to art school, she's good. Equally, if she wants to go to do something else, she has languages, science and maths. Do look at her maths ability and see if SL Maths isn't a more appropriate choice than Maths Studies. That's the only one that can cause difficulties (depending on what she wants in the future) as some courses want a minimum of SL maths. But that tends to be for science based courses, so if she is unlikely to want that, MS is good.

lljkk Sat 07-Dec-13 20:21:10

Let her drop French, don't make her waste even more of her life on it if she hates it so.

MrsSchadenfreude Sat 07-Dec-13 22:25:57

I am going to see how the French goes over the next few weeks. If she can get to grips with the grammar that is giving her grief at the moment, she may feel differently about French (it is only recently that we have had this issue). If not, she can have a go at something else.

complexnumber Sun 08-Dec-13 02:58:13

This seems very early to be making decisions about IB options, though it is never too early to be thinking about such things.

The years spent learning French will never be a waste of time, you don't need a qualification in a language to make it worthwhile learning it.

mirivy Sun 08-Dec-13 08:02:26

Let her do Spanish ab initio- she'll find it slightly easier as she already has a European language background. Stay away from Japanese, as she'll be competing against students from around the world, including those who have a similar language as their first language.
I'm an IB teacher and tend to find that students will do well in subjects in which they have an interest; if not, they frequently 'drop' a subject by avoiding the work and making little effort. It's a really challenging course, and encourages independence: allowing her to have as much input into the selection of subjects is an important first step.
I'd encourage art/drama- they have a useful overlap with English and the course structure in these subjects is excellent- the students really enjoy them.

MrsSchadenfreude Sun 08-Dec-13 08:46:00

I think taking Spanish might boost her confidence with languages, as it's an easier language to learn than French, and the French will give her a distinct advantage, and then she can choose at the end of next school year which she wants to do for IB. She is bright, but hugely lacking in confidence - her MAP testing results put her on the 97th centile for English, 96th for Science and 87th for Maths.

So English, History and Art at higher level and Maths, Chemistry and French or Spanish at a lower level would be OK, I think. Her French teacher has said that if she can sort her grammar out, she could do the IB standard level paper next school year (but think this might be at the expense of Spanish).

adoptmama Sun 08-Dec-13 10:00:43

There are no quotas set for IB grades. Therefore the fact that you are a beginner in a language and others around the world are more familiar with learning Asian languages, does not affect the final achievement/grading of your exam (I say that with experience as an IB examiner & teacher). Whilst there may be some movement of grade boundaries to keep grading levels consistent across years, the grading boundaries themselves are fair and transparent and do not operate as a basic 'normalisation curve': the same set of academic standards are applied across the world. Of course having previous exposure to Asian language learning is, generally, by itself an advantage in learning another. Just as previously learning a Latin language can help you transfer to another.

Most schools will be thinking about IB options now, although there is generally some flexibility up to August/Sept in changing. So if she did do better than she expects in her French IGCSE/GCSE then she could well be able to change at the start of year 12. Most of us do our options around now to help sort out staffing and because it helps focus students on what they need to achieve (not all schools will automatically give you a place on a diploma course if you get less than a certain level at gcse.

SL French, even at B, would be demanding for her if she has difficulty with grammar/writing. Ab Initio Spanish would probably be relatively easy for her given her language background, which would give her more time to focus on other subjects. There is also a Japanese Ab. but it may not be offered by your school of course, so you would need to check. If you look at the IBO statistics for subject results last year, the Spanish Ab mean grade was 5.13 and Japanese Ab 5.03, so very little difference. However there were significantly more 7's awarded to Japanese Ab. (19.38 to Spanish Ab. 11.34). Much of course depends on quality of teaching etc. In World Schools based in Asia it is much more common to have a high availability of teachers able to offer good quality teaching of Japanese than, say, in Europe. Above all, she will be motivated to work hard at what she is most interested in. IBDP is very demanding. Far more so in many respects that A levels do to the IA, EE and TOK components. On top of that are the requirements of CAS. It is very important that she begins the IBDP feeling that she has chosen her best combination of subjects; in terms of Levels, what interests her and what she feels she is good at.

MrsSchadenfreude Sun 08-Dec-13 10:16:36

Thank you, Adoptmama. Her French teacher told us the same thing about the importance of grammar/good written French for the SL, which is why she wants DD1 to get to grips with it now. I also think one of the issues for DD1 is that she found day to day French relatively easy, and was put in the francophone class after only two years at her last school. She speaks it very fluently and is more than happy to read in French, but she never really did that much grammar/written French in her last school. So having been seen as a bit of a flier before, she is now being brought down to earth with a bit of a bump. She is not doing GCSE/IGCSE, so it will be up to her and the teacher to see what they think she can cope with.

adoptmama Sun 08-Dec-13 11:03:35

How recently did you repatriate back to the UK? It can be a huge culture shock for 'TCKs' (3rd Culture Kids) when they go 'home'. As you've found, to go from being seen as a high flyer, to performing badly or just being 'in the ruck' can really damage a child's sense of academic self esteem (as can locating the other way, going in to a foreign language system and being unable to achieve good grades). I'd definitely say tread carefully with her (as I am sure you are). The first year back can be very difficult and it is a tricky age anyway. If she is trying to simply 'run away' from some thing she now finds difficult, try to encourage her to see the strengths she still has in the subject and let her know her feelings of academic frustration are all too normal. I guess your DD is now about 15, so moved to France aged about 10/11? For us, as adults, we identify with going 'home'. For your DD it may not be as simple as that either, given the length of time she was in France and depending on how settled/socially involved she was. Fighting you over the French may also be her way of subconsciously telling you she is also struggling with the move 'home.'

MrsSchadenfreude Sun 08-Dec-13 11:48:32

You are absolutely right, Adoptmama. She has only spent three years in UK in her entire life, between 8 and 11, with the rest of her life being spent in mainland Europe. We all left France kicking and screaming and not wanting to leave (my contract wasn't extended), so settling back into the UK has not been easy for any of us.

She, unfortunately, came back first and had to spend the first two weekends staying over at school (she is a weekly boarder - she loves boarding, which is the bit we were most worried about). These were not the best weekends to spend in the school as it tended to empty out on these weekends, with the full boarders' parents still in UK and taking them out. So she was very, very miserable for the first few weeks. DH was travelling back and settling her younger sister into school and I was stuck in France packing up and finishing my job. It would have been infinitely preferable if we had all come back together, and I think, unfortunately, she is only just recovering from this. However, she is in the school of her choice (I had further angst about this - not least because it is so eyewateringly expensive, but also I wasn't sure if it really was going to be the right school for her!) and does now have a good group of friends, so I think we are now on an upward trajectory. "All" we need to do for the moment (tiny steps!) is to get her over this French grammar issue, and then look at the bigger picture of the IB choices.

lainiekazan Mon 09-Dec-13 09:37:00

MrsSchadenfreude, can we merge our dcs?!

Ds is choosing A Levels and has categorically spurned French as he is so awkward about speaking it. His grammar and written French are excellent, however. He is also extremely concerned about encountering someone such as your dd in the class!

summerends Mon 09-Dec-13 17:10:03

MrsSchaden if she is happy reading French, particularly at her age level, she will have an instinctive grasp of what sounds and looks right which will be a huge advantage at a higher level once she has firmed up the basics. For example she will know when the subjunctive and the passé historique sounds right even if she has n't learnt the structure. She will be able to read texts rapidly and already have an extensive vocabulary.
I am sure from that she should find French at IB much easier than most which might take the pressure off those 2 years. However, if she really wants to try another latin based language, she would probably find that easier than most as well.

MillyMollyMama Mon 09-Dec-13 18:28:03

I actually think in all languages you have to learn grammar and writing. Spanish is no easier in that this type of learning is still required.

basildonbond Mon 09-Dec-13 20:18:25

I wouldn't push French if she's really not keen - the IB is a lot of work (as ds is finding out ...) and if there's a less favoured subject it's quite tempting to relegate h/w etc to the bottom of the priorities pile

One of the girls in my A-level French class had been living in Paris for 3 years before she joined my school for sixth form. Her spoken French was excellent and very idiomatic but her written French and grasp of grammar weren't great and she struggled - ended up getting a C when the rest of us got As

Maths studies is fine if she's definitely not going to go down the science route. At ds's school all the boys who are thinking of arts/humanities at degree level are encouraged to do maths studies instead of S/L maths - they do the maths studies course in a year, giving them more time for their other subjects in upper sixth and as they're all reasonably good mathematicians it's a pretty safe bet for a 6 or 7 which gets their results off to a good start

MrsSchadenfreude Mon 09-Dec-13 22:43:17

Summerends, yes, you are right re instinctive using subjunctive! She reads French well - she read Les Mis in French over the summer. She rang me today and said she messed up her oral exam sad - she panicked and couldn't say anything at all. I think the whole issue of the grammar has just taken over and knocked her confidence in the whole language at the moment.

summerends Tue 10-Dec-13 03:52:49

MrsSchaden if she has read Victor Hugo then she is definitely going through a psychological block. Did she not have to write French in the francophone class? She probably needs a good rest over the Christmas holidays after a high intensity term when she has had to assimilate so many changes and leave any decisions re IB to as late as possible (maybe ask the school to defer her choices). .

NearTheWindmill Thu 12-Dec-13 22:30:47

I wouldn't force the French either. Why can't she do drama for one of her highers if she loves it? My DS did the IB - it is hard work and all consuming; with service, activity and (was it culture - can't remember now and was only a year ago) there will not be much time for additional activities such as drama.

Our DS did art as a higher which we thought was a mistake but he couldn't be dissuaded and it was all fine. He's off to uni next year (gap) and got his first choice. Don't underestimate the work involved and the fact that it is very hard to work flat out at something one doesn't enjoy, especially at 16/17/18.

Good luck.

MrsSchadenfreude Thu 12-Dec-13 23:12:49

She can certainly do drama for one of her highers, but I think she will have to choose between drama and art - she can't do both. And if she wants to go to art school (which some days she does!), then I think it might be worth her while doing art. I am also quite sure that there is more to IB drama than leaping about on stage (which seems to be what she thinks she will be doing!).

She "hates" everything at the moment, so there is no point in trying to reason with her right now. If she was going to do IB lower level French, she could do that next year (which will be two years early), which would get it out of the way and leave her time to concentrate on the other subjects. But I've no intention to force her to do something she doesn't enjoy. My worry is, what if she gives up French and then decides she "hates" Japanese or Spanish? She needs a language for IB!

Summerends - I have been having a look through her old French text books from her old school, where she was writing essays in French, and her grammar doesn't look too bad to me. Yes, she is missing off the agreement from the ends of verbs sometimes, but there is certainly no confusion of the tenses, which is what her teacher says she does if she writes in French now.

NearTheWindmill Thu 12-Dec-13 23:46:12

Is the IB the right choice for her with all thjese questions? Might she be better off doing 4 A'Levels, dropping French after AS if necessary doing art, hist and english and carrying on with drama via a youth theatre group.

The IB is demanding and broad and DS's old school is offering A'Levels again because it's what people and uni's want. It was good for DS - he was at a school where 42 points was considered reasonable and not fab but the jury in the UK is probably out on whether it provides optimum entry possibilities for RG uni's.

DS got mostly A*s at GCSE and it was pressured. DD is forecast 5 A*s and 5A's and tbf we wpouldn't consider putting her under that level of pressure.

Good luck - let her decide the flow within reason and give her the support and freedom to follow her flow in equal measure. Try to go ith what dd and her teachers think.

MrsSchadenfreude Fri 13-Dec-13 00:01:48

She is not doing GCSEs, as she has been in the IB system for the last 4 years and we felt that at 15 it was too late for her to go back to the UK system, particularly given how early her friends seemed to have to choose their GCSE options. The IB seemed a good fit for her as she is a good all-rounder. I guess if she loathes it, she can do Advanced Placement, but that won't be a walk in the park (as she thinks it will be) either.

I do have a lot of sympathy for her - I was made to do an A level I didn't want to do, had no aptitude for, and failed. But I don't want her to switch to Spanish and say, six months down the line, oh I wish I had stuck with the French! I just want to help her make the right choices for her.

summerends Fri 13-Dec-13 01:39:30

MrsSchaden, I am reminded of a very bright French friend (he did l'ENA) who spent a few months in an English school at your DD's age and came last in French (and it was n't because his English was poor). I wonder if your DD's French teacher is actually confusing her, making her doubt what she does know (which appears in written as well as spoken to be at a far higher level than her English peers) rather than helping her be more precise with endings etc. That might be a good enough reason for her to stop French if the teaching style is not right for her.
Why does n't she try a new language now and then if she hates it by the end of this school year change back to standard level French from the start of year 12?

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