Whither the Prescribed Subjects? Next month’s exams are the end of an era

We are now one month out from the final IB exams of the session that began with the exams in 2010.  On 8 November, the final set of Paper 1s will be given, and after that, these subjects will be put to rest.  The peacemaking, peacekeeping material is easily integrated into most regional options and it can be used with 20th century wars as part of the effects – although the level of detail is probably impractical for many of us.  But what about Arab-Israeli and Communism in Crisis?

The Arab-Israeli crisis is complicated by the move of the Middle East from part of the Europe curriculum to joining Africa.   As teachers we can continue to use that information through the World History Topics, again using 20th century wars as the site for it.  However, this unit included a number of wars and so one of these could be used in this capacity.  Another option is to use it as part of Topic 8 – independence movements – by examining the shift from Palestinian mandate to creation of the State of Israel.  Finally, the Suez Crisis specifically can be used as part of the Cold War if you cover Topic 12.

On a personal level I am so sad to see Communism in crisis go as the comparison of how these two authoritarian states coped with change is instructive and riveting to the students.  Integration of the Soviet Union/Eastern Europe component is fairly easy if you teach the aforementioned topic 12, but integrating Deng Xiaoping into the Americas or Europe is a bit more difficult.  But, it can be used as part of Topic 10 – Authoritarian states, as can the examination of the Gorbachev era.  And both of these can be used in the ‘leaders’ section of the Cold War.

We are so fortunate to have the sources from the old exams to give our students as practice for source analysis – something that is important to reinforce even if it is within the context of subjects where source analysis is not needed.

Now that we have mastered our knowledge of these subjects we are compelled to move on – which is probably a good thing.  The new options are exciting: Military Leaders, Conquest and its impact, the Move to global war, Rights and Protest, and Conflict and Intervention.  At this point most teachers are leaning towards the Move to Global War due to comfort with the material and availability of sources, but if the past session is any indicator, there will be a much better spread fairly soon.  Many teachers are embracing Rights and Protest already, and there are a number of teachers considering the other three as well.  Diversification of instruction means subject material as well, and it is so great to see IB teachers engaged in it, stretching themselves as they push their students to do so, too.

A quotation that relates to Conflict and Intervention:

I promised never to let the Rwandan Genocide die because I knew the Rwandans didn’t have much power internationally and certainly didn’t have the resources. I felt it was my duty having witnessed it, and having stayed to witness it, that I had to talk about it and keep it going – Romeo Dallaire

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