OK – so what do you want your art programme to look like?

Later this month I will be going to Cardiff to join a select group of people to discuss the current IBDP visual arts course – what’s wrong with it and what’s right with it.

There will be teacher representatives from all over the world, including those journeying from Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, North America, Poland and Germany.

The idea, of course, is not just to cast a critical eye over the current course; the real purpose is to start to think about the next version of the IBDP visual arts course – the one that will kick in when the current one has been laid to rest in five years time (around 2015).


One major aspect of the current course that I support is the fact that in almost all cases a student’s experience of a final examination is a discussion with an external visiting examiner.  The discussion may focus on the investigation workbooks (option B) or the studio work (option A) but either way, most candidates seem to enjoy and get a lot out of the experience.

Of course, it’s expensive to operate.

IBDP visual arts is probably the only pre-college/university school based art programme in the world to send examiners all over the world, twice a year, to interview students (examinations for schools in the northern hemisphere occur in March/April, and in October/November for southern hemisphere schools).

But it’s hugely popular – with teachers, examiners, parents and students. Its a great way to end the course, its generally an enjoyable (if inevitably a little nerve-wracking for the candidate) encounter, and – generally – it works!

(By the way, if you are wondering about the stone animals – they can be found climbing over the walls, escaping from the grounds of Cardiff Castle.)

  • Greg
    October 7, 2010

    Hi Andrew

    The interview with the external examiner is pivotal to the whole course. Last year I surveyed some of my own ex students, going back over a 10 year period, and they all felt that it was their most satisfying and valuable exam (including subsequent forms of assessment undertaken at university) .

    Whilst other exams are frequently focussed on short term retention of prescribed content, the IB interview is a chance to reflect on a unique body of acquired knowledge and experience. Rather than a summation or full stop , the IB exhibition/interview is a waypoint on each students lifelong learning continuum.

    It really is worth every penny that it costs the schools/IBO to operate – and supports the learner profile in the most tangible way possible.



  • Selwyn
    October 11, 2010

    I wholeheartedly agree with both of you – the key to the success of the IBDP Visual Arts course is the visiting examiner. Take that away and it becomes the same as any of the other numerous courses I have taught over the last thirty years. This format gives students the invaluable learning experience of being regarded as “real” artists and treats them, and their work, with the respect it usually deserves, and the exhibition is a huge motivational factor. The majority of my IBDP students have gone on to tertiary study in the arts, and this never occurred under previous courses I have taught. Of all the changes that might be made, DO NOT change this one!

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