The English segment of the IB is one of the jewels in its hexagonal crown.
Whether taken at Higher Level or Standard Level, the English IB course will involve girls following a wide range of literary experiences. For example, one of the distinguishing features of this part of the IB, compared to A Level, is the emphasis on works in translation. We have the opportunity to explore fiction from around the world, and it is these global perspectives which enrich discussion and illuminate lessons. Girls may study a Japanese novel, ‘Kitchen’ by Banana Yoshimoto or Ibsen’s great play ‘A Doll’s House’. It may be Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’ where the protagonist turns into some sort of insect in the first sentence or perhaps that powerfully symbolic work by Zola, ‘Therese Raquin’ where the scar on the neck becomes a signifier of guilt.
The other exciting feature of the IB is the range of forms of assessment. While A Levels focus entirely on written essays as the means of assessment, in the IB girls have the opportunity to give formal presentations (known as the Individual Oral Presentation) on an aspect of a text which interests them. Later in the course, they discuss a play and poems they have studied in a one-to-one situation with their teacher, and again, this contributes to their final score as the Individual Oral Commentary.
There is a coursework element too and exams come at the end of the course; one on poetry as a genre and one based on an unseen. Practising for these pieces of assessment forms a thread that runs through the course, allowing us to explore the art and pleasure of poetry.
The English IB course is exhilarating and fast-paced, which is guaranteed to enrich our students’ literary knowledge, extend their horizons and sharpen their critical intellect.
Outside of lessons, we have a wide range of extra-curricular activities to enrich our students’ literary intelligence. ‘Lit Lunches’ run every Friday where girls can read and discuss writers who they might not otherwise encounter. It’s totally eclectic and we might move from Boccaccio to Victorian sensation novels to ‘The Lie Tree’, which recently won the Costa Prize. (Warning: cake is eaten on these occasions.) There are also plenty of theatre trips to the Tobacco Factory and the Bristol Old Vic, public speaking competitions, debates with local schools and the ESU Mace competition.