Since IB results were published on Monday, many students and teachers around the world have been scratching their heads trying to figure out how their scores were calculated. Some of these students and teachers have accused the IB of a lack of transparency and have cried ‘unfair’ in response to the grades awarded. Some of the concerns are justified; some are not. As I like to think of myself as someone who understands how numbers are generated and what they mean, here is my understanding and explanation of why scores look the way they do this year.

Firstly, to avoid…

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As schools around the world move to a distance learning model due to the outbreak of Covid-19, we, as educators, are about to come face-to-face with many of the ideas that educational consultants have been throwing around for the past two decades. What once seemed interesting experiments will now become required practice and I think the present circumstances will result in some powerful epiphanies for many of us working in education.

I’ve experienced distance learning for short periods of time in the past as a school administrator in Istanbul during heavy snowfalls, but these were local disruptions and clearly temporary…

Students have a surprising amount of time every year when they get to choose what to do (the grey segment)

I don’t know whether or not Malcolm Gladwell’s claim that it takes 10’000 hours to become competent or an expert in a particular field is still valid. In fact, I haven’t even read Outliers although I seem to have had various sections quoted at me in different professional development sessions over the years. However, it is a nice figure to play around with when you consider the limitations that teachers face trying to help students develop disciplinary understanding and skills in school settings.

Let’s allow the numbers to speak for themselves here. …

Sorry Boris, Nigel, Donald and friends. A new English-speaking educated elite is on the rise.

Image from Bill Tammeus

For me, watching from a distance, the Trump administration’s desperate, futile defense of whiteness, nativism and masculinity over the past three years has always had at least a hint of bewildered amusement about it. It has allowed us Brits to nourish one of our favorite stereotypes — the rude, aggressive, uncultured American — and enjoy the show while we wait for normality to resume at the next election.

Or at least it was fairly enjoyable until that same ugly desperation migrated back over the Atlantic…

Most of the things I’ve done or had to do over the past eight years as a Vice Principal and Principal in a private school have involved me finding ways to keep things in ‘balance’. At the risk of sounding like Yoda, I have needed to bring balance to the forces of academics and activities, structure and flexibility, community building and personalization, knowledge acquisition and skills development, discipline and freedom, and many other ideas and concepts that constantly pull us in opposing directions in schools on a daily basis.

There are, however, a few things that I think I’ve figured…

Maybe I’ve ended up in an echo chamber following various proponents of progressive education on twitter. I feel as though I’m constantly being encouraged to admire the incredible (yes, there’s always hyberbole) engagement of these middle school children because they got to choose which science project to work on, or the wonderful opportunity that these elementary children got when they shared their podcast on whatever with somebody from outside the school environment, or the fantastic learning that took place when the arts and humanities teachers got together to plan an interdisciplinary unit to solve a real-world problem.

I know that…

There are 132 different authors represented on my bookshelves this morning. 107 of them were or are white, Euro-American males. A humble reflection on voice, choice and book buying.

Image from TripAdvisor — Restaurant in Aberdeen

I like to count things. In fact, one of my colleagues at school once referred to me as the organisation’s ‘bean counter’. He was probably right and was also probably making fun of me (he was an English teacher after all, living in his world of vague and arbitrary words). Still, I like to count things and I believe the quantity of the things I count means something.

By way of…

A narrow definition of ‘meeting the needs of each child’ may lead you down a slippery slope.


Differentiation in classrooms, and its more radical relative, ‘self-paced learning’ have been around for many years, presumably ever since the first teacher realised that not all students complete the same work at the same speed. The factory model of educational institutions producing identically educated products has been bashed to pieces more recently, and there is a powerful movement towards personalising learning for all individuals. Personalising learning can mean anything to anybody, but it is at its best when it is referring to relevance

I have always been attracted to the delightful exhortation to ‘measure what you value rather than value what you can easily measure’. It seems to get to the heart of the ongoing battle between values, missions, visions and progressive ideas on the one hand, and standardisation, data-driven decisions and test results on the other. It sarcastically hints at the laziness and naivety of those who cling to the traditional numbers as the only evidence of student learning, and it challenges us to find ways to assess what is actually important.

With this in mind, seven years ago we created what…

I’m so fed up with being balanced. I’m sick and tired of getting excited about a new initiative or idea in education only to have to compromise in all kinds of ways when we try to implement it, watering everything down so much that the new state of affairs is hardly distinguishable from the original, unacceptable scenario. …

Joe Lumsden

Secondary Principal at Stonehill International School, Bangalore. Interested in education, politics, and where the two meet.

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