Thirty Years Ago

In December I thought I’d dig a little into some IBDP visual arts memories and look at the course as it was 30 years ago, when I was a young and eager art teacher (not so young now but still eager!).

I confess I have a slight tendency to hoard, and up in the loft there are many boxes of ‘old stuff’. Some of it dates from the 1980s – a period when computers were primitive by today’s standards and the Internet was embryonic. (It wasn’t until 1990 that Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web.)

So, of course, when I say files and folders I’m talking about real pieces of paper, sometimes dog-eared and dusty, not some virtual digital thing in a cloud or on a hard drive.

1988 Chief Examiner’s Report

I found the 1988 Subject Report – known then as the Chief Examiner’s Report – for the IBDP “Art/Design” course.

Although its 30 years old, there are recognizable elements.

For example:

  • The levels: Higher and ‘Subsidiary’ (which later transition into ‘Standard’);
  • Studio (now more or less the Exhibition) component;
  • Research Workbook (now more or less Visual Arts Journal);
  • Less familiar is (probably) the idea that the examiner is “encouraged to discuss the application of descriptors with the Art/Design teacher.”

In those days, examiners travelled to schools to interview students in their exhibition space. This continued for many years, only stopping in 2012 (two years after the memorable year of the Icelandic volcanic eruption –  Eyjafjallajökull – which grounded almost 100,000 flights, including mine from Rome).

Talking to both students and their art teacher was among the best professional development opportunities I had. I have fond memories of many great conversations and great exhibitions…in, for example, Nairobi, Beijing, Copenhagen, Dar-es-Salaam, London, Rome, Amsterdam etc etc.


Then there was the 70/30 divide for component weighting … now, of course, 20/40/40 …

The 1988 weightings seem quite complex and the criteria not completely clear – I remember puzzling over how students would show their “ability to evaluate own growth and development, 10%” in their practical work; perhaps that became clearer over the course of the interview.

“A Truly World-wide International Overview”

“It is the Chief Examiner and his Deputy who look at photographic and workbook evidence presented by each Assistant Examiner. It is only they who have a truly world-wide international overview…”

In May 1988 there were only 355 HL candidates, so a ‘truly world-wide’ overview was probably a relatively easy thing to achieve.

Last May – 30 years on – there were about 10,000 HL candidates, so that “international overview” for the Chief Examiner – and the senior visual arts examining team – a lot more of a challenge.

And where will be in 2048?

Reminds me of a Zager and Evans song … In The Year 2525