“Do nothing that is of no use.”

Miyamoto Musashi (master swordsman, 1584 – 1645)

By User Alkivar on en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This will be one of those posts that gets me into some hot water with people in the upper-echelons of the IB tower, but here goes: how much of the HL economics syllabus could one strategically NOT TEACH and still have a goodly chance of enabling students to achieve a grade 7?

My answer, having looked at the recent past papers and the probabilities, is, “Quite a lot!”

Without resorting to a tiresome parade of statistics, let us agree on a few points that teachers have made during the course of the previous HL syllabus that ran from 2005 to 2012:

1. Theory of the firm is avoidable to almost 100%

2. Development is avoidable to at least 90%

These two sections comprised – in terms of teaching time – circa one third of the syllabus! Having a quick look at a previous IB textbook, it is reasonably clear that one might, as a teacher, have simply decided to cut short the year and do away with both sections for HL students and focus on finishing early and revising the remaining 70%. Have a look at past papers. You tell me; if you had simply avoided ToF and development, how many of your grade 7 students over these 8 years would still have been 7’s? Most I would think. How would cutting out this third in favour of increasing the revision period have affected your grade average? Positively I would guess.

The new syllabus (first examined in 2013) was ostensibly an attempt to do away with this form of strategic practice and most experienced teacher applauded this! However, having now the benefit of three past papers, do the math. What do you glean?

Simply put, it is still quite possible to avoid ToF and, to a lesser extent than previously, development. Paper one addresses micro and macro and the micro questions seem to offer a choice between ToF and market failure/government intervention or such. Paper two deals with trade and development – thus, it should be impossible to strategically avoid development. (Yet, one hastens to add that a solid grip on macro and trade would still enable students to score well in the development section.) In paper 3 we meet the all-new calculation questions where students choose two out of three questions. There is a pattern of having one question based on linear functions; one on macro; and one on ToF.

In summary: it is seemingly possible to avoid ToF 100% and still manage to get a grade 7 in HL.

Does anybody think it might be time to bring back a multiple choice paper than canvasses the entire syllabus and forces students to learn a broad section of economics?