March 9, 2023
At the recent OESIS conference in Las Vegas, one of the speakers, when discussing ChatGPT, expressed the opinion that “we will see a very different response in Europe to ChatGPT because the culture of academic citation and anti-plagiarism is nothing like it is here in the U.S.” It was against this backdrop that we received the surprise announcement from the International Baccalaureate (IB) that they would be allowing students to cite ChatGPT in essays and downgrade essay writing as a skill.
Head of assessment at the IB, Matt Glanville, was quoted in the Guardian as saying that essay writing “will have much less prominence in the future….When AI can essentially write an essay at the touch of a button, we need our pupils to master different skills, such as understanding if the essay is any good or if it has missed context, has used biased data or if it is lacking in creativity. These will be far more important skills than writing an essay, so the assessment tasks we set will need to reflect this.”
In addition to rethinking skills based on the emergence of AI tools such as ChatGPT, the new head of the IB, Olli-Pekka Heinonen, announced that content and pedagogy will also be reevaluated and modified because: “everyday technology now provides us with tools that can process information in a way that is faster, better, and perhaps more reliable than humans…New technology is a challenge to education on two fronts. Firstly, it is a challenge to how we teach. Secondly, it is a challenge to what we teach. The IB cannot afford to ignore either of these—the change in society is accelerating and not slowing—and the IB needs to be at its cutting edge.”
For many in the U.S. reacting to these statements from the IB, it was like being told that some of what had been seen yesterday as essential skills were now trivial and that we should refocus our efforts on something entirely different. It felt like a true harbinger of the radical transformation that was heralded by its new leader in 2022 to an activist curriculum and pedagogy capable of helping the young people of the world sort out humanity’s problems, specifically “the climate emergency” and global “selfishness, greed and apathy,”…