A new curriculum for IB Economics…. yikes !

Within the depths of the International Baccalaureate organisation in Wales, a new curriculum for Economics has been brewing. Since April 2008, a review committee has been meeting and now the new curriculum is in the final stages of review. The new guide is due to be published in the next few months. The following excerpt is from the September DP coordinators notes.

The new Economics guide will be available on the first Tuesday in November 2010, both on the OCC and as a publication copy. This guide is for first teaching in September 2011 and first examinations in May 2013. Teacher support material (TSM) and specimen papers will be available on the first Tuesday in February 2011. Compiled by senior examiners, the TSM (internal assessment) includes guidance, student samples with examiner comments and marks, and frequently asked questions; the specimen papers (external assessment) include SL/HL Paper 1, SL/HL Paper 2, and HL Paper 3 with the markschemes.

So what does this mean for teachers?

When the new curriculum is introduced, IB schools will have to adopt it ahead of the first examinations in May 2013. This means that teachers will be adapting current teaching plans to begin with the new cohort of students who will begin in August 2011. There are some significant changes in the draft syllabus, which is available in the second report on the Online Curriculum Centre. The biggest changes from my reading of the review reports is

  • A shift to include a quantitative approach to economics for Higher Level students. This will lead to all students completing a different format of examinations.
  • Paper One will become contain two separate parts: Section A will focus on Micro Economics and Section B which focus on Macroeconomics.
  • Paper Two will change to a data response format with a similar Section A and Section B format to Paper one. Section A
  • will be focused on International Trade and Section B focused on Development Economics.
  • Paper Three will be a “Quantitative Methods” paper and will be completed by higher level students, this will assess material covered in the Micro, Macro and International Trade sections of the syllabus. Quantitative methods implies that data, models and calculations will be used to deepen the students understanding of key concepts. Elasticity calculations will return to assessments along with many other examples. I will discuss these changes and implications a bit later.

I find this to be a significant, but essential shift from the current format. I feel that the current format of the assessment allowed students too much freedom to pick and choose topics which they would focus on. With a clear Section A and Section B structure, it will be impossible for students to avoid topics. The biggest impact will be in the topic of Development, in which some students “tuned out” at the end of the course. Their learning in this topic will be clearly assessed in the resources based questions in Paper Two.

Any other significant changes from the old syllabus?

The final version of the syllabus will be published soon, but other than the above changes there are some structural differences. The Internal Assessment portfolio remains largely the same, but drops from four commentaries to three. The Section 1: Introduction to Economics section will be combined back into the four other sections which remain largely the same; Micro Economics, Macro Economics, International Trade and Development Economics.

It seems that the syllabus itself will be written in a similar format to the recently updated Business Management guide. Therefore we can expect to see the use of learning outcomes which will provide greater guidance on the depth of teaching required. I think that this is a good step away from the static bullet points used in the current guide. The only way to previously gauge the level of understanding required of exchange rates for instance, was to read past exams and rely on the available textbooks. This should provide new IB teachers more guidance as they begin teaching Economics.


As the new syllabus is still in the draft format, these comments are purely my professional opinion.

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