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Schools Should Shift to the IB System, Leading Scientist Says

Professors are now bringing to light new findings in neuropsychology that say perhaps students shouldn’t be made to make such big decisions so early on in life. Throughout the nation, students are made to choose their GSCEs in Year 9 (at the age of 13 or 14)—this determines their career track for most of their adult lives because it limits what subjects they take and what major they work toward in University (and ultimately, what they end up doing afterward).

Professor Sarah Jayne Blakemore of the neuroscience department at University College London says that recent studies have shown that the part of the brain (the pre-frontal cortex) which is responsible for decision making, empathy and impulse-control hasn’t yet developed completely at the age of 13 or 14. Furthermore, she says that it is crucial to the children’s world survival skills that they learn a wide variety of subjects at this age, while the brain is still malleable. She says that between the age of 13 to 18, the brain goes through different changes in its structure before it matures in accordance with the individual’s environment and preferences.

At the Science Community Representing Education (SCORE) conference, Professor Blakemore gave a talk in which she was able to expound on what she feels would be a more effective alternative to the present public education system. She says that the present educational system puts too big a burden of responsibility on teenagers—she says that while teenagers may look adult or act adult, on a neurological level their brains are still closer to that of a six-year-old than they are to that of an 18 or 20-year-old.

She suggests that the education officials study the International Baccalaureate (IB) system which is being employed elsewhere in Europe as well as in some private schools within the nation. In the IB system, the curriculum consists of a diverse range of sciences, math and liberal arts subjects until the students turn 18. However, they are still able to determine their point of focus by selecting certain subjects to take advanced classes in. This allows the students to study what they’re interested in without necessarily making a set decision about their future or closing off any options which they might end up regretting in the future.

By the age of 17 or 18, Professor Blakemore says that the brain has reached a point of development that is enough to make responsible decisions which the students can stand by. The brain also undergoes marginal changes in structure afterwards so a decision you make at 17 or 18 will most probably still be something you can stand by later on in life. She also says that it is important for students who want to eventually become arts majors to take up science subjects until they turn 18, if only because of the many benefits the scientific method has when it comes to weighing one’s options. She believes that a shift to the IB system is for the best.


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