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Make Past Papers and Markschemes Freely Available – Smartib

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Make Past Papers and Markschemes Freely Available – Smartib

I, Alexander Zouev, on behalf of International Baccalaureate Diploma students worldwide and the smartib iOS/Android app, am petitioning the IBO to release ALL digital copies of past papers, markschemes and other essential IB documents to current IB Diploma candidates FREE of charge. We will even offer to host these files on our smartib app platform so that students can access them easily from their smartphone. Please consider the following arguments:

0. The Technology is There

We have a smartphone app that can easily host and organise the pdf documents that IB students will need to get through their diploma program.  Now, they can have past papers, markschemes and most importantly the syllabi and grading criterion all at their fingertips. We believe this will in turn make IB students follow the criterion more carefully and lead to better work.

I. Rich School, Poor School

It is no secret that wealthier private schools outperform smaller state-funded schools when it comes to IB results. Part of this is due to the fact that they attract better, more-experienced teachers – something that is difficult to correct as not every school can have top teachers. However, that being said, the private international schools are also capable of wielding their financial strength to equip students with the best academic resources. A £120 examination paper and markscheme pack from the IBO store may not seem like much to a private IB schools, however state sponsored educational establishments will struggle to get this kind of funding for what is essentially just a DVD1.  This leads to an un-level playing field as many IB students don’t get a chance to see what past papers look like simply because their school can’t afford it. If the IBO wishes to correct this market failure, they need to consider subsidizing resources for these schools or releasing the material for free.



II. Where There is a Will, There is a Way

At some point in an IB students two year academic journey, they will inevitably end up on Google typing in the words ‘IB past paper free download’. Not once, not twice, but too many times to count. A quick search will reveal that student forums are littered with desperate pupils looking for some way to avoid the cost of downloading the paper from the IBO store and find a free pdf floating around. Despite efforts to shut down countless websites that either offered the papers for free and tried to make some money on ad revenue, or in some cases actually sold the papers at a discount and profited on that, the IBO efforts have been futile in eliminating this black market for academic resources. Moreover, it speaks volumes that the IBO store was actually hacked last year in an attempt to gain access to all of the files. Clearly, students are spending too much time trying to find these resources online. The opportunity cost of wasting time on searching the web for free papers is less time spent on actual productive revision and learning.

III. Learn a Lesson from the Rest

Students studying for their A Levels and GCSEs have an easy and hassle-free way to find past papers and other course materials at no financial cost, and legally. There is no reason as to why the IB Diploma should be any different.

IV. A Drop in the Ocean

“The International Baccalaureate® (IB) is a non-profit educational foundation, motivated by its mission, focused on the student.” 2

A closer look at the 2012 Financial Review shows that 2% of the income comes from ‘IB Publications’ and 1% from ‘Other’3 [presumably this includes digital past papers and markschemes]. Past papers are exactly that – past examination papers. There is no additional cost to produce these as they have already been made for examinations. Why on earth then charge £100 for a downloadable Questionbank is a question that students want answered.




V. Your Very Own Philosophy

Goal 3 of the 2010 International Baccalaureate Strategic Plan states:

“Develop a more diverse, inclusive IB community by enabling access to an IB education regardless of personal circumstances

By working with communities, countries and regions where there is a clear and credible commitment to educational change, the IB can achieve a more socioeconomically, geographically, culturally and linguistically varied community. As a truly international organization, it will provide a range of perspectives and culturally diverse input into the development of its programmes. Access is fundamental to achieving our mission. We aim to break down barriers and create and environment such that more students are able to access and benefit from an IB education regardless of personal circumstances.” 4

To break these “barriers to education”, the IBO should reconsider charging £70 for a ‘collection of 50 new extended essays submitted by IB Diploma’ – basically a DVD that costs 10 cents to make and uses former students work5


4 5

VI. Anticipated Rebuttal: Copyright

A closer look into the IBO copyright policy, namely Section II, part 1, paragraph (c) states:

“IB World Schools and IB candidate schools may:

c) make copies from a purchased CD-Rom of the published past examination papers and markschemes for teaching purposes in their own school in accordance with the terms of the user licence. This permission does not extend to any third party copyright material (that is, material for which the IB Organization does not hold the copyright), which is contained in an examination paper” 6

It is therefore expected that the obvious answer as to why the papers and markschemes have not been made available for free is due to a conflict with the third party copyright. This, however, raises more questions than answers. The issues raised in this petition are not new – certainly they existed over a decade ago. Why, then, have these copyright issues not been addressed in the elapsed time? Moreover, who sets the prices for materials such as the Questionbanks and the Extended Essay DVD? Why are these resources so expensive?

Source: 6

In my 10 year involvement with the IB Diploma program, both as a student and a tutor, the issue of access to past papers and markschemes has been a reoccurring theme every year. This is a problem that is very real, and it has a very simple solution. It is my hope that the arguments presented in this petition, along with the signatures of IB candidates, persuades the IBO to change their policy on how they distribute electronic academic resources.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Yours Sincerely,
Alexander Zouev,

smartib app team

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