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3 Sciences: Blessing or a Curse?

The IB Program was founded on the premise that each student would have to find their own way through their studies, to teach students to think for themselves without following a specific doctrine set out by those who hold power over them. Why then, are 9th graders mandated to take all three sciences? This is a question that 9th graders have been asking throughout the past 2 months, and the question that I hope to answer in this article.

Firstly, let's go over the positives of taking every science, so as to better understand why the decision was made. First off, the exposure. Many people in 9th grade are still not fully aware of the large variety of choices that they have laid out before them, and exposing them to all 3 sciences at the same time, vs only doing 1 per unit before, would help people better understand their limitations in each science, and decide what sciences they want to take forward. Secondly, the connection between each science. When performing any science, it is almost impossible not to recognise the other sciences as instrumental to some key concepts, such as kinetic molecular theory, which only completely makes sense when we factor in physics, or when studying immunology, the different proteins on each individual cell can only be understood by bringing in chemical structures and formulas. Furthermore it allows one to get properly familiar with what upper MYP sciences are like as opposed to lower MYP sciences.

Let's talk about the negatives now. Firstly, most students simply don't have enough time. 9th graders already have to do math, language, Eport, humanities, english and other extracurriculars. Most students don’t have the commitment to do all 3 sciences. Secondly, some students aren’t good enough at specific sciences. Each science differs drastically from each other, even if there are some similarities, they each focus on different things, and it's unfair to ask students to learn all of them. Finally, and what is the main reason that 9th graders do not like having to take all 3 sciences, the E-Assessment. For those who don’t know, the E-Assessment is the most important exam that 10th graders take, that they spend most of 9th and 10th working their way up to. It is at the end of the year, and it has consequences for the DP and their college applications. In the E-Assessment, while students usually take two science e-assessments, only one science is tallied up in their final score (the higher score), and that is then totalled up. Not to say the other science grade is negligible, however if the student doesn’t choose to major in sciences or something STEM related, taking three sciences doesn’t prove necessary as well as when only one is counted in their entire MYP. Why are 9th graders expected to learn all 3 of the sciences for an entire year, if only one of them is going to have a major impact?

When speaking to Mr. Aditya, he said that there were 2 main reasons behind mandating all 3 sciences. The first reason is directly related to the question that we have just posed. Mr. Aditya knows that only the highest scoring science will be counted when applying for college, and he said that under all of your E-Assessment grades there will be the sciences that didn’t score as high. Even if you get 4 in both of them, colleges will be more interested in you as you have taken on the extra challenge of learning all 3 sciences. Furthermore Mr Aditya said–”It's a good way to understand the subject for the sake of learning. If you drop it in 9th grade you won't be able to take it beyond ever. 9th and 10th are foundational years for understanding the world, and the information that you're being given to you can't assimilate the knowledge as well.” 

Which proves a valid point that at 14, how are you supposed to be certain your career path and interests won't change, thus by dropping one science that you may end up needing if your interests/path change, you are completely blocked away from that. Mr Aditya also went on to say-- "It also allows you to learn a science for the sake of learning the science, rather than focusing on grades, you can simply have fun with the subject.” This is an integral thing, especially as a student gets old in the MYP it’s important to zoom out and understand that grades are not the most important thing. Mr Aditya further said that another reason was giving students more exposure to new fields of study. 

Mr Aditya also related this to his own experiences, stating-- “When I was in school, I felt math wasn’t important, and so I dropped math in the 10th. However when I went to 12th, I studied statistics, however I had to study math for 3 years to do finance, which proved challenging since I had dropped math.. I had to do years of catching up.”  Thus by having a baseline knowledge of all sciences up to 10th, you keep your options open for the future, rather than having them be closed once you drop a subject, and it also accounts in the fact that so young you are likely to want to change your mind multiple times, before coming to a decision.

So then the question is, why does 9th grade clamor for the ability to drop one of these sciences? In previous years, after 1 unit in each science, you were able to choose which science you wished to drop, and then move on from there. This also created what were known as X blocks or study blocks. During these blocks, the students were allowed to have a block's worth of time to work on assignments or summatives. This is the main thing that students seem to miss. So, with all of this information, it seems impossible to come to a clear answer, so I ask you, the reader, what do you think?

 Do you think that mandating all 3 sciences is a blessing in disguise, giving us many more opportunities for the future? Or do you think that the time spent studying and revising for the extra subject is time better spent on other things? Or perhaps you think both, and wish for a mixture of the two extremes? I leave this in your hands.

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