Geneva, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – Heads of International Baccalaureate (IB) schools around the world have been receiving a letter of explanation from Jeffrey Beard, Geneva-based director-general of the IB Organization, about recent media coverage of an incident in the US in early August (see GenevaLunch, 23 September, “Int. Baccalaureate boss in hot water over speech“).

Nicholas Tate, head of the International School of Geneva (ISG), which is one of the oldest and largest IB schools in the world, is quoted in the letter, which GenevaLunch has obtained, offering his support to Beard.

Beard was accused of not citing sources for material not his own, the day after giving a speech at the Chautauqua Institute in New York.

References to his speech and the speech itself were removed from the institute’s web site, and while Beard says that he offered an apology to Chautauqua, which was accepted, the TES cites a harsh statement sent out by Chautauqua the day after the speech, “Mr Beard’s behavior in this matter is not characteristic of the work done here at Chautauqua and violates the expectations you should have for that work. We acknowledge to you our genuine disappointment in this event.”

The IB education programmes, and in particular the university entrance exam IB Diploma Programme, are very strict with students about plagiarism and honesty in work, and the TES (Times Education Supplement, UK), one of the most popular education publications for people in international education, raised the question last week whether Beard’s speech smacked of plagiarism.

The article pointed out that since the speech cannot be publicly consulted, there is no clear answer.

Beard’s letter to school directors has attempted to control the damage, noting that “I wanted to write to you directly to give you the facts and circumstances around this incident as it has the potential to be sensationalized.”

The Chautauqua Institute, contacted by GenevaLunch, says the recorded speech is in its archives and it has no plans to release it. This is the first time it has had to face such a situation, said Michael Sullivan, its director of institutional programmes.


Conference speakers “draw on other writers and thinkers without citing every specific reference”

Beard, in his letter to school directors, says that he was “working off notecards” and that he began his speech by saying he “would be drawing from and synthesizing many ideas that I had heard from other people.”

ISG’s Tate, who is head of the IB education committee, writes in the letter sent to schools by Beard that “There was obviously no intention to deceive and no possible gain from doing so. He simply did what many speakers at conferences do which was to draw on other writers and thinkers without citing every specific reference. There are different standards and customs that apply to scholarly papers, examination answers and wide-ranging talks at conferences. It is just not sensible to apply the rules covering the first two situations to the third. It was regrettable not to have specifically cited Ken Robinson’s important insights into modern education, but an apology about this has been given and accepted.”

Beard’s letter to schools ends with a plea: “Clearly this is an unfortunate incident, and it is a matter of both deep personal and institutional regret that it has occurred. The matter has now received appropriate and sufficient consideration. You may hear or read further negative media coverage on this issue in the future. Whilst the IB communications department will continue to respond to this matter as appropriate, I nonetheless wanted to take this opportunity to clarify the issues with you directly.”

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