Rumoring Scotch

The other day we were teasing a friend and colleague who teaches at Melbourne’s Scotch College, and we got seriously puzzled. We have a question.

Scotch is arguably the strongest and most prestigious school in Melbourne, now and always. Its alumni include a number of Australia’s greats, including Sir John Monash, Sir Ninian Stephen, Professor E R Love and Batfucker Smith. But here’s the question:

Why does Scotch College not offer the International Baccalaureate?

It is weird. Scotch has enough money for seven polo fields, and Lexus rowboats, and Gucci footballs. Whatever. The place is dripping with status and wealth and privilege. Moreover, and almost uniquely, the school has academic standards and, specifically, it employs some strong mathematics staff, who know mathematics and can teach it. So, why, when the school has an easily available option, does Scotch force their students into the fifth rate swill of VCE? Why not sell a couple of boats and start IB?

We really don’t get it.


It’s been a long, long time. Alas, we’ve been kept way too busy by the Evil Mathologer, as well as some edu-idiots, who shall remain nameless but not unknown. Anyway, with luck normal transmission has now resumed. There’s a big, big backlog of mathematical crap to get through.

To begin, there’s a shocking news story that has just appeared, about schools posting “wrong Year 12 test scores” and being ordered to remove them by the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre. Naughty, naughty schools!


The report tells of how two Victorian private schools had conflated Victoria’s VCE subject scores and International Baccalaureate subject scores. The schools had equated the locally lesser known IB scores of 6 or 7 to the more familiar VCE ATAR of 40+, to then arrive at a combined percentage of such scores. Reportedly, this raised the percentage of “40+” student scores at the one school from around 10% for VCE alone to around 25% for combined VCE-IB, with a comparable raise for the other school. More generally, it was reported that about a third of IB students score a 6 or 7, whereas only about one in eleven VCE scores are 40+.

On the face of it, it seems likely that the local IB organisation that had suggested Victorian schools use the 6+ = 40+ equation got it wrong. That organisation is supposedly reviewing the comparison and the two schools have removed the combined percentages from their websites.

There are, however, a few pertinent observations to be made:

None of the sense or substance of the above is hinted at in the schools-bad/VTAC-good news report.

Of course the underlying issue is tricky. Though the IBO tries very hard to compare IB scores, it is obviously very difficult to compare IB apples to VCE oranges. We have no idea whether or how one could create a fair and useful comparison. We do know, however, that accepting VTAC’s cocky sanctimony as the last word on this subject, or any subject, would be foolish.