When Northbridge International School Cambodia students are asked about the greatest challenge, and most rewarding experience, during their years in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP), it's not uncommon that the Extended Essay is mentioned in both categories.
The Extended Essay (EE) is the culminating project of the DP and represents the pinnacle of the students’ academic journey through the IB. The EE is a written research paper of 4,000 words in length that provides the students the opportunity to conduct extensive independent research on a topic related to one of their DP classes.
From conception, to refinement, to researching, writing and consolidating, the EE takes many months. To guide the student along this path an EE advisor is assigned. This is typically someone on staff who is knowledgeable in both the subject area and planning and completing academic reports.
While the supervisor is always available to council the student, they are only required to formally meet with each student three times during the months-long process. This is in keeping with the IB’s vision that this be the students “first paper for college” as well as their “last paper in high school.”
A key skill the students master during the process is how to develop a strong research question; one that will lead to analytical writing rather than narrative prose. There must also be resources available in Cambodia that will allow the question to be fully addressed within the word limit.
Each year when the Grade 12 students turn in their final reports, an Extended Essay Exhibition is held to celebrate the accomplishment and give the Grade 11 students a better idea of what strategies work best. Each year the Grade 12s pass down the same information to the Grade 11s: work on your time management.
The consistency of this message, year after year, speaks to the perseverance and dedication necessary to manage the requirements of this task effectively. For many students this is the first time they are independently following their curiosity and building personal knowledge for themselves and by themselves.
The intense nature of the EE means students are encouraged to center the project around an area of high interest. Whether analyzing poems and lyrics as a Language EE or exploring the impact of climate change on the ancient Angkor way of life in History, the freedom to create their own research project aligns perfectly with the IB and Northbridge's goal of creating lifelong learners.
Some students have also utilized their EEs during the college admissions process as evidence of their academic skill and intent. While the EE challenges all students to stretch themselves as scholars and individuals, it also provides them with the skills and attributes they will call upon almost daily during their university experience.
As one student reflected, “I loved doing my EE. I learned so much about a topic I love and developed a whole host of skills that I know are going to help me in the future. At the same time I’m also very glad it’s over.” Writing the EE really is an academic experience that rewards and challenges in equal measures and is something all DP students will never forget.