'Global issue' is the topic, theme or problem that is explored throughout the Individual Oral (IO). In your IO, you will explore how a global issue is presented in a literary work, a non-literary work and extracts from each. But what, exactly, is a global issue? A global issue has three qualities:
- relevant to local contexts
Examples of good global issues
How social inequality can lead to social strife
How self-hatred can be the result of discrimination
How unrealistic definitions of beauty can lead to low self-esteem
How globalisation has created a struggle for identity
How disinformation sows social unrest
How to formulate a global issue
Notice how the examples all follow a kind of formula. They are big noun phrases that start with 'how' and identify a causal relationship. They articulate both the cause and effect of a problem. They also have connections to the seven concepts (identity, transformation, representation, culture, communication, creativity and perspective) and they are taken from one of the 5 'fields of inquiry'.
5 Fields of inquiry
Culture, identity and community
Beliefs, values and education
Politics, power and justice
Art, creativity and the imagination
Science, technology and the natural world
It helps to think of global issues as themes that appear somewhere on a ladder of abstraction. A 'ladder of abstraction' is a representation of how real-life people and situations connect to abstract ideas. Below is an example of a ladder of abstraction that includes racism. Notice how the words in the list below go from the concrete and specific to the abstract and general. What global issue can you realistically explore in a 10-minute oral? The sweet spot is somewhere in the middle, where racism leads to social strife and protest.
Ladder of abstraction
CONCRETE > Michael Brown > Ferguson > racial profiling > #blacklivesmatter protests > racial profiling > racism > discrimination > injustice > ABSTRACT
While not required by the IB, you may find it useful to organise units of inquiry by global issue. Even though it is a term that is most relevant to the IO, it provides a useful tool for tackling every non-literary and literary work. Essentially, students are asked to identify universal problems and their effects on humanity after reading each text. What's more, good textual analysis on any form of assessment will explore a causal relationship between authorial intent, authorial choices and reader response. These choices are often made to comment on real-world problems (or global issues).
Example course outline by global issue
- How unattainable social constructs of beauty lead to self-hatred (as explored in The Bluest Eye and The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty).
- How xenophobia and discrimination have detrimental effects on people's sense of identity self-worth (as explored in The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Homecoming King).
- How social pressures lead to mental health issues (as explored in Inside and Sylvia Plath's poetry).
- How young individuals learn to stick up for themselves in the face of war and fascism (as explored in Persepolis and Barefoot Gen).