CAS: Creativity, Action, Service. 50 hours of each in order to get the IB Diploma. CAS seems like the formula for the ideal well-rounded student, as it forces juniors and seniors to become the epitome of what it means to be well balanced. Not only must they wade through hours of schoolwork, but they also have to be athletic, creative, and caring. By the time they graduate at the end of senior year, IB students will have struggled through difficult academic courses, learned to manage their time, and honed their many talents.
However, oftentimes, CAS forces students to participate in activities that are meaningless to them outside of the valuable CAS hours they offer. Because of this sentiment, students often put minimal effort into their extra-curriculars. The old adage in IB seems to be “I’m only here for the CAS hours”.
I recently joined a service group and the first thing I was asked was “do you need CAS hours?” At first, I was mildly offended – yes, I was there because I needed CAS hours, but I could have been there because I wanted to make a difference. I could have been there because I really cared. How did she know I wasn’t joining out of the goodness of my heart? She had only expected me to join just because of CAS. This exchange in itself is distressing- people should participate in activities that they genuinely enjoy, not,as the norm is, because they just want CAS hours.
When people only join teams, clubs, or groups for CAS, the gratifying experiences for those who participate for genuine enjoyment are diminished. When everyone around you only puts in half the effort, it can be seriously disheartening. And when people say, “I’m only doing this because I need CAS hours”, it weakens the objective of community service, which,at its most basic level, is to care.
Furthermore, CAS takes time away from those students who may be exceptionally skilled at one specific thing. Students who are especially talented in music or sports, those who practice their skill many hours a day, find it difficult to fit not only Diploma subjects but also CAS hours into their schedules. In trying to make us well rounded, CAS minimizes time we could be using to develop true competence in one area.
The CAS requirements are 50 hours each of community, action, and service. Maybe it is a good thing to force people to try new things, and maybe CAS really does benefit students in the long run. However, it should be noted that the need for CAS hours can end up taking away from the enjoyment of extracurricular activities and could also prevent us from developing genuine skill. Should CAS obligations really consume the spirit of creativity, action, and service by turning them into nothing more than hours to be logged?
This article originally appeared in the February 2015 issue of UNIT-E. It was written by Riena Harker, a student at the International School of Beijing.
UNIT-E was founded in the spring of 2010 with the aim of establishing a non-profit, student-run magazine for international students in Beijing. Staffed by current students from a range of international schools, the magazine provides an amalgam of cultural tidbits, fragments of Beijing student life, and a broad spectrum of unique perspectives from a diverse group of young adults.