The IB Diploma Programme (IBDP) is a challenging two-year pre-university curriculum, primarily aimed at students aged 16 – 19. It leads to a qualification (the IB Diploma) that is widely recognised by the world’s leading universities.
The IBDP was established in 1968 to provide an international education that would enable young people to better understand and manage the complexities of our world, and to provide them with the skills and attitudes to take action to improve it. Such an education was grounded in the more progressive educational thinking of the time but also in the belief that the world could be made better through an education that focused on concepts, ideas and issues that crossed disciplinary, cultural, national and geographical boundaries.
A distinguishing characteristic of the DP is a concern with the whole educational experience of each student. The curriculum framework (see figure 1), and the supporting structures and principles, are designed to ensure that each student is necessarily exposed to a broad and balanced curriculum.
The curriculum contains six subject groups together with the DP core: creativity, activity, service (CAS); the extended essay (EE); and theory of knowledge (TOK). This is illustrated by the Diploma Programme model.
Figure 1: The Diploma Programme Model
Candidates studying for the diploma select six subjects from the subject groups. Normally three subjects are studied at higher level (courses representing 240 teaching hours), and the remaining three subjects are studied at standard level (courses representing 150 teaching hours). All three parts of the core—extended essay, theory of knowledge and creativity, activity, service—are compulsory and are central to the philosophy of the Diploma Programme.
- The extended essay has a prescribed limit of 4,000 words. It offers the opportunity to investigate a topic of individual interest, and acquaints students with the independent research and writing skills expected at university.
- The interdisciplinary theory of knowledge course is designed to provide coherence by exploring the nature of knowledge across disciplines, encouraging an appreciation of other perspectives.
- Participation in the CAS programme encourages candidates to be involved in artistic or creative pursuits, sports, and community service work. The programme fosters students’ awareness and appreciation of life beyond the academic arena.
At the end of the two-year programme, candidates are assessed both internally and externally in ways that measure individual performance against stated curriculum and assessment objectives for each subject.
In nearly all subjects, some of the assessment is carried out internally by teachers who mark individual pieces of work produced as part of a course of study. Examples include oral exercises in language subjects, projects, student portfolios, reports, class presentations, practical laboratory work, mathematical investigations and artistic performances.
Some assessment tasks are conducted and overseen by teachers, but are then marked externally by examiners. Examples include written assignments or tasks for language subjects in groups 1 and 2, the essay for theory of knowledge and the extended essay.
Because of the greater degree of objectivity and reliability provided by the standard examination environment, externally marked examinations form the larger share of the assessment for most subjects.
The grading system is criterion-related (results are determined by performance against set standards, and not in relation to the performance of other students); validity, reliability and fairness are the watchwords of the Diploma Programme’s assessment strategy.
Source: IBO Handbook, 2017 and Diploma Programme: From principles into practice
Creativity, Activity, Service
CAS is a complement to the academic subjects and provides opportunities for self-determination, collaboration, accomplishment and enjoyment. CAS, lasting eighteen months, requires that students actively learn from the experience of doing real tasks beyond the classroom. Students can combine all three components or do activities related to each one of them separately. First year Diploma students normally organise an overseas trip sometime in March as part of their CAS requirement. Students are required to
- explore and extend ideas leading to an original or interpretive product or performance
- have a healthy lifestyle through physical exertion, and
- engage collaboratively and reciprocally with the community in response to a real need.
Theory of Knowledge
TOK encourages students to think about the nature of knowledge, to reflect on the progress of learning in all the subjects they study as part of their Diploma course, and to make connections across them. Students do so by critically examining different Ways of Knowing and how they are used in different Areas of Knowledge.
EE is a requirement for students to engage in independent research through an in-depth study of a question relating to one of the subjects they are studying. This is a first year university level essay that prepares the students for writing and researching an academic paper. Students undertake writing a 4,000 word essay of their choice; this gives them the opportunity to develop high level research and writing skills, and learn about the process of intellectual discovery and creativity while engaging in personal research.