The Diploma Program is a rigorous pre-university course of studies for highly motivated secondary school students, culminating in external examinations. It is a comprehensive two-year curriculum that generally allows students to fulfill requirements of national education systems. IB diploma holders gain admission to universities throughout the world, including those which are most selective.
The diploma model incorporates the best elements of several national systems, without being based on any one.
The grading system is criterion-referenced: each student's performance is measured against well-defined levels of achievement. Top grades reflect attainment of knowledge and skills relative to set standards, applied equally to all schools. Validity, reliability and fairness are the watchwords of the IB's international assessment strategy.
IB: Education for Life
The International Baccalaureate (IB) is a non-profit educational foundation with its headquarters in Switzerland; it was created in 1968. It provides four related programs to over 5,000 authorised schools in over 140 countries. Its flagship pre-university Diploma Program (over 3,100 schools); the Middle Years Program created in 1992 for students aged 11-16, (over 1,300 schools); and the Primary Years Program created in 1998 for children aged 3-11, (over 1,400 schools); and the relatively new (2009) Career-related Program (141 schools in 2017).
The IB is a leader in international education, providing teacher training workshops and information seminars, curriculum and assessment support, as well as research. It has, for its authorised schools, an online curriculum centre to offer to teachers throughout the world, electronic access to materials and discussion forums, setting the pace in the field of pre-university education.
The Diploma Program grew out of international schools' efforts to establish a common curriculum and university entry credentials for geographically mobile students. International educators were motivated by practical considerations but also by an idealistic vision, that a shared academic experience emphasising critical thinking and exposure to a variety of viewpoints would foster tolerance and inter-cultural understanding among young people. The IB has evolved from a service to the international community and now offers a full range of programs to a varied group of schools, including a large number of state schools, around the world.
The program offers three special features in addition to the traditional strengths of a liberal arts curriculum.
Theory of Knowledge (TOK)
TOK is an interdisciplinary requirement, intended to stimulate critical reflection on knowledge and experience gained inside and outside the classroom. The course challenges students to question the bases of knowledge, to be aware of subjective and ideological biases and to develop the ability to analyse evidence that is expressed in rational argument. It is a key element in encouraging them to appreciate other cultural perspectives. The course is unique to the IB, which recommends at least 100 hours of teaching time, spanning the program's two years.
Creativity, Action, Service (CAS)
The IB's goal is to educate the whole person and foster responsible, compassionate citizens. The CAS program encourages students to share their energy and special talents with others. Students may, for example, participate in theatre or musical productions, sports and community service activities. Students should, through these activities, develop greater awareness of themselves, concern for others, and the ability to work cooperatively with other people.
Extended Essay (EE) of 4,000 words
Each student has the opportunity to investigate a topic of special interest. The essay requirement acquaints diploma candidates with the kind of independent research and writing skills expected by universities. The IB recommends that a student devote a total of about 40 hours of private study and writing time to the essay, which may be written in one of 60 subjects, including many languages. The essay permits students to deepen their programs of study, for example, by selecting a topic arising from one of their Higher Level (HL) courses.
Classroom teachers and IB examiners work in partnership to ensure that students have ample opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned. Grades reflect attainment of knowledge and skills relative to set standards, applied equally to all schools. Top grades are not, for example, awarded to a certain percentage of students. Responsibility for all academic judgments about the quality of candidates' work rests with over 5,000 IB examiners worldwide, led by chief examiners with international authority in their fields. Approximately 150,000 students in over 2,600 schools were assessed by the IB in May 2017. Each year approximately 80% of candidates who attempt the diploma succeed in earning it worldwide. Examinations are offered in May for northern hemisphere schools and November for southern hemisphere schools.
Each examined subject is graded on a scale of 1 (minimum) to 7 (maximum). The award of the diploma requires students to meet defined standards and conditions including a minimum total of 24 points and a satisfactory completion of the EE, TOK and CAS. The maximum score of 45 includes three points for the combination of the EE and TOK grades.
IB diploma holders gain admission to selective universities throughout the world. These include well-known European and American institutions such as Cambridge, Princeton and Leiden universities, along with prestigious centres in Australia, India and the Asia/Pacific region.
The IB has set 6 subject groups surrounding the core as displayed in the IB Diploma Program Model.
Six Academic Subjects are studied concurrently. Diploma candidates must select one subject from each of the six disciplines, although a second subject may be substituted for The Arts. Three of these are taken at Higher Level (HL), while the others are Standard Level (SL); HL courses represent a minimum of 240 teaching hours, SL courses require 150 hours. Students are thus able to explore some subjects in depth and others more broadly, a deliberate compromise between the early specialisation of some national systems and the breadth found in others. The science-oriented student is challenged to learn a foreign language and the natural linguist becomes familiar with laboratory procedures. The subjects are continually reviewed and revised to meet contemporary needs.
The following list serves as a current guide only.
Studies in Language and Literature
Two Language A courses are available.
Literature – Literary texts by both native and foreign authors are studied by analysing literary techniques.
Language and Literature – Literary and non-literary texts are studied by analysing the constructed nature of meanings generated by language.
OFS offers language A classes in English, Japanese, Korean and Chinese (Mandarin). Students wishing to study other first languages should see the IB coordinator; a Standard Level "self taught" course is available for many languages. (Literature only)
The principal aim for these subjects is to enable students to use the language in a range of contexts and for many purposes; the courses focus on written and spoken communication. Second language learners with previous experience can study English B, French B, German B, Mandarin B or Spanish B. Beginners with little or no previous experience can study the language at the ab initio level. Ab initio French, German, Mandarin and Spanish are only available as Standard Level courses.
Individuals and Societies
This discipline consists of humanities and social science subjects. The available subjects are Business and Management, Economics, Geography, Global Politics, History and Information Technology in a Global Society. One additional course is available, at Standard Level only: Environmental Systems & Societies. Studying any one of these subjects provides for the development of a critical appreciation of:
In addition, each subject is designed to develop skills of analysis and evaluation of theories, concepts and arguments relating to the nature and activities of individuals and societies.
The subjects available in this group are Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science and Physics. One additional course available, at Standard Level only, is Environmental Systems and Societies. Practical laboratory skills are developed and collaborative learning is encouraged through an interdisciplinary group project. Students develop an awareness of moral and ethical issues and a sense of social responsibility is fostered by examining local and global issues.
All diploma candidates are required to complete a Mathematics course. Three options are available to cater for different levels of student interest. Each course aims to deepen a student's understanding of mathematics as a discipline and to promote confidence and facility in the use of mathematical language.
This disciplinary area includes Visual Arts, Dance, Music and Theatre Arts, with emphasis placed on practical production by the student and exploration of a range of creative work in a global context. Students may choose a second subject from one of the other disciplines, as an elective, by replacing their The Arts selection.