The IBO's Diploma Programme (DP) was created in 1968. It is a demanding pre-university course of study that leads to examinations. It is designed for highly motivated secondary school students aged 16 to 19. The programme has earned a reputation for rigorous assessment, giving IB diploma holders access to the world's leading universities. The DP's grading system is criterion-referenced, which means that each student's performance is measured against well-defined levels of achievement. These are consistent from one examination session to the next and are applied equally to all schools. The IBO has shown, over the course of 50 years, that students are well prepared for university work. They are accepted by universities all over the world. The programme is a comprehensive two-year international curriculum, available in English, French and Spanish. It generally allows students to fulfill the requirements of their national or state education systems. The DP incorporates the best elements of national systems, without being based on any one. Internationally mobile students are able to transfer from one DP school to another. Students who remain closer to home benefit from a highly respected international curriculum. The IB claims to be motivated to create a better world through education. This attitude is reflected in the IB mission statement:
The International Baccalaureate® aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.
To this end the organization works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programmes of international education and rigorous assessment.
These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.
Nazareth High School deeply believes that education is a means to create a better world, but also extends the IB mission statement with the values promoted by the school, that is we aim to bring up new generations in a system of education based on the personalistic concept of the human being as proclaimed by the Catholic Church and in accordance with Christian values.
The Diploma Programme curriculum
The Diploma Programme (DP) has the strengths of a traditional and broad curriculum, but with three important additional features, shown at the centre of the hexagonal programme model.
Theory of knowledge (TOK)
TOK is an interdisciplinary requirement intended to stimulate critical reflection on the 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. TOK is a key element in encouraging students to appreciate other cultural perspectives. The course is unique to the IBO, which recommends at least 100 hours of teaching time spanning the programme's two years.
Creativity, activity, service (CAS)
The IBO's goal is to educate the whole person and foster responsible, compassionate citizens. The CAS component 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.
An extended essay of 4,000 words
Each student has the opportunity to investigate a topic of special interest. The essay requirement acquaints DP students with the kind of independent research and writing skills expected by universities. The IBO recommends that a student devote a total of about 40 hours of private study and writing time to the essay. It may be written in one of 60 subjects, including many languages. The essay permits students to deepen their programmes of study, for example by selecting a topic in one of their higher level (HL) courses. Or they might add breadth to their academic experience by electing to write in a subject not included in their programme choices.
The six academic subjects
Students are required to study both the humanities and the sciences. Diploma Programme (DP) students must select one subject from each of the six groups. At least three and not more than four are taken at higher level (HL), the others at standard level (SL). HL courses represent a recommended minimum of 240 teaching hours, SL courses cover 150 hours. Students are thus able to explore some subjects in depth and others more broadly, a deliberate compromise between the early specialization 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. Active citizenship and global perspectives are encouraged in each area of the curriculum.
Group 1 - language A
More than 80 languages have been offered for examination as part of the IBO's policy of encouraging students to maintain strong ties to their own cultures. Students ideally develop strong written and oral skills, respect for the literary heritage of their first language, and an international perspective. At the Nazareth High School students are offered Polish Literature (SL/HL) and English Language and Literature (SL/HL) on a taught basis. Other languages can be chosen for Literature study (SL only), but the student will need to find a tutor to assist with his/her study of the language.
Group 2 - second language
All DP students are examined in a second language. Several options accommodate bilingual students with a very high level of fluency, genuine second language learners with previous experience of learning the language, and beginners. The principal aim for the subjects in group 2 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. At the Nazareth High School, subjects offered at Group 2 include English B (SL/HL), German B (SL/HL) and French B (ab initio/SL/HL).
Group 3 - individuals and societies
Subjects included in this group are: business and management, economics, geography, history, Islamic history, information technology in a global society, philosophy, psychology, and social and cultural anthropology. At the Nazareth High School we offer History (SL/HL), Geography (SL/HL) and Business and Management (SL/HL) within Group 3.
Group 4 - experimental sciences
The subjects available in group 4 are: biology, chemistry, physics, environmental systems (SL), design technology. 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. At the Nazareth High School, Physics (SL/HL) and Biology (SL/HL) and Chemistry (SL/HL) are offered within Group 4.
Group 5 - mathematics
All DP students are required to complete a mathematics course, and four options are available to cater for different abilities and levels of student interest. These are: mathematics HL, mathematics SL, further mathematics SL, mathematical studies. 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. Computer science is an elective subject in group 5; it is not compulsory. At the Nazareth High School, we offer Mathematics (SL/HL) and Mathematical Studies (SL).
Group 6 - the arts
This group includes visual arts, 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. Options: Instead of a group 6 subject, a student may select an additional subject from groups 1 to 4, or further mathematics SL from group 5.
Assessing student work and awarding the diploma
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, which are 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 some 4,400 IB examiners worldwide, led by chief examiners with international authority in their fields. Each year approximately 80% of candidates who attempt the diploma succeed in earning it. Examinations are offered in May for northern hemisphere schools and in November for those in the southern hemisphere.
What is required for the award of the Diploma?
To be eligible for the award of the Diploma, all candidates must:
- complete a course of study from each of the above groups
- complete at least three and not more than four of the six subjects at higher level and others at standard level
- achieve a minimum total of 24 points out of a maximum total of 45 (each examined subject is graded on a scale of 1 (minimum) to 7 (maximum)
- submit an extended essay in one of the subjects of the IB Curriculum
- follow the course in Theory of Knowledge
- compete all CAS (Creativity, Activity and Service) requirements
Students looking for a challenging and rewarding course of studies which will increase their attractiveness to universities are well advised to consider undertaking the IB Diploma Programme.