Theory of Knowledge IB Workshop

29 April 2022

Y9 IB Day SQ3

This week Year 9 students explored ‘theory of knowledge’ (ToK) to get a taster of what the subject is like to study as part of the International Baccalaureate Diploma (IB) in the Sixth Form, to think about where their knowledge comes from and to see how questions about knowledge are raised by the world around them.

Students worked in teams to select a question and object and prepare a presentation on how they could answer questions about their knowledge, assumptions and evidence. The activity was based on the coursework for ToK that Year 12 IB students are currently finishing and it was really heartwarming to see the students rise to the challenge and get involved in the discussions and debates that the questions posed.

ToK plays a unique role in the IB Diploma by allowing students to reflect on the nature of knowledge and how we know what we claim to know. It is one of the core components of the Diploma and is central to the programme’s educational philosophy. Through discussions and project work, students gain greater awareness of their personal and ideological assumptions and develop an appreciation of the diversity and richness of cultural perspectives.

By choosing the IB pathway, students will undertake a balanced, ambitious curriculum with an international outlook that encourages learner to be curious, caring, risk-takers and fosters an appetite for learning. The IB curriculum is made up of six subject groups and the Diploma core, comprising TOK, creativity, activity, service (CAS) and an extended essay. In addition to their chosen subjects, the Diploma core enables students to reflect on the nature of knowledge, complete independent research and undertake a project that often involves community service.

The IB is an excellent fit for our students whose breadth of interest, ambition and thirst for knowledge encapsulates all the IB stands for. The IB and its philosophy is a real cornerstone of a North London education and is an ethos our staff and students are only too happy to embrace. Dr Linscott, NLCS Director of IB Diploma

At NLCS, we tailor the IB programme to suit the interests and aspirations of all students. The various ‘independent research’ elements of the courses also allow students to explore areas linked to their interests. Scientists will keep up their engagement with literature and a foreign language, whilst Humanities specialists will gain the numerical skills valued by employers in the modern workplace.

I decided to study the IB after struggling to pick between my STEM and humanities subjects after GCSEs. Now almost a year in, one of my favourite aspects of the IB is the wide range of knowledge you can gain from the diversity of subjects, alongside delving deeper into specific subtopics I am more interested in through individual projects and an Extended Essay. Alongside the benefits of smaller classes, I have also enjoyed the unique aspects to the IB such as ToK, which has enabled me to think differently about the way we learn, broadening my knowledge further. Millie, Year 12 IB student

NLCS has offered the IB programme as an alternative to A levels since 2004. Since then, we have had a consistent record of success, securing our position as one of the highest-achieving IB schools in the world. Our 2021 results place us as the top IB School in the UK, with an average point score of 43.2. In addition, four of our students achieved the maximum score of 45 points, something usually only achieved by around 300 students out of 160,000 candidates across the globe.

The IB allowed me to continue the subjects which I loved from GCSE, and specialise in my area of academic interest – International Relations. At Higher Level I loved exploring Global Politics, Economics and Spanish. I relished looking at current case studies in each of my subjects, on a day to day basis, and it was fascinating to draw links from an article I may have read in the daily newspaper to the actual syllabus. My favourite part about the IB is the small class size, which truly enabled discussion, debate and a strong ‘IB community’ to form. Lara, Class of 2020, Undergraduate at Princeton University, USA

The IB provides a world-class preparation for university and life beyond, with IB students consistently demonstrating the critical thinking and research skills needed to excel in their university studies. Our IB students consistently receive offers from a range of impressive institutions, including Oxbridge, Ivy League Colleges, Russell Group Universities, and leading medical schools, and achieve great success in a range of subjects including Medicine, Liberal Arts, Law, Modern Languages, PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics), Engineering and English.

The skills gained are highly valued by universities: in a recent poll, 84% of Russell Group universities reported that the IB encouraged good self-management skills, compared with 29% for the A Level or Pre-U programmes.

Diploma programme students are well-rounded, multifaceted, multiskilled and have studied in depth. They have good time-management skills. They score higher than students in other national systems, and the IB score is worldwide the same measure. Hrilina Lock, Undergraduate Admissions Manager, London School of Economics, UK

“I chose the IB because when the time came to pick 3 or 4 subjects for A levels, I found that I could not make the decision. I love the humanities, and sitting down with a historical fiction book is one of the highlights of my week. However, I also find chemistry lab experiments thrilling. Taking the IB meant that I could continue my passion for six subjects! The IB has taught me the joy of exploring links across subjects that I would never have thought to associate with each other. It has left so many doors open for me: with my qualifications, I can choose to go into medicine or go to the opposite end of the spectrum and be a politician. It has also pushed me out of my comfort zone and challenged me with courses that I am not naturally inclined to, such as the Theory of Knowledge. In this, I have discovered fascinating academic areas that I wouldn’t have previously approached.” Anya, Year 12 IB student

A survey of more than 4,000 students conducted by the International Insight Research Group in partnership with the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) showed that the acceptance rate of IB students into Ivy League universities is up to 18% higher than the total population acceptance rate. The gap is even more significant for top-ranked universities outside of the Ivy League, where it is 22% higher on average.

The IB’s emphasis on independent and reflective learning is also a key benefit to students, with university admissions officers saying that such attributes are lacking in 60% of students. NLCS students regularly comment that completing various research projects during the course allows them to have confident and interesting discussions at admissions interviews.

“One of the advantages of an IB curriculum is its structure and quality. It is a coordinated program, well-established, well-known and well-respected.” Christopher Guttentag Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Duke University, USA


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