International Baccalaureate

The International Baccalaureate is a two year pre university international education programme equivalent to a high school diploma. The curriculum is implemented in over 3000 schools throughout the world, including all the UWCs.

The curriculum consists of study of six subjects and fulfillment of three core areas.

Group 1: Studies in Language and Literature
Group 2: Language acquisition
Group 3: Individuals and Societies
Group 4: Experimental Sciences
Group 5: Mathematics
Group 6: Arts

All candidates study at least 6 subjects. They must study one subject under each of the first 5 groups. For their sixth subject, students can take either a group 6 subject or a second subject from the first 4 groups.

The Core:
1. Theory of Knowledge
2. Extended Essay
3. CAS (Creativity, Action and Service)

The IB Curriculum in Detail


Group 1: Studies in Language and Literature

All students must take a Studies in Language and Literature. This is the student’s best or first language. In the course of study, students not only learn about the literature and culture related to their best language, but also through the ‘World Literature’ component get an insight into other cultures. The course is designed to develop in a student independent thinking, literary imagination, analytical skills, creative expression and convincing language. Where a student’s mother tongue is not taught, students also have the option of studying a ‘self-taught’ language. Though most of the study of a ‘self-taught’ language is completed independently, students do receive guidance by teachings in ‘World Literature’.

Group 2: Language acquisition

In addition to a first language course, students must also study a second language which is expected to be useful in a wide range of needs and contexts. Students can study a second language at the following three levels:

Ab Initio: This involves the study of a language from its basics. One can choose this option if he/she has wants to learn a new language in which he/she has no background.

Language B: This level is for a language in which the student has some background but wants significant improvement in. Emphasis is placed on oral and written communication.

Group 3: Individuals and Societies

This group involves the study of subjects that popularly fall under ‘humanities’ or ‘social sciences’. Students are expected to develop both local and global perspectives in the understanding of ‘change and continuity as well as of similarity and difference’ (Pearson College Website). The study involves evaluation the major theories, concepts and research findings in the area, and the learning of methodology in each discipline.

At UWCs students may choose from subjects like Anthropology, Business Studies, Chinese Studies, Development Studies, Economics, Geography, History, Human Rights, Philosophy, Psychology and World Arts and Cultures.

Group 4: Experimental Sciences

Experimental science or the physical science subjects involve the learning of concepts, theories, methodology and application of each discipline. A major component is demonstration of application of theories, practical laboratory skills and team work through individual and group research projects.

The major subjects taught at UWCs that fall under in the group are Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Environmental Systems and Societies.

Group 5: Mathematics

All candidates are required to complete a mathematics course. IB offers four options to match the student’s ability and interest. Each of the level involves study and application of mathematical concepts as well as language.

Mathematical Studies
It is offered to students who do not need mathematics for their studies after UWCs. This course is less technique oriented than Standard Mathematics, but the intellectual standard is similar.

Standard Mathematics
It is the study of a mathematical techniques course best suited for students needing mathematics as a tool in their subject of major interest, but not wanting the rigors of the Higher Level course. The topics covered are similar to those of Higher Level.

Higher Level Mathematics
It is primarily intended to meet the needs of students interested in pursuing mathematics, physics, computer science or engineering at university. The course includes the topics of matrices, three dimensional vector geometry, trigonometry, probability, algebra and calculus.

Further Mathematics
It is an extra course, which means that it is not a course alternative to choosing from the above three, but an additional one for whoever holds special interest and ability in Mathematics. Student making this choice involve in specialized study of topics. Majority of the UWCs do not offer this course.

Group 6: Art, Music and Theatre

This is the optional group, the only alternative to which is taking a second course in the first 4 groups. The study involves exploration of a range of creative work in global context and their theoretical aspects. Student’s practical production is a major component. Students do not need previous experience in these disciplines. At UWCs students have the options of Art and Design, Music, Theatre, Film Studies, World Arts and Cultures, etc.


All students are required to undertake the Theory of Knowledge course and The Extended Essay to achieve a diploma.

a) Theory of Knowledge (TOK)

This is an interdisciplinary requirement that major colleges have their students complete in their first year. Emphasis is place on critical reflection on the knowledge, information and experiences. It involves analysis of the bases of knowledge, subjectivity and ideological biases in arguments. It plays a key role in helping students develop an appreciation towards other cultures and perspectives.

b) The Extended Essay (4,000 words)

This is an opportunity for students to investigate a topic of their special interest. Students produce a 4,000 word essay after their personal research and writing. The process involves supervision by teachers through a series of drafts before the final product. At UWCs, students start on it at the end of their first year and complete it in the middle of their second year. The advantage behind is the in-advance simulation and experience they get in the kind of research and writing that will be required by their universities later.

c) CAS – Creativity, Action and Service

UWCs place a huge emphasis on outside class activities and services. In an intense multicultural environment, students involve themselves in creative, outdoor, civic leadership and humanitarian activities. Such activities make up the essence of UWC life. Students are expected to develop qualities of mutual trust, co-operation, personal challenge, consideration for others, leadership qualities, teamwork capacity, respect and appreciation towards other cultures and perspectives, humanitarian values, service habits, care for the environment, and needless to mention, time and stress management skills through such activities. It wouldn’t be unfair to say that students invest as much of time in their activities as they do in their classroom courses.

The activity component of UWCs is complimented by the CAS requirement in the IB curriculum. To achieve a diploma, students are required to engage in and report on activities falling under the categories of Creativity, Action and Service. Though this requirement acts as a guideline, students at UWCs end up doing much more and do not confine themselves to the category and hour requirements.

The Creativity category includes activities of artistic expression such as music, photography, dances, craft work, etc. The second category Action involves largely sports and outdoor activities for physical challenge and nature exploration. And the third, Service involves activities ranging from humanitarian service types like volunteering at orphanages and old-age homes, to campaigns for human rights and fund-raisings for charity.


The colleges hold internal examinations tests from time to time. The final measure of performance is the International Baccalaureate examinations held at the end of the second year, which determine approximately eighty percent of the grade awarded in most of the subjects. The rest of the grade is based on internal assessment of tests, papers and projects.

The final examination is prepared and marked by an international group of examiners. All the subjects are graded on a scale of 1 (min) to 7 (max). A student has to achieve at least a 4 in each of the 6 subjects to achieve an IB diploma. Up to 3 bonus points are given for the Theory of Knowledge course and for Extended Essays. The examination is coordinated by the International Baccalaureate Curriculum and Assessment Centre in Cardiff, Wales.

Academic and activity evaluation reports are forwarded to national committees, parents and students at the end of each term. Successful students receive their IB diploma in July. The report includes annexes showing grades scored, details of Extended Essays and a summary of activities.

For more information on IB, please visit

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