All UWCs offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma programme (commonly known as “the IB”). This is a rigorous pre-university qualification which is accepted by universities all over the world, including the UK, the USA, and Canada. While in the past the IB was limited to a select few international schools and private schools, it is growing in popularity and is often a preferred alternative to A-levels.
The IB requires students to take six main subjects, each selected from a different “group”. Out of these six subjects, the student chooses three to study at “higher level” (advanced level) and three to study at “standard level”. Some course are only available at standard level. These levels are loosely equivalent to A-level and AS-level in most university entry requirements.
The groups are outlined below:
Group 1: Studies in Language and Literature
This is a student’s first language. Students selected by the UWC Zambia national committee will normally study English as their group 1 subject. This course may either be literature or a combination of literature and language, depending on the specific UWC and the courses it offers.
Group 2: Language Acquisition
Students will study a second language, either one which they have studied before or one which is new to them. It is also possible to study another first language literature course instead of a second language if the student is bilingual. The specific languages which are offered will vary across UWCs.
Group 3: Individuals and Societies
These are the humanities. Students normally study history, economics, or geography as their group three option, but most UWCs offer additional group 3 subjects such as religious studies, psychology, philosophy, politics, anthropology, or environmental systems and societies.
Group 4: Sciences
Students will normally study either biology, chemistry, or physics as their group 4 option, but many UWCs offer additional group 4 subjects such as design technology or environmental systems and societies.
Group 5: Mathematics
All IB Students have to study maths at either higher (advanced) level or standard level. At standard level there are two options – either “maths standard” or “maths studies” depending on the student’s ability and interest in mathematics. Further information is available on individual college websites. Some colleges also offer further maths.
Group 6: The Arts
Most UWCs offer visual arts, theatre arts, and music, although some do not offer all three. Some may also offer film or dance. It is also possible for a student to choose a subject from any other group instead of a group 6 subject.
There are a few anomalies and flexibilities in the structure of the IB: for example, environmental systems and societies is what is known as a “transdisciplinary” subject, fulfilling the requirements for both group 3 and group 4. Thus at colleges which offer this, it may be possible for students to take two arts subjects or an extra language. Consult the specific college websites for more information.
In addition to these 6 subjects, the IB requires students to take a Theory of Knowledge course (TOK) which covers basic philosophy and critical thinking. Students also complete an Extended Essay (EE) in one of their subjects, and do mandatory hours of activities and service known as CAS (Creativity, Action, Service). CAS is a central component of the UWC movement, and UWC requirements for community service and activities will be much greater than the number of hours required by the IB.
Grading and Examinations
Each of the six subjects will be assessed through a combination of examinations and coursework. In addition, the 4000-word Extended Essay in one of the students’ subjects and performance in Theory of Knowledge will lead to the awarding of bonus grades. Unlike A-levels, all IB exams are at the end of the second year.
Please visit the IB’s official website if you have any further questions.