What’s with all these Acronyms? (Part 1)

So, Shortridge High School is an IB World School, where MYP students prepare for the DP Programme’s EE, CAS, TOK, and so on through PP and SA in the MYP Programme. Of course, readers who either don’t know what the IB Programme is all about, or are still fresh and inexperienced in it, don’t really understand why I am throwing around all of those of acronyms. That is what I am here to explain to you today, in everyday language. And so to begin, this is the Unofficial Starter Guide to Understanding the IB, as held at Shortridge High School. This is part one of a two-part article, where we will be looking at the Diploma Programme (DP), the most difficult part of it all, encompassing the juniors and seniors.

IB stands for International Baccalaureate, which is a type of college preparatory program that originated in Switzerland in 1968, compared to its sister AP program of 1950’s New York. While the Advanced Placement program is designed to allow students the flexibility in gaining a large and broad base of knowledge in preparation for college, the International Baccalaureate gives students a deeper, more interdisciplinary education for students. While both end with students taking exams that can result in college credit, or in the case of IB, the opportunity to also gain additional certificates and/or the long-coveted IB Diploma. It should also be noted that while AP involves one-year classes, IB, for most, is a two-year program, all-encompassing.

Now, in order to gain the IB Diploma, students usually have to complete 3 HL classes, 3 SL classes, and TOK, along with EE and CAS, in the DP Programme. HL and SL refers to Higher Level and Standard Level, respectively, which considers the depth to which students are going into their class subjects. For example, History HL students can expect to analyze their class topic on a deeper level than their SL counterparts, while Chemistry SL students will study much less content than the HL counterparts. TOK, otherwise known as Theory of Knowledge is essentially an epistemology class. It’s like a philosophy class where students learn about thinking and consider how we come to know things, and, if anything, it makes a really easy way to connect subjects.

In the Diploma Programme, students are expected to complete a sort-of 4,000 word thesis, wherein a subject of our choice is researched and studied, usually related to one of our selected courses in some way. That is the essence of the Extended Essay, EE. A student could research anything to the heart’s content, so long as they can be sure that it is approved by their school’s faculty, or by IB, whichever happens to be stricter.

However, the International Baccalaureate doesn’t expect students to be only academics by nature, they’re still developing into young men and women. And that is where CAS comes in. CAS stands for Creativity, Activity, and Service. Students are encouraged to being well-rounded not only in their studies, but also in their outside lives. In some balance of 150 hours or more, students embark on expressing themselves creatively, maintaining healthy lifestyles, and giving back to their community. While it is kinda of important to get the proper number of hours, it is not really about the quantity, but the quality. The idea is that students take the time to find their passion(s) and learn about themselves, guiltless free-time.

Of course, there is more to the International Baccalaureate beyond this, such as Internal Assessments (IA) and the strange 1-7 grading scale used, especially for those used to the American grading system. Learn more about the former at sites such as the IB’s website, while the latter will be explained in part two, where we will discuss the Middle Years Programme (MYP), along with other details such as how Shortridge’s IB Programme operates.