The Core - overview

Developing core needs

The Career-related Programme core makes the programme unique. It is a substantial course designed to focus on the individual students' needs and personal and professional development. It is also a place where students can reflect on and connect their individual DP and CRS courses and make a truly concurrent, student centred learning experience. Whilst the IB provides the framework and regulations must be adhered to, it is up to the school to create courses that bespoke for the needs, interests and background of their students.

How does it work?

The core is comprised of four components that add up to 240 hours over the two years of the course: personal and professional skills (90 hours), service learning (50 hours), language development (50 hours) and the reflective project (50 hours). These courses have their own identity and emphasise particular aspects of learning but ultimately connect together in the skills students use to complete them. They are all united in how they reflect the IB philosophy of What is an IB Education? Students are required to maintain and complete a portfolio for Personal and Professional Skills, Service Learning and Language Development courses with the school determining their own assessment. The reflective project is submitted by the end of the course and internally marked with external moderation.

Understanding the purpose of the core

Striking the balance

You do not need to look far for the inspiration, necessity and relevance of the core programme.

A report in January 2020 by Michaela Horvathova at the Center for Curriculum Redesign on key competencies and employability skills developed in the DP and CP, concluded that  '21st Century competencies and a deep understanding of content knowledge are needed' by students in the future.  Furthermore, at the The Global Innovation Session, Education Korea 2020, IB Asia Pacific stated 'knowledge is important but it's actually the skills and aptitude that we're developing within learning that are really crucial' as well as asserted that 'IB programmes prepare students for jobs that do not exist yet'.

From here, the first thought is the learner profile that pervades all IB programmes. Certainly the CP core draws completely on the attributes of the learner profile, to develop:

Considerate and involved citizens
• Autonomous lifelong learners
• Able communicators
• Complex and flexible thinkers
• Globally empathetic
• Sensitive the others' views and needs
• Embracing of intercultural education

However, what makes the CP core unique? Funnily enough, understanding the CP core is to look up from a bullet-pointed list of attributes and look out across each element of the core, how they connect together and with the wider world.

Each element of the core provides the opportunity to explore and develop all these characteristics but it is the way such development works concurrently (or simultaneously) across all aspects of the core. The core is also the place where the implicit becomes explicit; the skills quietly being developed across the career-related study and DP subjects that might go unnoticed without the right attention. When students clearly realise which skills are being developed and how they connect between subjects and their real world relevance, their confidence and self-awareness increase greatly.

Teacher Reflection

Core audit - Do you need a core programme review?

Irrespective of whether you are new to the CP or approaching your 5 year evaluation, it is a good idea to reflect on your current core provision regularly and especially if there is movement of staff.

How does your current provision develop:

... independent learning
... personal development
... flexible strategies
... risk-taking
... intellectual and practical skills
... confidence to make changes
... cycles of planning, acting and reflecting
... individual/local/national/international knowledge and understanding
... the relevance of an ethical education
... authentic experiences for personal and professional development
... the willingness to fail and try again
... the ability to set achievable and meaningful goals

  Some thoughts to guide discussion

It is really important to set the tone of discussion to establish a positive discussion. Try and use language such as empowers, challenges, provides, involves, gives and develops. After all, this is not an exercise to decide what is lacking in your school; it is an exercise to approach positively as it is almost certain that your school provides fantastic opportunities for the students already. Consider these questions:

1. How do you make these opportunities and skills explicit to the students?
2. How could you make these opportunities and skills explicit to the students?
3. How do you build an understanding of concurrency of learning for the students and staff?
4. How could you build an understanding of concurrency of learning for the students and staff?
5. Taking your individual context into account, what could you do more of?
6. What could make this understanding easier for all stakeholders?

To develop discussion of the explicit development of skills, teachers might take part in the ATL self-assessment tool to see where their strengths lie in the delivery of the 6 approaches to teaching and the 5 identified areas of approaches to learning.


  1. based on inquiry
  2. focused on conceptual understanding
  3. developed in local and global contexts
  4. focused on effective teamwork and collaboration
  5. differentiated to meet the needs of all learners
  6. informed by assessment (formative and summative).

Learning that develops:

1. Communication Skills
2. Social Skills
3. Research Skills
4. Self-management skills
5. Thinking skills[1]

Further resources

Consider and discuss in relation to your own context the following TED Talk as just one example of many on the subject of preparing students for the future. Her perspective is that we need less tech and more messy human skills in the form of imagination, humility and bravery, to solve problems in business, government and life in an unpredictable age.

Anyone who tries to tell you that they know the future is just trying to own it, a spurious kind of manifest destiny. The harder, deeper truth is that the future is uncharted, that we can't map it till we get there. Margaret Heffernan


  1. ^

Selected Pages


Ethical Thinking 21 October 2021

At the heart of ethical thinking is the ability to consider the dynamics of people, actions and consequences in a balanced...


Core: Language Development 6 October 2021

Making up on of the four key core elements, Language Development celebrates the individual's unique lifelong relationship...


Core: Personal & Professional Skills 6 October 2021

Personal and Professional Skills is a compulsory component of the CP core: a 90 hour course of personal and professional...


Giving feedback 6 October 2021

This is the most asked question when it comes to the drafting stage of the reflective project. Perhaps it should come as...


Critical Thinking 26 September 2021

Critical thinking can sound scary and unattainable for students but it is a lot more accessible than they imagine. Returning...


Core: Service Learning 12 September 2021

Service Learning is a compulsory element of the CP core, constituting a minimum 50 hours of the student's CP course. Whether...

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