Introducing the Core

All Diploma Programme students take part in three compulsory course elements that make up the core of the programme. These elements are TOK, CAS and the extended essay. Together they provide students with opportunities to develop knowledge, skills, and understanding that reflect the IB Mission Statement and Learner Profile. The Core was originally introduced into the Diploma Programme to ensure that it educated the whole person. "The core should strive to make a difference to the lives of students. It should provide opportunities for students to think about their own values and actions, to understand their place in the world, and to shape their identity." (Extended Essay Guide, 2016). It could be argued that all the skills you need for a successful life come from the core.

The three aims of the Core are: to support, and be supported by, the academic disciplines; to foster international-mindedness; and to develop self-awareness and a sense of identity.

Theory of Knowledge is an interdisciplinary course that provides coherence to the whole DP programme by exploring the nature of knowledge across disciplines, and encouraging an appreciation of different perspectives.

The Extended Essay acquaints students with the independent research and writing skills required at university. It is an opportunity to investigate a topic of personal interest in 4,000 words.

Creativity, Activity, Service develops students' awareness and appreciation of life beyond the academic sphere by engaging them in community service work, sports and creative activities.

In a case-study aimed at investigating the extent to which the Diploma Programme meets the aims of the IB mission statement, Lineham (2013) identified the core IB elements of Theory of Knowledge and CAS as ‘providing the most opportunities for the development of the IB mission statement ethos’  ‘(Is the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme effective at delivering the International Baccalaureate mission statement?’ Journal of Research in International Education. 12:3 p. 275)

Aims of the Core

The Core of the Diploma Programme helps to develop many of the attributes of the IB Learner Profile. Through the three elements of the Core students are encouraged to become:

  • reflective - reflection is at the heart of all three elements
  • creative and critical thinkers - (especially CAS and TOK)
  • thoughtful and active citizens - clearly demonstrated by service learning and activities within CAS
  • responsible for their own learning and development - especially within the context of the Extended Essay and service learning
  • competent and confident communicators - CAS, TOK
  • aware of our shared human condition - CAS (service learning)
  • prepared to think about the needs, values and perspectives of others (TOK)

Activity: Core Essentials

3 groups with each group taking one of the Core Essentials. Create a visual animate for your core essential to include:

  • How that element contributes to the holistic education of a DP student?
  • What type of person should be responsible for the organization of that essential e.g. is a philosophy teacher the best person to teach TOK? Is the librarian the best person to manage the EE? Where does one look for a CAS coordinator?
  • What resources are required?
  • How much time in the timetable should be allocated?
  • What is the relationship with other parts of the Core?
  • What is the relationship with the subjects in the subject groups?
  • How might activity on each element be reported to parents?
  • How might each element be used to develop international-mindedness?


Core requirements: Extended essay, theory of knowledge and creativity, action, service subject brief (IB, 2010).

Note that this title is no longer accurate: in the new guide 'action' becomes ' activity'.

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