The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme is a rigorous pre-university course of studies, leading to examinations, that meets the needs of highly motivated secondary school students between the ages of 16 and 19 years. Designed as a comprehensive two-year curriculum that allows its graduates to fulfill requirements of various national education systems, the Diploma Programme model is based on the pattern of no single country but incorporates the best elements of many. The curriculum is displayed in the shape of a hexagon with six academic areas surrounding the core. Subjects are studied concurrently and students are exposed to the two great traditions of learning: the humanities and the sciences.
Diploma Programme candidates are required to select one subject from each of the six subject groups. At least three and not more than four are taken at higher level (HL), the others at standard level (SL). Higher level courses represent 240 teaching hours; standard level courses cover 150 hours. By arranging work in this fashion, students are able to explore some subjects in depth and some more
broadly over the two-year period; this is a deliberate compromise between the early specialization preferred in some national systems and the breadth found in others.
Distribution requirements ensure that the science-orientated student is challenged to learn a foreign language and that the natural linguist becomes familiar with science laboratory procedures. While overall balance is maintained, flexibility in choosing higher level combinations allows the student to pursue areas of personal interest and to meet special requirements for university entrance.
Successful Diploma Programme candidates meet three requirements in addition to the six subjects. The interdisciplinary Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course is designed to develop a coherent approach to learning which transcends and unifies the academic areas and encourages appreciation of other cultural perspectives. The extended essay of some 4000 words offers the opportunity to investigate a
topic of special interest and acquaints students with the independent research and writing skills expected at university. Participation in the creativity, action, service (CAS) requirement encourages students to be involved in artistic pursuits, sports and community service work.