Andrew Arida, Director of Undergraduate Admissions at UBC, talks about a few of the benefits of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme.

Course Descriptions

The IB represents a complete philosophy of pre-university education. The structure is designed to meet certain needs, which are highly advantageous now, in university and in life. These needs may be simplified as:

  • Breadth: students are exposed to a balanced program including elements of each of the major intellectual fields.
  • Depth: students pursue certain elements of study to a comparatively advanced level.
  • Independence: students are able to work independently in developing an area of study to an advanced level.
  • Critical thought: students develop the intellectual rigour and philosophical background necessary to evaluate and use the knowledge acquired.
  • Creativity, Activity And Service: students find balance in their school life by being involved in creative pursuits, activities that contribute to their physical well-being, and service opportunities.

The IB Diploma Programme comprises six subjects studied over two years. One subject must be selected from each of six subject groupings representing the major academic fields. The sixth subject may be from Group 6 (The Arts), or a second selection from Group 3 (Individuals & Societies) or Group 4 (Sciences). .

  • Group 1: Studies in Language and Literature: Literature of the Student’s First Language
  • Group 2: Language Acquisition: French, Mandarin or Spanish
  • Group 3: Individuals & Societies: Geography, History, Economics or Global Politics
  • Group 4: Sciences: Biology, Chemistry, or Physics
  • Group 5: Mathematics: Mathematics, Mathematical Studies
  • Group 6: Sixth Subject: Theatre, Visual Arts, a second Individual & Socities, or a second Science

IB English A and IB Language & Literature A

IB English is an opportunity to, quite literally, “see the world” of literature: instead of studying the same works as every other North American teenager, IB students immerse themselves in the best writing from around the world. After two years in IB English, students think critically about literature in a reinvigorated fashion; gain confidence in verbal articulation of ideas; and write about literature at a university level. Wherever students may go in their academic futures, IB English will change the way they think, write, and speak.

IB Language Acquisition: French, Spanish or Mandarin

The goal of the Language Acquisition department is to engage our students in authentic language learning experiences while fostering international mindedness so that they will be able to communicate successfully and with confidence in diverse situations. Students have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the perspectives of French, Spanish and Mandarin speaking countries. Our focus is not to memorize grammar and vocabulary by rote, but to learn language through the study of Culture and Traditions, Relationships, Arts and Leisure, Technology and Global Questions. You will be able to read, write and speak confidently in a second language as you begin to make your own way in the world. And, as Goethe once said, “He who is ignorant of foreign languages, knows not his own.”

IB Geography

IB Geography uses real-word events, instead of dry statistics, to cover the wide range of topics that students are asked to investigate. It focuses upon the relationships between individuals, societies, and the physical environment (in both time and space). It seeks to identify patterns and trends amidst all of those relationships, and therefore evaluates the processes behind them. IB Geography is very current: its curriculum is rooted in, and inspired by, the most recent United Nations Millennium Development Goals—a strong guiding theme throughout the course. With 60% of the course being devoted to human geography and 40% being devoted to physical geography, this is a course that connects historical content to real-world issues.

IB History

IB History is particularly geared to sharpen the analytical, evaluative, and research skills so necessary to make sense of today’s important issues. Students learn to properly assess historical evidence and from there frame a convincing argument. It is no wonder that history majors are considered some of the best candidates for law school! Seminar discussions and university level research are part of this enriched programme. A varied curriculum takes students through critical events, themes and personalities of the 20th Century such as: world wars, revolutions in Russia and Cuba, the civil rights struggle in America, and the ongoing struggle between dictatorship and democracy.

IB Economics

IB Economics emphasizes the economic theories of microeconomics, which deal with economic variables affecting individuals, firms and markets, and the economic theories of macroeconomics, which deal with economic variables affecting countries, governments and societies. These economic theories are not to be studied in a vacuum—rather, they are to be applied to real-world issues. Prominent among these issues are fluctuations in economic activity, international trade, economic development and environmental sustainability.

IB Global Politics

IB Global Politics explores fundamental political concepts, such as power, liberty, equality, sustainability, human rights and peace, in a range of contexts and through a variety of approaches. Students examine local, national and international arenas of political activity. The course allows students to develop research, analysis and critical evaluation skills as they study abstract concepts and apply them to real world examples and cases studies. In addition, HL students examine two global political challenges. Students complete an internal assessment activity where a political issue is explored through theory and combined with a experiential learning piece and a written report.

IB Biology

Students who take IB Biology gain valuable experience in the design and execution of experiments that reflect their ability to think creatively and solve problems. The course provides students the opportunity to understand their biological world and the current issues that impact humanity. Study in this discipline will broaden their horizons and prepare them to follow biology related career paths.

IB Chemistry

IB Chemistry inspires students to explore and understand the way chemicals behave and interact. Whether to gain an understanding of baking soda volcanoes or to prepare for university-level chemistry, this course will open students’ eyes to the “way things work.” Theory—paired with lab activities—provides a genuine chance to test understanding. While the course can serve as excellent university preparation, it will also develop scientific literacy and critical thinking skills that are useful in a diverse range of studies and professions.

IB Physics

IB Physics is the best preparation a high school student can get for a university education in science or engineering. It represents a challenging combination of mathematical problem solving and conceptual puzzles focused on describing the natural world. Students can expect varied lab work using modern technology. Start looking at the world through different eyes!

IB Mathematics

IB Mathematics permits SL students to work on a number of different topics including calculus, vector geometry and statistics, while also completing a university-level mathematical research project. Students examine the subject from a number of different points of view—algebraic, geometric, deductive and numerical. Considering the challenging nature of first year university calculus and the expectations many courses have of first year students, IB Mathematics SL is a fantastic way for a student to conclude his or her high school mathematical journey.

IB Mathematics HL is a rigorous course designed for highly motivated students who love mathematics. It explores the same topics as IB Mathematics SL but delves much deeper into them. Students get an appreciation about the incredible richness of the subject as every new idea opens up more possibility for further investigation. This course may well be the most complete math course offered to high school students anywhere in the world—successful completion opens limitless possibilities.

IB Mathematical Studies

IB Mathematical Studies is a survey course of meaningful topics in Mathematics including statistics, finance, probability, sequences and series. It is designed for students destined for Humanities or Social Sciences at university and is a wonderful “final” math course. Often students come away with a renewed confidence in their talents and with a genuine appreciation of mathematics.

IB Theatre Arts

The IB Theatre Arts syllabus consists of three equal, interrelated areas: theatre in context, theatre process, and presenting theatre. These areas are approached from the perspective of the following specialist theatre roles: creator, designer, director and performer. Key tasks make up the IB Theatre course content and assessment: creating a solo performance piece (HL), taking on the role of director, researching a convention of a theatre they have not previously studied, and collaborating to create and present an original piece of theatre for and to a specified target audience.

IB Visual Arts

IB Visual Arts allows students to take calculated creative risks in a supportive and intellectual environment. The artistic process becomes second nature to students as they experiment with modes and media of expression while developing a unique aesthetic of their own. Through the exploration of personally significant imagery, students learn to express their thoughts and opinions visually while recognizing the social, cultural and historical context in which they create their art.

The Core

A unique characteristic of the Diploma Programme, and in many ways the most valuable, is the extension of learning beyond the normal range of classroom subjects. In addition to the six examination subjects, full Diploma students pursue three further requirements:

  • The Extended Essay (EE)
  • Theory of Knowledge (ToK)
  • Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS)

IB Creativity, Activity and Service

The two-year CAS programme provides a framework for a Diploma candidate’s co-curricular involvement. It is a key component in helping students to discover and maintain balance during the Diploma Programme. As such, students involve themselves in a variety of experiences that link to each of the three strands: creativity, activity and service. CAS experiences build upon activities in which students are already involved and allow them to experience new opportunities. Students create a CAS portfolio under the guidance of the CAS Coordinator, meet seven learning outcomes, and plan and initiate a CAS project. CAS begins in Year 1 (Grade 11) and must be ongoing throughout the two years.

IB Theory of Knowledge

Theory of Knowledge lies at the heart of the IB curriculum. The emphasis is on teaching a problem-solving methodology that is open-minded yet rigorous. In ToK we focus on looking for connections that go across the curriculum. Thus, we might look at a real world issue and ask how it might be approached by a poet as well as by an engineer. Ultimately, ToK aims to produce students who are strong critical thinkers, capable of approaching problems from multiple perspectives.

IB Extended Essay

The Extended Essay is intended to promote high-level research and writing skills, intellectual discovery and creativity. It provides students with an opportunity to engage in independent research under the guidance of a supervisor (a teacher in the school), the teacher-librarian and the Diploma Coordinator. It is a substantial piece of writing of up to 4000 words, which enables students to investigate a topic of special interest of their own choosing. During the first year of the process, students choose a topic, research it, meet regularly with their supervisor, and write a first draft.

In the second year of work on their essay, students continue to meet with their supervisors to receive feedback and make final edits. The completed essay is submitted by Thanksgiving.

PW Program of Studies
Download our Pemberton Woods Program of Studies 2018/2019 for a detailed set of course descriptions.