One of our Santa Sabina IB Diploma “Trailblazers” – Patricia Schwarzkopf – answered our questions on how the Programme is going. The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme started at Santa this year.

Which Diploma subjects are you taking?
I have chosen, standard level: Mathematics, Italian and History, and higher level: English, Biology and Chemistry. In addition to this, I also complete a course called Theory of Knowledge, and Catholic Studies.

How would you describe the content you are learning in these courses/subjects?
At the moment, I am finding the content across all my subjects engaging, and I continue to learn new and interesting content each lesson. However, one aspect which differentiates the IB Diploma from other secondary school approaches, is the globally-mindful aspect applied to our learning. As the program is international, those who take part tend to study their subjects whilst considering the international aspects of the knowledge. For example, we are currently completing a unit in English called “Works in Translation”, whereby we analyse numerous texts which were, originally, written in other languages, and translated into English. Additionally, the program encourages us to be critical-thinkers, questioning the theories and validity of the content we encounter in each of our subjects.

Do you find a significant difference in the instruction you receive in Diploma classes compared to previous classes at Santa?
To some extent, the instruction we receive is very much the same. However, as we are only a very small cohort, our class sizes are very small; ranging from two to 12 students. This allows for additional one-on-one time with our teachers, allowing for very constructive one to one feedback, which is invaluable.

Theory of Knowledge is something new, can you describe a typical TOK lesson?
TOK stands for Theory of Knowledge; a subject based on the philosophical branch of Epistemology, whereby we challenge the concept of knowledge. Over the course of this semester, we have learnt so much about the ways in which we can analyse knowledge through the lenses of different Areas and Ways of Knowing. A typical TOK lesson encourages us to analyse the knowledge in real-life situations through particular Ways and Areas of Knowing, in order to draw conclusions on the concept of “Knowledge” itself. At the moment, we are delving into the analysis of the Scientific method, and the way in which scientists accumulate and share knowledge. We question the validity of their methodology, how this may affect the scientific data gathered, and how this methodology may differ from other Areas of Knowledge.

You have been a Diploma student now for just under a semester, what challenges have you had to overcome, if any?
One challenge I encountered towards the beginning of the semester was overcoming the jump between the calibre of work expected of us, from Year 10 to Year 11. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that this came as a shock to us. We soon discovered that there were different ways in which the Diploma program went about assessment tasks and the way in which the content was taught. This could range from the structure of assessments to the level of difficulty of the assessments. However, the guidance of our teachers has definitely aided the transition, going into the final two years of school.

What are some aspects of the program that pleasantly surprised you, if any?
One aspect which surprised me was the amount of choice within the Diploma Programme. We have, already, encountered many assessment tasks, whereby, we have the opportunity to choose topics of interest. For example, across the two years of the program, we complete a course called “CAS” – Creativity, Activity and Service – whereby we complete a range of different activities, both individually and in groups, ranging in different areas of our choice; whilst also incorporating the three strands of creativity, activity and service. Even in, both, assessment tasks and the content we learn, there are also elements of choice. We have, already, completed many assessment tasks, whereby, we are required to choose our own topic of interests. Additionally, there are also opportunities for us to choose “Option” topics to learn as content in some of our subjects.

If you were to identify any highlights of this semester what would they be?
One definite highlight of this semester was the collaborative CAS project we completed as a cohort. As part of the CAS course, we are required to complete a collaborative CAS project, over the duration of a month or more, in addition to the individual activities we complete. We decided to complete an activity as a cohort, which allowed us to really get to know each other at the beginning of this semester.

We chose to participate in Cancer Council’s “Relay for Life”, whereby we prepared for and completed a 24-hour relay; raising money for scientific research towards cancer treatment. Not only was the experience a useful way in which we were able to get to know each other and collaborate as a cohort, it was also rewarding to witness what we were able to accomplish as a group, whilst also allowing us to raise funds for a cause very special to us.

What advice would you give a Year 10 student who is considering taking the Diploma?
A piece of advice that I would give to a Year 10 student taking up the Diploma program, is to remain open-minded.  Going into the program, there were subjects I was unsure of taking up, and there were aspects of the program that I was not as keen on completing. However, it was important for me to approach the program with an open mind; as it encouraged me to try new things, and discover new skills and interests of mine that I didn’t know I had.

For more about the IBDP at Santa Sabina College, visit our IB page.