The International Baccalaureate (IB) commissioned the Educational Counselling and Credit Transfer Information Services (Ecctis) to conduct a series of in-depth studies to assess the level of alignment between the Diploma Programme (DP) and the upper secondary education systems of Australia (Victoria), Canada (Ontario), Finland, Singapore, South Korea and the United States.
The studies compared DP courses—primarily mathematics and sciences, with an additional focus on history for Australia, and English for the US—at the standard level (SL) and higher level (HL), along the following three dimensions:
- Learning outcomes: A comparison of the key knowledge, skills, and competencies that students are expected to be able to demonstrate upon successful completion of a subject.
- Content alignment: A comparison of the extent of overlap of the fields of knowledge taught and learned in a subject's curriculum. Curriculum content is typically split into topics and more specific sub-topics.
- Demand: Demand is compared in these studies as a holistic measure that comprises four criteria designed to judge complexity, depth, breadth, workload levels and potential for an intellectual stretch within a subject.
The studies show that the DP courses examined can successfully be implemented in different national contexts and represent rigorous curricula as they are designed to support significant depth and breadth of learning. In many comparisons, DP SL courses are equally demanding as those of the other locations. DP HL courses tend to cover more depth and breadth compared to the other curricula or standards studied. In some cases, both SL and HL courses are more demanding.
The Diploma Programme is a recognized and respected two-year programme that prepares students aged 16 to 19 to become lifelong learners, open-minded and compassionate. The DP curriculum is made up of six subjects from groups 1 to 5 and the DP core, comprising theory of knowledge (TOK), creativity, activity, service (CAS) and the extended essay.
Students choose courses from the following subject groups: studies in language and literature; language acquisition; individuals and societies; sciences; mathematics; and the arts. Students will take some subjects at SL and some at HL. SL and HL courses differ in scope but are measured according to the same grade descriptors, with students expected to demonstrate a greater body of knowledge, understanding and skills at higher level.