About this course

Theory of Knowledge International Baccalaureate Course Overview

Theory of knowledge (TOK) explores the very essence of knowledge itself and how individuals know what we claim to know. Part of the IB Diploma Programme ‘core’ that all students undertake, TOK is a fundamental part of the educational approach of the DP – considering what constitutes knowledge, how it is developed, the limits of what we can know and how that differs across cultures, all whilst honing students’ own skills of critical reflection.

TOK equips students with the capacity to unpick personal standpoints and biases, examine the ideologies of others and appreciate how knowledge is fundamentally interpretive and contextual. More broadly the course supports the open-minded thinking championed by the IBDP, providing a framework and thinking skills that support students in their study of other subjects. The course encourages academic and personal growth – students become more self-aware about what they do and do not know and appreciate what influences their thinking. It goes further, getting students to consider different methods of thinking in different disciplines and the central role of values and ethics in how the think and question the world around us.

Questions and inquiry are central to the TOK approach. Starting with: how do we know that? Then, how do we know we know? Moving onto questions such as: what does this theory mean in real life? Or: what evidence do we really have for ‘this’? This inquiry builds up student awareness of the assumptions and perspectives we all have, both individual and shared, equipping them to know more about knowing itself. It is both fascinating and useful.

Students will study one main theme: Knowledge and the knower, in which students examine themselves as thinkers and consider the different communities of knowers to which individuals belong. Then students study two optional themes from: knowledge and technology; knowledge and language; knowledge and politics; Knowledge and religion and knowledge and indigenous societies.

The course covers 5 main areas of knowledge: history, the human sciences, the natural sciences, the arts and mathematics.

Students will undertake both an oral presentation (exhibition) and a 1,600 word essay. The exhibition, which is internally assessed, enables students to apply their TOK learning to real-world scenarios, showing flexibility of thought and contextual awareness. The essay, which is externally assessed, is more theoretical, exploring the concepts discovered on the course and applying them to areas of knowledge in one of six pre set essay titles issued each year.

  • “To what extent are areas of knowledge shaped by their past? Consider with reference to two areas of knowledge.”
  • “There is no such thing as a neutral question. Evaluate this statement with reference to two areas of knowledge.”
  • “’The task of history is the discovering of the constant and universal principles of human nature.’ To what extent are history and one other area of knowledge successful in this task?”
  • How important are the opinions of experts in the search for knowledge? Answer with reference to the arts and one other area of knowledge.
  • Are there fewer ethical constraints on the pursuit of knowledge in the arts than in the human sciences?
  • To what extent do you agree with the claim that “knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice” (Anton Chekhov)? Answer with reference to two areas of knowledge.
  • What counts as knowledge?
  • On what grounds might we doubt a claim?
  • Are some types of knowledge less open to interpretation than others?
  • Is bias inevitable in the production of knowledge?
  • Should some knowledge not be sought on ethical grounds?
  • How can we distinguish between knowledge, belief and opinion?
Key information
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International Baccalaureate
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Online, real-time classrooms, 24/7 access to curriculum
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About our fees

We have several fee packages and options, with differing levels of commitment to suit most circumstances. In most cases parents have the option to pay in instalments, spreading the cost of the investment.