In order to keep the IB curriculum as modern as possible, the IB tends to change the syllabus of a number of subjects every few years. For the 2022 exam season, one of the modified curricula is TOK.
An integral part of the Diploma Program, the Theory of Knowledge course (TOK for short) surrounds what knowledge is and how we can evaluate that knowledge. The curriculum for the course has changed, with the first assessments in May 2022.
TOK itself is now based on a completely different topic. Pre-2021, it was more based upon self-development with knowledge. There was more of an emphasis on developing as a person in the way that you think and in the way that you look at the world.
The new curriculum focuses more on “how we know what”, meaning questioning every piece of knowledge. It aims to show that there are questions with multiple different answers, and that there really isn’t one correct answer. Each is correct in its own way, which is extremely necessary in today’s changing world.
1. Core Theme
The IB introduced a Core Theme to the new TOK curriculum. It aims to replace the 2015-2021 curriculum’s Knowing about Knowing component.
The Core Theme for the new curriculum is Knowledge and the Knower. Through this, students “reflect on themselves as knowers and thinkers, and on the different communities of knowers to which we belong”. It helps students guide their thinking through the course and bring a more personal context to assessments like the new TOK Exhibition.
2. Areas of Knowledge (AOK)
The Areas of Knowledge are very similar to those of the previous curriculum. They are meant to be “specific branches of knowledge” with “distinct nature and different methods of gaining knowledge”. They are:
- The Human Sciences (Sociology and the like)
- The Natural Sciences (Laboratory sciences)
- The Arts
This is where the IB took the TOK and related it to the entire Curriculum. There is overlap with all of the subject groups. The major change to the AOKs is that Religious Knowledge Systems and Indigenous Knowledge Systems were shifted to the new Optional Themes.
3. Optional Themes
The Optional Themes are themes that students can choose to focus their study on. Students are required to study two of these. They are:
- Knowledge and Technology
- Knowledge and Language
- Knowledge and Politics
- Knowledge and Religion (former AOK)
- Knowledge and Indigenous Societies (former AOK)
This is where there has been a major change to the TOK Curriculum. In the 2015-2021 curriculum, students had to study the Ways of Knowing (WOK), which are specifically how we know what we know. These have been integrated into Core Theme, and the IB had more space to include the Optional Themes.
The TOK assessments, thought of as the culmination of the course, have completely changed. There are two assessments for TOK:
- The Exhibition
- Prescribed Title Essay
The TOK Exhibition is a compilation of three objects (or artefacts) with respective commentaries. Each object should be selected according to an overarching IA prompt (see pages 40 and 41). It is worth 10 marks and 33% (⅓) of the TOK grade. It is internally marked (so, by your school) and externally moderated (a sample is checked by the IB to ensure fair grading).
The TOK Prescribed Title Essay revolves around answering a specific Knowledge Question (KQ) chosen from a list of six given ones (hence ‘prescribed’). It is worth 10 marks and makes up 67% (⅔) of the TOK grade. The Essays are externally marked (i.e. the IB marks them; your school plays no role in marking).
The changes to the May 2022 TOK syllabus should better prepare us for the later world, especially with the fact that every question and every situation may not have one correct answer.