Critical thinking

We have developed core Critical Thinking courses: Systems of Belief, Critical Perspectives, Ten Ideas that changed the World, and Theory of Knowledge. Throughout the school, all students take these courses, which are designed to teach them about a range of real world philosophical, cultural, religious and political issues and problems, and to enable them to acquire skills in critical interrogation of such issues.

A student who can apply knowledge and skills acquired in one particular field across to another is more likely to think critically and to be creative. And the student who is able to think inwardly, to reflect on the way in which they learn and to understand how best to develop, is most likely to achieve their true potential.

Theory of Knowledge (TOK)

IB Diploma students develop expertise in a wide range of knowledge, but this can lead to an uncritical approach to this knowledge and the processes with which it was developed. In the IB's Core, Theory of Knowledge students critically engage with the complexities inherent in constructing knowledge in the world.

The traditional academic disciplines each approach the complexities of the natural and human world with their own set of tools, starting points and basic assumptions. Theory of Knowledge offers an opportunity to critically explore these methods, giving the students the opportunity to take a step back from the content and sometimes artificial distinctions between disciplines and explore how we build our understanding of the world.

In TOK, we look at what we believe to be true and critically evaluate the reasons we have for holding these beliefs. The course sits within the IB Diploma Core, meaning that it draws together a number of academic, communication and presentation skills encouraged by the programme as a whole.

It is an extremely wide ranging course and deals with:

  • Subject-related issues: Does art explain certain aspects of human experience better than science? How reliable are History textbooks)
  • Personal and contemporary issues: Can I know what is right? When should we trust the media? How are my beliefs influenced by my culture?

  • Perennial philosophical problems: Are humans predictable? Do our senses provide the truth? How might religious beliefs orientate and offer significance to our lives?

While Theory of Knowledge helps to develop rigour and logical analysis, it goes well beyond a critical thinking course. It introduces students to a range of ideas and allows them to recognise and develop their own independent perspective in relation to others. As such it demands openness, respect and a collaborative approach.

TOK is unique to the IB programme and provides students the opportunity to explore the higher order thinking associated with weighing up the various approaches to knowledge that they are presented with.

Questions about the various uses of evidence, methods, conclusions and implications of knowledge are those elements that universities seem to be most interested in during admissions interviews. Whereas other students might get tripped up on these, IB students have already spent a significant amount of time reflecting on them. Rather than learn, learn, learn, the TOK course is essential in the IB's mission to train students how to think.

Head of TOK: Mr Navaneethan Kunaratnamnxk@sevenoaksschool.org