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IB subjects at SYK

IB subjects at SYK

IB Subjects

SYK IB candidates choose their courses for their IB Diploma programme from the following six subject groups. Course offerings naturally depend on demand and there are some scheduling limitations. Students traditionally choose three Higher Level (HL) subjects that are studies in great depth and involve an intense level of teaching and learning. Three subjects are added to the mix, studied at the Standard Level (SL) which, while also demanding, do not involve the same commitment in the classroom. There are other course mixes that are possible (for example, studying four HL subjects and two SL subjects). All decisions regarding the final diploma subject allocation are undertaken after discussions with the IB Coordinator and IB teachers. Please note that at least two languages are required for the diploma (either two languages from Group 1 or one language from Group 1 and another from Group 2).

It is a requirement of the Diploma program that students study at least one subject from group 1. In group 1, students will study literature, including selections of literature in translation, and may choose to combine this with language or performance studies, depending on their choice of course. Students will choose to study their group 1 subject(s) in a language in which they are academically competent.

The goal of Group 1 courses is to support and develop:

  • a personal appreciation of language and literature
  • skills in literary criticism
  • an understanding of the formal, stylistic and aesthetic qualities of texts
  • strong powers of expression, both written and oral
  • an appreciation of cultural differences in perspective

The range of texts studied in language A courses is broad, and students grow to appreciate a language’s complexity, wealth, and subtleties in a variety of contexts. A specific aim is to engender a lifelong interest in literature and a love for the elegance and richness of human expression.

English Language & Literature (HL and SL)

This course is for students whose strongest academic language is English as well as those who hope to continue their studies in English and those who wish a language challenge. It aims to actively engage students with language and culture and, by extension, to encourage students to question the meaning generated by language and texts, both literary and non-literary. This course aims to support lifelong learning through such engagement. Cooperative work, speech acts, group and individual presentations, writing workshops, author visits, and trips outside the classroom (to museums, theatre, performance art, etc.) are all integrated into the course. The successful completion at the HL level is the equivalent of the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency (CPE); at the SL level its equivalent is the Cambridge Certifcate in Advanced English (CAE).

Finnish A, Literature (HL and SL)

The literature courses encourage students to appreciate the artistry of literature and to develop an ability to reflect critically on their reading. Works are studied in their literary and cultural contexts. In addition, works in translation are also studied. Cooperative work, speech acts, group and individual presentations, writing workshops, author visits, and trips outside the classroom (to museums, theatre, performance art, etc.) are all integrated into the course.

School-supported self-taught language A literature (SL for mother tongue speakers of other languages)

For students who wish to continue studying their own mother tongue (other than Finnish or English), the IB offers the possibility of choosing Language A, Literature SL as a self-taught component.

English B, Finnish B, French B (HL and SL)

Language B is a course in language and culture. The course is designed for students who have previous studies in a foreign language and who wish to continue studying that language in the IB. 3-5 years of prior learning are required for for the study of a language B SL; the successful completion of this course is the equivalent of the Cambridge Preliminary English Test (PET) level in English. In HL, the minimum recommended previous study is five years and a successful candidate will have achieved the equivalent of a Cambridge First Certificate in English (FCE). The Language B course emphasizes communication: after successfully completing a language B course, a student will be able to express him or herself both in writing and orally in the target language, to understand a variety of texts, both written and spoken, and to engage in discussions in the target language.

At SYK, IB Language B is taught in the target language, and the language and culture is studied through a wide selection of current and relevant texts: newspaper articles, short stories, pictures, video, among many others. Whenever possible, we also visit museums and theatres in Helsinki region.

The courses cover a variety of themes: the core themes are media and communication, global issues and social relationships. Some optional themes are also studied. All of our students also read literature suitable to their level. At HL, the study of literature is also required in the syllabus.

Economics (HL and SL)

Economics is a dynamic social science that deals with the contemporary world. The study of economics essentially deals with the allocation of the world’s limited resources while satisfying human unlimited needs and wants. As a social science, economics uses scientific methodologies that include quantitative and qualitative elements.

The IB Diploma Programme economics course emphasises the economic theories of:

  1. microeconomics, which deal with economic variables affecting individuals, firms and markets,
  2. macroeconomics, focusing on countries, governments and societies,
  3. international trade, and
  4. development economics.

Prominent among these issues are fluctuations in economic activity as well as environmental sustainability. These economic theories are applied to real-world issues and cases throughout the course.

IB economics students at SYK are encouraged to develop a better understanding of the world, with a focus on local, national and international perspectives, as well as global issues. We also aim at raising students’ awareness of their own responsibilities at the local, national and international levels. Throughout the course, we seek to develop values and attitudes that will enable students to achieve a degree of personal commitment in trying to resolve these issues as citizens of an increasingly interdependent world.


History (HL and SL)

The IB history program helps students to gain a better understanding of the present through critical reflection upon the past. It also promotes an understanding of history as a discipline, including the nature and diversity of its sources, methods and interpretations. Creativity in all fields of human endeavor involves the study of the past.

All standard level and higher level students complete a common core of at least two of the following 20th century world history topics:

  1. Causes, practices and effects of wars
  2. Democratic states—challenges and responses
  3. Origins and development of authoritarian and single-party states
  4. Nationalist and independence movements in Africa and Asia and post-1945 Central and Eastern European states
  5. The Cold War

To deepen this core program all students will study a further prescribed topic set by the IB and assessed through a document-based exam. Currently the prescribed topic choices at SYK are “the Arab–Israeli conflict 1945–79” or “Communism in crisis 1976–89.”

Higher level students will, in addition to the above, study aspects of the history of Europe and the Middle East in the twentieth century. A popular addition to the history program at SYK is an annual IB2 trip to a European city of particular relevance to our syllabus, such as Berlin.

IB diploma students will take one or two, or in special cases three, experimental sciences.
Among other things, the science courses aim to:
  • provide a rigourous body of knowledge, methods and techniques that characterise science and technology
  • develop an ability to analyse, evaluate and synthesise scientific information
  • raise awareness of the moral, ethical, social, economic and environmental implications of using science and technology.

Practical work forms a significant part of an experimental science course. Through practical work,  students will develop theory from practical observation, learn specific techniques, gain confidence in manipulative skills, and have fun. Our small teaching groups offer students an excellent environment to develop their scientific skills in the laboratory and in the field. All science students must undertake the Group 4 Project, which mirrors the work of real scientists by encouraging collaboration between colleagues from different disciplines. In January of the first IB year, we travel to Tvärminne Zoological Research Station near Hanko, to complete the Group 4 Project. Over the years, we have found that the peaceful working atmosphere outside school has provided a very productive environment, resulting in good team spirit and excellent presentations.

Biology (HL and SL)

During the course, students will study the science of living things; and how they function.

All standard and higher level students learn together common core topics, including cell biology, molecular biology, genetics, ecology, evolution and human physiology. Higher level students will go deeper into the topics with further literature as well as a few new topics, such as plant science and animal physiology. In SYK, all biology students will go to the field course in Tvärminne, studying the Baltic Sea as an example ecosystem in ecology.

In addition to the common core, all students will complete one option together chosen by students: neurobiology and behaviour, biotechnology and bioinformatics, ecology and conservation or human physiology.

Chemistry (HL and SL)

Chemistry is often referred to as the central science, since chemical principles underpin both our physical environment and all biological systems.

Over the course of the two year programme, the following topics will be studied: Atomic Structure, Periodicity, Quantitative chemistry, Bonding, Organic Chemistry, Acids and Bases, Oxidation and Reduction, Energetics, Kinetics, and Equilibrium. One fourth of the studies consists of practical work which continuously reinforces theoretical concepts throughout the programme. The school facilities support the studies and the practical work. Moreover, SYK cooperates with universities and companies in Helsinki area. This allows for visits and cooperative projects.

The optional section of the syllabus has varied according to the students’ interests. At present, the most common choice is Medicinal chemistry.

Computer Science (HL and SL)

It is evident that the role of computers in our society is becoming even more central. Computer Science is one of the fastest growing fields! A wide range of skills is needed to apply computers to solve real world problems. These range from understanding how a computer works to investigating how a system fits within the purposes of an

In IB Computer Science you will learn to think about the use of computers from many different perspectives. Topics withing computer science include: Internal structure of a computer. Writing programs. Using data structures. Designing algorithms. Engineering software with a purpose and a lifecycle. Constructing and maintaining systems.

The emphasis in the program is on computational thinking, program design and programming. From digital user to digital creator!

Physics (HL and SL)

Physics is the most fundamental of the experimental sciences, as it seeks to explain the universe itself, from the very smallest particles—quarks, which may be truly fundamental—to the vast distances between galaxies.

The Diploma physics course at SYK allows students to develop traditional practical skills and techniques and to increase their facility in the use of mathematics, which is the language of physics. It also allows students to develop interpersonal skills, and information and communication technology skills, which are essential in modern scientific endeavours and are important life-enhancing, transferable skills in their own right.

In the physics course, we will study the following topics: Mechanics, Thermal Physics, Waves, Electricity and Magnetism, Circular motion and Gravitation, Atomic, nuclear and particle physics, Energy production. At higher level four extra topics are included: Wave phenomena, Fields, Electromagnetic induction, Quantum and nuclear physics. Both higher level and standard level can choose one option. In the past few years students have enjoyed studying Astrophysics.

Mathematics: Analysis and Approaches (HL and SL)

IB Mathematics consists of various inspiring and challenging topics that link Mathematics with other subjects. Different applications of Mathematical methods to phenomena studied in Physics, Chemistry, Economics and Biology are considered.

IB students will be well prepared for their future studies. Mathematics gives them an excellent opportunity to explore any conceptual or real world phenomenon of their own interest. The students will learn to work and search information independently and express their findings concisely in writing.

In SYK, we offer Mathematics Higher Level and Mathematics Standard level. Mathematics HL is intended for students with strong mathematical background. It is more demanding than the advanced course of Mathematics (pitkä matematiikka) of the national curriculum. Mathematics SL course requires good knowledge and skills of basic Mathematics and mathematical methods. The level of difficulty of the course lies between the advanced and the basic courses (lyhyt matematiikka) of Mathematics of the national curriculum.

A second subject from Groups 1-4.

Students chosen for the IB Diploma programme will generally choose to attend the Preparatory Year before beginning their Diploma studies. The IB programme at SYK therefore consists of a two-year IB DP course (years 11-12) preceded by a preparatory year (year 10).

This Preparatory Year will enable students to become familiar with the subjects offered in the Diploma and the assessment tools, in addition to practicing and refining skills and study habits. For those students who have not been studying academic subjects in English previously, this year also enables them to become accustomed to using English as the language of instruction. Most of the preparatory year courses are compulsory for every pre-IB student, but students are also able to choose additional courses from the national line offerings (taught in Finnish).

  • Finnish (native level): 3-4 courses
  • Finnish as a second language: 2 courses
  • English: 4-5 courses (the 5th course is Debate in English)
  • Mathematics: 5 courses
  • Biology: 1 course
  • Physics: 1 course
  • Chemistry: 1 course
  • Economics: 1 course
  • History: 1 course
  • Computer Science: 1 course
  • Research skills: 1 course
  • Student counselling: 1 course
  • Psychology: 1 course
  • Philosophy: 1 course
  • Swedish*: 2 courses (or 5 courses for students taking the matriculation examination test)
  • French*: 3 courses (compulsory for students wishing to choose IB French B ) OR German* or Russian* 3 courses (possibility to take the matriculation examination test in the national line)

*These are not beginner level courses and prior knowledge of the language is required (circa 3-5 years).

Please note that this is not a complete list: You can also choose additional courses from the national line course tray.