Italy's first IB School
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Italy's First IB School

In 1975, St. Stephen’s became the first school in Italy to offer the International Baccalaureate program and, in recent years, celebrated the best IB scores in the School’s history with six students earning perfect scores of 45 points. As part of the IB World School’s community, the International Baccalaureate has enabled St. Stephen’s graduates to continue their pursuit of knowledge and excellence at colleges and universities throughout the world.

The International Baccalaureate Organization is a non-profit organization that was founded in Geneva in 1968 by a group of progressive and talented teachers who were looking for a different, more intercontinental approach to teaching and development. The internationally recognized qualification granted by the IBO was created with particular attention to preparing students worldwide for the new competitive, globalized and multicultural world that confronts them.

The IB Diploma Program at St. Stephen’s is a two-year curriculum for 11th- and 12th- grades and is a continuation of the international education we offer in grades 9 and 10. Its balanced and rigorous curriculum builds principled, intelligent contributors to society while its global reputation ensures that our internationally mobile students are well poised to continue their education, wherever in the world this might take them.

Students are required to take six separate subjects, one from each of six specialized groups that are divided along lines of academic disciplines. At St. Stephen's these are:

  • First Language (English is required as a first language; Italian and French are optional as first languages)
  • Second Language
  • Individuals and Societies (broadly construed as social sciences and humanities)
  • Experimental Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Arts
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IB Groups


Group 1: Language & Literature
Group 2: Language Acquisition
Group 3: Individuals & Societies
Group 4: Experimental Sciences
Group 5: Mathematics
Group 6: The Arts

Nearly all courses last for two years and all involve substantial coursework that culminates in the final examinations. Most but not all examinations are taken at the end of Year 12. Some students may choose to "anticipate" one or two examinations in Year 11.

The diverse, international and progressive nature of the school and its students is reflected in the subject offerings. Alongside our commitment to English language education, we support a wide variety of first and second languages. Furthermore, while courses such as Environmental Systems and Societies reflect the global awareness we encourage in our students, courses such as Renaissance and Baroque Art History bring our students much closer to what is directly around them, in the historical heart of Rome.

The 'Circle' of the six classes that students are required to take, is underpinned by three cross-curricular structured programs; Theory of Knowledge (ToK), Creativity - Action - Service (CAS) and the Extended Essay. These together with the learner profile at the heart of the circle and the pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning surrounding it, describe the model of the diploma program.

Who should take the IB?

There are two groups of students who should pursue the IB Diploma: those who need it for entrance to the universities of their choice and those who embrace it as an academically and personally challenging course of study. All students must be willing to work hard, must be self-motivated, and must be able to organize their time effectively.

Students who choose not to pursue the full IB Diploma may take IB Certificates. Study for IB examinations may be combined with Advanced Placement in some subject areas.

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Learning at St. Stephen’s extends beyond the classroom and forms an integral part of a student’s extra-curricular involvement. One of the primary ways this takes place is through CAS, which in the IB stands for CreativityActivityService, and is meant to extend traditional in-class learning by helping students connect with their communities.

CAS is an IB requirement, but ideally should not be an activity that students feel obligated to do, rather, it should be an enterprise that they want to do. Participation in CAS encourages all students to be involved in creative pursuits, physical activities and sport, and service projects in Rome, throughout Italy, and all over the world.

In sum, CAS challenges students to think differently, learn more about themselves, develop awareness of the world around them, become more open-minded, work cooperatively with others, and become better citizens.

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Extended Essay

Students select their topics in one subject area, in cooperation with a faculty supervisor, who offers guidance in finding a useful research question, as well as assistance with suggesting source material.

The research is presented as a formal piece of scholarship of about 4,000 words, and represents 40 hours of work on the part of the student. In order to emphasize the acquisition of research skills and to underline the essential nature of the Extended Essay in the core of the IB curriculum, substantial work in research and writing is conducted in Year 1, with a final deadline at the beginning of Year 2.

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Theory of Knowledge

"The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

Within the IB program at St. Stephen's, Theory of Knowledge (ToK) allows students to discover and share views on a variety of issues, while pushing them to explore different approaches to unfamiliar subjects. Philosophical concepts that underpin different disciplines are discussed and debated. Arguments are judged on the ways in which logic and values are applied to a range of issues.

This challenging IB course encourages students to look more clearly at how they learn, and how they understand academic subjects. More broadly, students must think about how they and others interpret the world around them.

ToK is a critical component that weaves the entire IB program together. Through a series of entry points, such as Ways of Knowing, which focuses on how we gain knowledge of the world and our place in it, in conjunction with Areas of Knowledge, that explores our methods of gaining knowledge, students develop the tools to investigate and evaluate the nature of learning across their curriculum, while enabling them to be critical and receptive world citizens.

Spanning the first three semesters of the IB diploma, ToK culminates with a critical essay and a presentation on a topic of the student's choosing.