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Environmental Systems and Societies International Baccalaureate group 3 and group 4 subject at Dane Court Grammar School

Course description

The main purpose of this course is to give students a coherent perspective on the interrelationships between environmental systems and societies. So what does this mean? It means that we won't just say "here is an environmental problem, isn't it terrible".  To really understand the causes and effects of environmental problems, and how people try to manage them, we will need to look at the issues from many angles (e.g. scientific, ethical, historical, economic. cultural and socio-political). This is called taking a 'holistic' approach.

By the end of this course students will be able to adopt an informed personal response to current environmental issues. They will also understand the impact on the environment of the choices and decisions we make in our own lives. Students will also gain an appreciation of the global diversity of environments and ecosystems, cultural and historical differences in attitudes to the environment, and differing perspectives on sustainability.

The subject is very helpful for students who have chosen sciences and mathematics at higher level and want to strengthen their science profile yet further, but also for students who understand the value of science in their overall profile but do not want to take a 'traditional' science subject. The skills of research and analysis that students will learn will support them in a large number of fields. 

As a trans-disciplinary subject ESS is designed to combine the techniques and knowledge associated with Group 4 (the experimental sciences) with those associated with Group 3 (individuals and societies).  By choosing to study ESS, students are able to satisfy the requirements for both Groups 3 and 4, thus allowing them to choose another subject from any option group (including another Group 3 or 4).


Course content

The eight topics that students will study come under the following headings:

1. Foundation of environmental systems and societies

2. Ecosystems and ecology 

3. Biodiversity and conservation 

4. Water and aquatic food production systems and societies 

5. Soil systems and terrestrial food production systems and societies

6. Atmosphere systems and societies

7. Climate change and energy production 

8. Human systems and resource use 

Entry requirements

General entry requirements:

International Baccalaureate Diploma:  6 x grade 6 and 2 x grade 5  at GCSE or equivalent.

International Baccalaureate Career-Related Programme:  3 x grade 6 and 2 x grade 5  at GCSE or equivalent.


The final grade is made up of marks from external exams and internal assessment.

Students are required to complete 30 hours of practical work during the course, with the internal assessment (IA) submission requirement being one longer investigation / exploration which will be used to assess skills such as planning, results analysis and conclusion, discussion and evaluation, applications and communication.

External exam paper 1 (1 hr) 25%

External exam paper 2 (2 hrs) 50%

Internal practical assessments 25%

Future opportunities

Through the study of environmental systems and societies (ESS) students will be well prepared for university degrees in a range of subjects from politics to biology, from archaeology to chemistry. 

Further information

This course is offered as part of the International Baccalaureate Diploma programme, or as part of the International Baccalaureate Career-Related Programme.

The International Baccalaureate Diploma

The IB Diploma is made up of six subject groups together with a core comprising of three parts. 

Students study six subjects selected from the subject groups.  Three of these subjects are studied at higher level and the remaining three subjects are studied at standard level.  Students must choose one subject from each of groups 1 to 5.  However, instead of a group 6 subject, a candidate may select an additional subject from groups 2 to 4.

The three core requirements are the extended essay, theory of knowledge, and creativity, action, service.


The International Baccalaureate Career-Related Programme

The IB Career-Related Programme aims to provide a curriculum for students that will equip them for further education and also the world of work.  It combines the academic rigour and principles of the IB with well-established vocational qualifications and a unique ‘core’ course.

The IB Career-Related Programme is made up of:

A vocational course worth 2 A levels

Two IB subjects at standard level

A ‘core’ comprising:

·         Approaches to Learning

·         Reflective Project

·         Community in service

·         Basic language skills

How to apply

You can apply for this course through UCAS Progress. Add this course to your favourites so you can start making an application.

Last updated date: 13 November 2018
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