Theory of knowledge (TOK) is mandatory for all students. It provides an opportunity for students to reflect on the nature of knowledge, and on how we know what we claim to know. The course is centred on two main questions: How do we know (shared knowledge) or how do I know (personal knowledge)? One is supposed to use the Ways of Knowing and the Areas of Knowledge to discuss how one acquires, perceives and applies knowledge and how reliable it can be. The course teaches that there are eight Ways of Knowing through which we acquire areas of knowledge. The Ways of knowing are: perception, reason, language, emotions, intuition, memory, faith and imagination. The Areas of Knowledge are mathematics, natural sciences, human sciences, history, the arts, ethics, religious knowledge systems and indigenous knowledge systems.

Questions that may be discussed may include examples such as:

  • How do we know that the scientific method is a valid method of gaining knowledge?
  • What is the reason for having historical knowledge, and how is it applied in life?
  • What counts as evidence of X?
  • How do we know which is the best model of Y?

Through discussions of these and similar questions, students gain greater awareness of their personal assumptions, including personal ideological biases, as well as developing an appreciation of the diversity and richness of cultural perspectives.

TOK aims to make students reflect critically on diverse ways of knowing and on areas of knowledge while considering the role and nature of knowledge in their own culture and in the wider world.

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