Theory of Knowledge is a critical thinking and epistemological philosophy course, the successful completion of which is a requirement for all IB diploma candidates. TOK follows the standard-based grading class procedure, where the final grade is determined by five components: written reflections, class participation and discussion, the TOK presentation, Extended Essay and CAS progress.
One thing that I have an issue with regarding this course is the emphasis that is placed on CAS, the Community-Action-Service component that asks students to volunteer a certain amount of hours for each of these three strands by the end of the year. CAS is an imperative aspect of the diploma, as completing the requirements by the end of the year helps students more than just grade-wise. It shapes them into well-rounded community members by getting them involved in a range of activities alongside their academic studies, which strengthen their skills and push them out of their comfort zones.
The problem with the high emphasis on CAS is that it gets stressful to receive constant reminder emails about getting the CAS hours completed.
Being constantly placed in a position of alarm in hopes of eventually getting work done is an ineffective strategy. For IB diploma students, who have taken up the responsibility of handling both TOK requirements and six rigourous Higher Level and Standard Level classes from the beginning of the year without backing down, this choice is an indication of their dedication to the diploma. Although the amount of commitment and effort varies among students individually, I would appreciate if we were trusted more to make our own decisions in terms of time management as long as we met the required amount of hours by the end of the year. Even though I understand the reminder emails about getting work done intend to help and not blame, they begin to wear diploma candidates down with the passing of time.
The purpose behind these reminders is certainly well-meaning, but the method comes across as a way of finding fault, which makes students feel incompetent, and as a result, has a counterproductive effect. We need to be trusted more as independent learners to not need this type of adult supervision and pressure to complete our work. I struggle to see the purpose behind this deep emphasis on CAS, especially considering that it is only one of the five components of the overall TOK grade. Therefore, the impact it has on the grade is much lower compared to the presentation and essay, which are the major elements of the IB score for the course, that all this stress laid on it is out of proportion.
CAS provides, by design, a counterbalance to the academic rigor of the educational program. However, being consistently pressured to complete its requirements makes it feel like the exact opposite. Not only does it generate stress and tension, but it even takes the fun out of CAS, diminishing the value that this component of the course holds in the first place.