Environmental Systems & Societies (IB SL only)

Course description

Environmental Systems and Societies is an exciting and highly relevant cross-disciplinary subject that draws together elements of Biology, Geography and Environmental Science. The course provides a coherent perspective on the interrelationships between environmental systems and the societies within them, encouraging pupils to develop an informed and personal response to pressing environmental issues. A rigorous and scientific course, ESS involves practical investigations but also develops an understanding of how socio-economic, cultural and political factors help to shape environmental behaviour. A holistic “systems” approach is used and leads pupils to an appreciation of nature and values of internationalism.

All students undertake practical work designed to develop their practical and enquiry skills through fieldwork in preparation for the Internal Assessment (IA), as well as to deepen their understanding of concepts they have studied by observing and experiencing them in reality.

ESS contains both science and social science elements and counts as either a Group 3 or Group 4 subject (at SL), making it one of the most versatile subjects that the IB offers. This allows pupils who do it in Group 3 to study up to three sciences (including ESS), or pupils who take it in Group 4 to study up to three humanities (including ESS). ESS works in combination with subjects such as Biology, Geography, Economics and Politics. It can also count as both a Group 3 and 4 subject, allowing pupils who take it to study up to three languages in Group 2 or pick up additional creative subjects from Group 6. ESS could act as a tactical choice to make IB viable for certain higher education paths. However, you should only choose it if you are fundamentally interested in the course.


Biology and/or Geography GCSE with at least a grade 6 are not prerequisites but would be an advantage. Pupils must be hungry for a deeper understanding about the world in which they live and be willing to explore ideas and current themes such as climate change, population control, and nature conservation.

Potential careers

The Environmental Systems and Societies course will provide pupils with a broad knowledge base in many of the pressing contemporary and historical socio-ecological issues facing humanity. Such knowledge is useful in careers that deal specifically with society such as nature conservation, journalism, politics, law and teaching. Pupils will also develop many transferable skills such as public speaking and presentation delivery, group work and forming and expressing personal opinions. These skills will undoubtedly prepare them for a wide range of careers in management and business. The ability to analyse and reason are key learning outcomes of the course.

Contact for further information

Mrs Abigail Patterson, Head of ESS (AMP@wellingtoncollege.org.uk)