A Guide to the IB MYP Program

A Rigorous Course of Study for the Middle Years

IB MYP
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The International Baccalaureate® Diploma Programme is growing in popularity at high schools around the world, but did you know that this curriculum is designed only for students in grades eleven and twelve? It’s true, but it doesn’t mean that younger students have to miss out on the IB curriculum experience. While the Diploma Programme is only for juniors and seniors, the IB also offers programs for younger students.

The History of The International Baccalaureate® Middle Years Programme

The International Baccalaureate first introduced the Middle Years Programme in 1994, and has since been adopted by more than 1,300 schools around the world in more than 100 countries. It was originally designed to meet the growing needs of the students in the middle level, which roughly equates to students ages 11-16, at international schools. The International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme, sometimes referred to as MYP, can be adopted by schools of any kind, including both private schools and public schools.

The Ages Levels for the Middle Years Program

The IB MYP is targeted to students ages 11 through 16, which in the United States, typically refers to students in grades six through ten. There is often a misconception that the Middle Years Programme is only for middle school students, but it in fact offers courses for students in grades nine and ten.

Should a high school only offer grades nine and ten, the school may apply for approval to teach only the portions of the curriculum that relate to their appropriate grade levels, and as such, the MYP curriculum is often adopted by high schools that embrace the Diploma Programme, even if the lower grade levels are not offered.

In fact, due to the similar nature of MYP and the Diploma Programme, the IB’s Middle Years Programme (MYP) is sometimes referred to as Pre-IB.

Benefits of The Middle Years Programme Course of Study

The courses offered in the Middle Years Programme are considered to be preparatory for the highest level of IB study, the diploma program, however the diploma is not required. For many students, the MYP offers an improved classroom experience, even if the diploma isn’t the end goal. Similar to the diploma program, the Middle Years Programme focuses on providing students with a real world learning experience, connecting their studies to the world around them. For many students, this form of learning is an engaging way to connect with materials.

In general, the Middle Years Programme is considered more of a framework for teaching rather than a strict curriculum. Schools have the ability to design their own programs within set parameters, encouraging teachers to embrace best practices in teaching and cutting edge technology in order to create a program that best fits with the mission and vision of the school. A holistic program, MYP focuses on the student’s entire experience while providing rigorous studies that are implemented through varied learnings strategies.

The Approach to Learning and Teaching for the Middle Years Programme

Designed as a five-year curriculum for approved schools, the MYP’s goal is to challenge students intellectually and prepare them to be critical thinkers and global citizens. Per the IBO.org website, “The MYP aims to help students develop their personal understanding, their emerging sense of self and responsibility in their community.”

The program was designed to promote the fundamental concepts of “intercultural understanding, communication and holistic learning.” Since the IB Middle Years Programme is offered globally, the curriculum is available in various languages, however what is offered in each language may vary. A unique aspect of the Middle Years Programme is that the framework can be used in part or in whole, meaning schools and students can elect to engage in a few classes or the entire certificate program, the latter of which carries specific requirements and achievements that must be attained.

The Middle Years Programme Curriculum

Most students learn best when they can apply their studies to the world around them. The MYP places a high value on this type of immersive learning, and promotes a learning environment that embraces real-world applications in all of its studies. To do so, the MYP focuses on eight core subject areas. According to IBO.org, these eight core areas provide, “a broad and balanced education for early adolescents.”

These subject areas include:

  1. Language acquisition

  2. Language and literature

  3. Individuals and societies

  4. Sciences

  5. Mathematics

  6. Arts

  7. Physical and health education

  8. Design

This curriculum typically equates to at least 50 hours of instruction in all of the subjects each year. In addition to taking the required core courses, students also participate in an annual interdisciplinary unit that combines work from two different subject areas, and they also participate in a long-term project.

The interdisciplinary unit is designed to help students understand how different areas of study integrate in order to provide a greater understanding of the work at hand. This combination of two different areas of learning helps students make connections between their work and begin to recognize similar concepts and related material. It provides an opportunity for students to delve deeper into their studies and find greater meaning behind what they are learning and the importance of the material in the greater world.

The long-term project is a chance for students to delve into topics of study about which they are passionate.

This level of personal investment in learning usually means students are more excited and engaged in the tasks at hand. The project also asks students to maintain a personal journal throughout the year to document the project and to meet with teachers, which provides ample opportunity for reflection and self assessment. In order to qualify for the Middle Years Programme certificate, students much achieve a minimum score on the project.

The Flexibility of the Middle Years Program

A unique aspect of the IB MYP is that it offers a flexible program. What this means is that unlike other curriculums, IB MYP teachers are not constrained by set text books, topics or assessments, and are able to use the framework of the program and apply its principles to the materials of choice. This allows for what many consider to be a greater level of creativity and the ability to implement learning best practices of any kind, from cutting edge technology to current events and teaching trends.

In addition, the Middle Years Program doesn’t have to be taught in its full format. It is possible for a school to apply to be approved to offer only a portion of the IB. For some schools, this means only offering the program in a few of the grades that typically participate in the Middle Years Programme (such as, a high school offering the MYP only to freshmen and sophomores) or a schools can request permission to only teach some of the eight typical subject areas. It is not uncommon for a school to request to teach six of the eight core subjects in the final two years of the program.

However, with flexibility comes limitations. Similar to the Diploma Programme, students are only eligible to receive recognition (the diploma for higher levels and a certificate for the Middle Years) if they complete the full curriculum and achieve the required standards of performance. Schools wishing their students to be eligible for these forms of recognition must register to participate in what the IB calls the eAssessment, which uses students’ ePortfolios of coursework to evaluate their level of achievement, and also requires students to complete on-screen exams as a secondary measure of aptitude and achievement.

A Comparable International Program

The IB Middle Years Programme is often compared to the Cambridge IGCSE, which is another popular international education curriculum. The IGCSE was developed more than 25 years ago and is also adopted by schools worldwide. However, there are some key differences in the programs and how students from each assess their preparation for the IB Diploma Programme. The IGCSE is designed for students ages fourteen to sixteen, so doesn’t span as many grades as the Middle Years Programme, and unlike MYP, the IGCSE offers set curriculum in each subject area.

Assessments for each program differ, and depending on a student’s learning style, may excel in either program. Students in the IGCSE often still excel in the Diploma Programme, but may find it more challenging to adapt to the varied methods for assessment. However, Cambridge offers their own advanced curriculum options for students, so switching curriculum programs isn’t necessary.

Students wishing to participate in the IB Diploma Programme typically benefit from participating in the MYP instead of other middle level programs.