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International Baccalaureate IB Middle Years Programme MYP Guide

International Baccalaureate IB Middle Years Programme MYP Guide

by May 3, 2016

The International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programme (MYP) is (usually) studied over a five year period by students between the ages of 11 and 16 years between Grades 4 and 8.

The programme is formally examined between the ages of 14 and 16, a period in which the breadth of subject provision is narrowed (slightly) and key IB “added value” programmes kick in. The programme, unlike some other curricular, cannot be fast-tracked to be sat within one year.

Many parents fret that an IB school education is necessarily academic and that weaker or mixed ability children will suffer in IB schools, relative to the most academic children or otherwise gifted and talented. This is resolutely not the case at the MYP stage of education which is designed ground-up to be inclusive. The IB states this with great clarity:

“The MYP is inclusive by design; students of all interests and academic abilities can benefit from their participation.”

This said, until the launch of the new International Baccalaureate® (IB) Career-related Programme (CP), graduating students from the MYP were faced with a single, highly academic slipstream to the Diploma, which certainly does not provide as well for weaker to mixed ability students.

Our view is that all parents should consider the very real strengths of the IB MYP for their children without worry of any prejudicial academic “stretch.” The programme provides very real and inspirational opportunities for all children to excel – and, if appropriate later, provides extremely good foundations to move to alternative curricular schools at 16.

One, in a large number of benefits of the MPY, is its integrated whole child provision. In alternative curricular schools, students are often at the mercy of the school for the degree of enrichment and inter-disciplinary education provided. The best schools of any curricular will provide this – with the IB MYP a whole child, individualised learning approach, to a greater extent, is significantly built-in.

Our simple view of the IB MYP is that it takes the best of the later Diploma – its breadth, critical focus, outward looking dynamics and freedom for children to be intellectual explorers, but without the degree of pressure or constricted academic focus. Of all the curricular it is probably the most rounded and individualised. It also carries global weight and not inconsiderable cache.



For prospective parents, if there is one key fact about the IB MYP to take away from this Guide, and one single misunderstanding to right,  it is that the MYP is an inclusive curriculum for all children not the grounding for an academic hothouse . It is also one that, by any standards, is outstanding.

Further information can be found in the tables above.

Details to consider
Curricula - Which country is it from?


Curricula - Who underwrites it?

International Baccalaureate
(Formerly International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO))

Curricula - Age when taken?

Studied over five years, generally by students between the ages of 11 and 16 years, between Grades 4 to 8 of an International Baccalaureate school. The certificate is awarded on the basis of each student's achievement in the final two years off the programme.

Curricula - Subjects available?

The International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programme (MYP) curriculum requires study for:

(1) at least 50 hours in 8 subjects chosen from 8 subject blocks (see Note 2 below) except in the last two years of the programme where the students focus on subjects in blocks 1-5 and one subject out of blocks 6-8;

(2) annually, completion of an interdisciplinary study involving two or more of the subjects;

(3) long term completion of an over-arching project which explores something that fascinates and inspires them and records where their ideas and interest leads; and

(4) complete a school designed service as action community activity.

The 8 core subject blocks are:

(1) Language acquisition (learning a new language)
(2) Language and literature
(3) Individuals and societies
(4) Sciences
(5) Mathematics
(6) Arts
(7) Physical and health education
(8) Design

Subjects available within each subject block are:

SUBJECT BLOCK 1: Language acquisition (learning a new language)
Mandarin Chinese

SUBJECT BLOCK 2: Language and literature

SUBJECT BLOCK 3: Individuals and societies
Geography, History, Integrated humanities including:
Demographics and human movements
Settlement and urban morphology
Superpowers, empires, and supra-national alliances and organizations
Significant individuals
Warfare and peacekeeping
Rights and social protest
Trade, aid and exchange
Economic agents and their interests and role in the economy: consumers, producers, governments, banks
Measurements and trends
Ecological relationships
Industrialization and technological developments

Integrated Sciences
Environmental Science
Life Science
Physical Science

SUBJECT BLOCK 5: Mathematics
Number, Algebra, Geometry and trigonometry, and Statistics and probability through:
Extended Mathematics

Visual Arts:
(a) Visual Art
(b) Media
(c) Integrated Visual Arts
Performing Arts:
(a) Drama
(b) Music
(c) Dance
(d) Integrated Performing Arts

SUBJECT BLOCK 7: Physical and health education
Chosen sport (Football, Rugby, Netball, Swimming, Cricket etc.) or health activity:
Knowing and understanding – identify and activity and problem
Planning for performance – Create a plan to improve/solve problem
Applying and performing – Participate in activity to test solution, monitor improvement
Reflecting and improving performance – Act and Reflect on activity and solution(s)

Product design
Digital design
Combined digital and product design

Curricula - Balance of coursework to exams?

The International Baccalaureate® (IB) Middle Years Programme (MYP) results in the formal accredited qualification: the IB MYP Certificate. To earn this, students must:

(1) complete 5, two-hour on-screen examinations marked externally by the IB in (1) Language and literature; (2) Individuals and society; (3) Sciences; (4) Mathematics and (5) Interdisciplinary learning;

(2) submit an ePortfolio in Language Acquisition (externally moderated by the IB);

(3) submit an ePortfolio in either Design OR Arts OR Physical and health education (externally moderated by the IB);

(4) complete the moderated personal project/thesis; and,

(5) complete school-based expectations for service as action (community service)

Taken together, the International Baccalaureate® (IB) Middle Years Programme (MYP) provides a balance between coursework and examination based qualification that can be weighted by the school to best represents the individual child.

Curricula - How much is rote based learning?

Rote learning (retaining of knowledge) is necessarily a core requirement for any student to be able to succeed in the IB MYP.

Retaining knowledge, however, is viewed by the IB as a basic skill and high performance in examinations, and coursework, requires analysing and presenting information, evaluating and constructing arguments and solving problems creatively.

These skills are also prioritised in coursework so that, for example, it is less the physical activity in the area of Sports and Health Science that is being examined, but the student's analysis of the activity, associated problems, its solution, testing of that solution and review of the final impacts of their intervention.

Parents should note that the IB MYP does not weight examinations more highly than coursework, and the level of adjustments to assessment available to any school should ensure that students, whether gifted in examinations or coursework, are represented at their best.

Unlike other international programmes, and particularly relative to the IGCSE with which it is most often compared, the IB MYP is significantly less exam-centric.

Curricula - How easy is it?

Although to earn the formal IB MYP Certificate requires significant external moderation, the programme is fundamentally structured and delivered by schools. Ultimately the challenge of the MYP - and its effective impact on students, will depend on the school and the quality of its teaching provision and chosen subject provision under each subject block. Schools are given significant latitude to match subject choice, delivery methodology and assessment to the ability and gifts of each child.

Theoretically, comparative to alternative curricular, however, it is arguable that the IB MYP programme, at its best, is an intrinsically more difficult program for some students because of the breadth of the syllabus and its compulsory inclusion of a second language. In practice, however, the flexibility afforded to scoring within each subject block, and the relatively low threshold score required to pass the IB MYP, ensures that the IB MYP Certificate is not beyond the reach of students.

Curricula - Materials for private study?

The IB provides exceptional supporting materials and these are backed by wide-ranging third party source materials.

Curricula - Grades awarded?

Each subject studied within the 8 subject blocks is graded out of 7.

The single subject that is scored highest in each subject block is carried forward to calculation for the total award.

The highest point score is 56. This highest scoring subject is listed on the IB MYP certificate, rather than the name of the subject block.

To pass the IB MYP students must score a minimum of 3 points in every category, and sufficiently more in one or more catgories to take the total score to 28 points. The candidate must meet also the Service and Actions requirements set by the school.

Curricula - Cost?

An International Baccalaureate education is usually aligned with the most expensive Emirate's schools.

This is mainly because of the calibre of teaching staff required to teach it, and the number of teaching staff required to ensure its effective delivery - particularly within inclusive schools.

Whilst this is a general rule, alternative curricular schools can be more expensive, costs rising according to the number of subject options made available within each school, the newness of the school, calibre of teaching staff - and the quality and breadth of facilities.

Note: Prospective parents are advised not to assess the quality of any school by its curriculum, but rather by a combination of factors including class sizes; staff:student ratios; faculty qualification and experience; the breadth of subject options; enrichment; school transparency; the quality and breadth of facilities; the degree to which a school is selective or inclusive (to determine added value); ongoing investment and development planning; the "feel of a school"; perception of existing students and parents; the "fit" of each child to the offer of each school (academic, vocational, polymath, single subject specialist etc); the quality of, and investment in, SEN and EAL provision - and the performance of a school's students in examinations over time (is there an upwards curve?)

Curricula - Transfer-ability (to other curricula)?

Good. The breadth of the IB MYP programme makes transfer to alternative curricular at 16 seamless. Inter school transfer between IB schools is also generally without complications.

The significant transition, under all curricular between secondary school and post-16 provision, generally creates a "safe" opportunity for parents and children to move school.

Parents are strongly advised to weigh up the benefits of transferring out of the IB curriculum when children are very gifted in a narrow range of subjects, whether Arts, Sciences or Humanities, and have significant weaknesses in examined areas under the IB Diploma. This may be the case particularly if a student is weak in language acquisition as advanced learning of an additional language is a core requirement of the IB D programme.

Parents should note that, whilst the IB MYP programme is inclusive, the IB Diploma (DP) is not, particularly when measured against the grade scorings achievable my lower to mixed ability children, and required by universities to qualify for admission.

Parents of students who are practically gifted who want to leave options open for entrance into industry or undergraduate study at 18 should look at the outstanding IB CP programme currently being trialled across a number of IB schools in the Emirates. This also does not require examination in the additional language element of the programme.

Curricula - Where does it lead?

The International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programme (MYP) is the benchmark qualification for progressing to study the International Baccalaureate® (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) or the International Baccalaureate® (IB) Career-related Programme (CP).

The IB CP also provides very strong foundations for students wishing to transfer to any other alternative post-16 curricular.

Curricula - Who is it best for?

Whilst there is no doubt that the IB MYP programme is able to nurture the talents and gifts of the most academic children, unlike the IB Diploma, it also provides a solid and inspiring foundation for mixed ability children in its breadth of subject choice and fair balance of coursework and practical activity with examinations.

One benefit of the IB MYP is its guarantee that students will experience a broad range of subjects, explored critically and in depth, together with added value whole child elements unique to the IB programme. In some alternative curricular schools subject provision is not guaranteed and may be more limited. For example, in an English National Curriculum school, whilst it is theoretically possible for a student to study more than 85 subjects, the reality on the ground, particularly in lower tier schools, is that students are offered only a limited curriculum with severely restricted options.

Although still theoretically possible for students to leave school at 16, it is increasingly the case that students who do so will face significant challenges in meeting their career aspirations. Notwithstanding the very high quality of the IB MYP our recommendation is for its being used as a stepping stone within further post-16 education (and its many options) rather than outside it.

Curricula - Global value?

High - the IB MYP provides an almost universally recognised qualification to the range of post-16 currricular. We recommend that all children pursue full formal certification of the MYP by the IB.

Curricula - Employer’s opinion?

Increasingly less valuable as employers look to post-16 education and, in many cases, ultimately degrees to determine an applicant’s desirability for employment. However, it is now standard for employers to require a standardised qualification in English and Mathematics, both of which are provided within the IB MYP certification.

Note: students in England can no longer legally leave school to enter the work place directly at 16.

University’s opinion?

In the UK, universities frequently pay no attention to pre-16 education except to qualify a student's ability in English and Mathematics - both of which are provided by the IB MYP.

In the UAE however many universities will accept the IB MYP without the later IB DP as a pre-qualification for further education. This is not the norm.


• School is empowered to choose subjects, methodology of teaching and assessment within core subject blocks to ensure the best fit for each individual child
• Inclusive curriculum designed to get the best from all children, regardless of ability
• The IB focusses on meaning and context over memorisation and recording of raw data – this creating an engaging curriculum in which all children should find inspiration
• Strong foundation for post-16 study – even if that means choosing to move to an alternative curriculum for sixth form study
• Whole child, enriched approach to teaching built into the IB


• Delivery of the IB MYP most successfully depends significantly on the school delivering it
• Ongoing mythology around IB schools that they are only for academic children discourages many parents
• Some children may be better advised to switch to an alternative curriculum school for post-16 study which could be disruptive
• IB schooling tends to be more expensive – although like for like comparisons based on quality of provision and subject choice, rather than focusing on the headline figure, tend to discount the reality of the differential

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A far more inclusive curriculum, much better able to inspire the best from weaker to mixed ability children than the English National Curriculum IGCSE alternative to which it is most often compared.

In our view by far the most inspiring of all the curricular to age 16, and one that provides an extraordinarily rich tapestry of knowledge, emotional weight and insight to its students.

Students, particularly in IB schools not offering the IB CP alternative to the IB Diploma, may find it is in their interests, however, to transfer to alternative curriculum schooling for post-16 study.

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About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Editor of and UK. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at]

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