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The 4 Programmes of the International Baccalaureate Curriculum


The 4 Programmes of the International Baccalaureate Curriculum

Of the 215 private schools in Dubai, 11% offer instruction using the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum. This figure is the sum of the 6% purely IB schools (e.g., GEMS International School Al Khail) and the 5% combination IB and British curriculum schools (e.g., GEMS Wellington International School).   IB is the fourth most popular curriculum in Dubai in terms of student enrolment. It has four programmes designed to occur on a continuum.  

The Primary Years Programme   The primary years programme in the United Arab Emirates is for children aged four to 11 years. In the British curriculum, this is comparable to the reception year of the early foundation stage up to year six.

  From an early age, the curriculum inculcates in the mind of its learners the premise that the students have agency over their learning and are active participants or partners in the learning process. The PYP moves away from textbook-based education. Instead, the children collaborate with their teachers to direct their learning journeys.  

The Features of the PYP

The PYP has the following distinct features.

  Transdisciplinary Approach

The PYP is a programme of inquiry, and it is organised and framed using these six transdisciplinary themes:

●    Who we are

●    Where we are in place and time

●    How we express ourselves

●    How the world works

●    How we organise ourselves

●    Sharing the planet  


When it comes to agency, it simply means the student contributes to their educational journey. They are an active participant, and they direct their learning.


The PYP students are confident in themselves and their identity. They are (and feel) effective and adequate.


The PYP students act by themselves (and with others) to achieve their individual (and shared) goals.

  The Middle Years Programme

In the UAE, the middle years programme is for students aged 11 to 16 years. It is a five-year programme equivalent to years seven to 11 of the British curriculum or grades six to ten of the American curriculum.  

This intermediate level builds on the principles of the PYP to reinforce the students’ agency over their learning and prepare them for the next stage, which can either be a diploma programme or career-related programme.

  The MYP Subject Groups and Requirements

Every year, students will accumulate at least 50 hours of teaching or instruction in each of these eight subject groups:

●    Language acquisition

●    Language and literature

●    Individuals and societies

●    Sciences

●    Mathematics

●    Arts

●    Physical and health education

●    Design  

The students must also engage in one or more interdisciplinary units that involve two or more subject groups. The teachers and the school are responsible for collaborating on and planning such interdisciplinary units and making them available to their MYP students.

  Students may concentrate their learning on six of the eight core subject groups in years four and five. This is in line with the IB curriculum’s thrust to empower learners to direct their education according to their interests and needs.

  Students must also accomplish a personal project by year five. This long-term project ensures students will experience what it’s like to persist and complete a major piece of research or work over an extended period.  

The Diploma Programme

The Diploma Programme in the UAE is for students 16 to 18 years of age. That's comparable to years 12-13 of the British curriculum or grades 11-12 of the American curriculum.

  In the DP, the students' learning and research skills are further enhanced and developed to prepare them for university learning. To complete their DP, students must concentrate their studies on six subject groups and the DP Core.  

The DP Core

 The following comprise the DP Core:

  ●    Theory of Knowledge (TOK): Learners study the nature of knowledge, and their reflection culminates in an exhibition and a 1,600-word essay.

●    The Extended Essay (EE): Students conduct self-directed research, which culminates in a 4,000-word paper.

●    Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS): Students work on at least one project that has all the elements of creativity, activity and service.    

The DP Subjects

The DP has six subject groups:

  ●    Studies in language and literature

●    Language acquisition

●    Individuals and societies

●    Sciences

●    Mathematics

●    The arts   In the diploma programme, students can choose courses in each subject group. These courses may be standard level (requires 150 teaching hours) or higher level (requires 240 teaching hours), although students must take from three to four higher-level subjects.


In the DP curriculum, students may also replace their arts course with another course from the languages, sciences, and individuals and societies subject groups.  

The DP Diploma

At the end of their DP, a student will earn an IB DP diploma if they earn a score of at least 24. This is the sum of all scores earned for every course attempted.   A student can earn a score from one to seven on every course. Thus, 42 is a perfect score. However, the DP Core of TOK and EE can cumulatively contribute another 3 points, which means someone can conceivably obtain a DP score of 45.    

The Career-Related Programme

As its name suggests, the career-related programme is a career-focused IB programme. It is like the DP in that it is for students 16 to 18 years of age. However, it is designed for those who want to learn career-related or practical skills.

  You can say the DP prepares students for university admission, while the CP prepares them for the workplace. However, it is essential to note that going into the CP curriculum does not preclude the possibility of a university education.

  The CP curriculum requires students to accomplish the CP Core, take courses from the diploma programme and complete a career-related study.    

The CP Core

The CP core is designed to give students practical skills, and it consists of the following:


●    Personal and Professional Skills: Students learn about workplace attitudes, skills and strategies.

●    Service Learning: Students learn skills and apply their knowledge to resolve a real need in the community.

●    Reflective Project: Students undertake an extended project that allows them to reflect on an ethical issue that results from their career studies.

●    Language Development: Students learn another language to ensure they are proficient in more than one language.    

The DP Subjects

CP students must take at least two courses from the DP curriculum.   Career-Related Studies

Career-related studies are offered through partner providers, and students are expected to earn their chosen career path's professional designations or qualifications.    

Career-related studies providers include:

·   Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)

·   Pearson (for the Business and Technology Education Council or BTEC qualifications)

·   Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD)

·   Sustainability Management School (SUMAS)

·   Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla (UPAEP)

·   World Academy of Sport (WAoS)    

The IB Program for Self-Directed Learning

The International Baccalaureate programme makes students the architects of their educational pathways and the masters of their learning journeys. It is empowering and enabling, and it imbues learners with a lifelong desire and ability to continue learning, discovering and accomplishing.

  If you want this for your children, choose an IB World School. You can register for one easily through online enrolment. Gems International School Al Khail is an IB World School in Dubai, and it has an online registration facility.