The International Baccalaureate Curriculum
The international baccalaureate (IB) Curriculum is the fourth most popular curriculum among private school students in Dubai.
What is it, and should you choose a school that offers it — say, GEMS Modern Academy Dubai, a Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) Outstanding school offering the IB programme in the primary years and the IB option in the middle and senior schools?
This write-up discusses the IB curriculum. Read on to learn about it and decide whether it is for you and, more importantly, your child.
An Overview of the IB Curriculum
The IB curriculum is an educational framework originated by the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO). It is globally popular because it enables students to direct their own learning, empowers teachers to guide their students, and helps schools realise successful outcomes, particularly outstanding university acceptance rates.
Four programmes comprise the International Baccalaureate curriculum: the Primary Years Programme (PYP), the Middle Years Programme (MYP), the Diploma Programme (DP), and the Career-Related Programme (CP).
The IBO offers the first three programmes in the United Arab Emirates, so you will find PYP, MYP and DP in IB-authorised Dubai private schools. English is the default medium of instruction for IB in the UAE.
The Primary Years Programme In the United Arab Emirates, PYP is for children aged three to 11. That's pre-kindergarten to fifth grade (year six in the British curriculum).
The PYP is a student-centred, concept-driven and inquiry-based educational curriculum with three core pillars.
1. The Learner The PYP premise is that students are not passive receivers of information, but agents of their own learning. Thus, the PYP emphasises the importance of how students learn and fosters a sense of self-efficacy in learners. A high degree of self-efficacy empowers students to become active partners in their own learning journey.
2. Learning and Teaching The PYP also focuses on transdisciplinary learning, ensuring students can appreciate the connectedness and interrelatedness of the knowledge, skills and concepts they're learning and transcend specific subject boundaries. This ensures that PYP learning is relevant and significant, as well as engaging and challenging for learners.
3. The Learning Community IB schools comprise a global learning community with a shared commitment to the IB mission and framework.
At the end of their PYP journey, students collaborate on an exhibition that shows their self-efficacy, independence and agency as active learning participants.
The Middle Years Programme (MYP)
MYP is available to learners from 11 to 16 years old in the UAE. That's from grades six to 10 (MYP one to five).
This is a five-year programme composed of eight subject groups that ensure MYP education is broad and balanced instead of restricting students to a particular discipline or track.
The following are the eight subject groups required for IB MYP:
● Physical and health education
● Individuals and societies
● Language acquisition
● Language and literature
Students must accumulate at least 50 hours of teaching time in each subject group every year. Also, students must take an interdisciplinary unit involving at least two subject groups yearly.
Finally, IB MYP students must complete a long-term project that will challenge them to think in transdisciplinary terms, put their learning in the context of the real world, and prove they have the knowledge and skills required to complete a self-directed project.
In MYP, a student will undergo regular internal assessments conducted by the school's IB MYP-trained teachers according to set assessment criteria for each subject group.
By MYP five (grade 10), students must complete a mandatory personal project, which the IB will externally validate.
If the school is registered for external assessments, its students can participate in external examinations in their fifth MYP year (grade 10) to earn internationally recognised MYP course results and certificates.
They may complete the ePortfolios of coursework assessment, which their teachers will mark and IB examiners will assess and validate. They may also have to take the end-of-term on-screen exams.
Diploma Programme (DP)
In the UAE, the diploma programme is intended for learners aged 16 to 18 (grades 11 and 12). It builds on the knowledge and skills students gained in MYP and prepares students for higher learning.
The diploma programme has three core elements and six subject groups.
The three core elements are:
● Theory of knowledge (TOK)
The students look at knowledge itself as a subject and reflect on its nature and how one acquires it.
● The extended essay (EE)
This is a research project that culminates in a 4,000-word paper. This shows a student's ability to plan, self direct, and complete a research project.
● Creativity, activity, service (CAS)
IB students must complete a project that integrates creativity, activity, and service.
The six subject groups are:
● Individuals and societies
● Language acquisition
● Studies in language and literature
● The arts
A number of courses are available for each subject group. Individual courses may be standard-level (SL) or high-level (HL), with SL subjects requiring at least 150 teaching hours and HL subjects at least 240 teaching hours.
To earn an IB diploma, DP students must take a mix of SL and HL subjects from the prescribed subject groups. Specifically, they can take from three to four HL courses; the remainder must be SL courses.
Students in the diploma programme are graded through written examinations. They must complete externally assessed coursework, such as their TOK, EE and CAS projects and accomplish course-specific, in-school assessment tasks, which may be evaluated externally or IB-validated.
DP students are scored for every DP course attempted, receiving a score of one to seven, with seven as the highest. The total accumulated scores make up a student's DP score. Note that SL and HL courses have the same weight.
Thus, students can get up to 42 points in IB DP. They can also earn a collective maximum of three points for their TOK and EE projects (no points for CAS), which means a DP student can get a perfect score of 45.
DP students will earn their IB Diploma if they earn a score of at least 24, breach the minimum performance thresholds for each course and fulfil their TOK, EE, and CAS core components.
Should You Choose an IB-Curriculum School?
The international baccalaureate curriculum is more of a framework. Thus, schools can ingeniously combine it with another standards-based curriculum, like the Indian certificate of secondary education or ISCE curriculum, to maximise student learning benefits.
The IB Diploma is also highly credible among institutions of higher learning. Admission officers have a high regard for an IB diploma and, in U.S. universities, IB DP students enjoy higher acceptance rates than the average acceptance rate of the total population (22% higher generally and 3% to 13% higher in Ivy League schools).
Finally, if you want your child to be an independent, engaged and active agent of their own learning, someone who can agilely face and respond to challenges, you should seriously consider the IB curriculum.