The IB’s Middle Years Programme is about to implement a range of changes to the programme, collectively known as the ‘Next Chapter.’ All MYP schools, of which there are a number in Switzerland, will be starting to implement these changes starting this September.
What is the MYP?
The MYP is the IB’s programme for the first five years of secondary school, for students between approximately 11 to 16 years of age. It complements the Diploma Programme (the DP), the oldest and best-known of the IB programmes, as well as the PYP (Primary Years Programme), aimed at students below the age of 11.
During the five years of the MYP, students follow studies in eight broad subject groups, all of which (until this point) have been compulsory. They are Mathematics, Language A, Language B, Humanities, Sciences, Arts, Physical Education, Design and Technology. The teaching is organised via units of enquiry, with an emphasis on interdisciplinary learning. As well as the eight subject groups, students undertake a research-based Personal Project in the final year of the programme. Community and Service is also a mandatory part of the programme.
The MYP differs from traditional exam-based curricula for 16 year-olds in several ways. It is a five-year programme, and is a whole programme rather than a set of individual subjects. Whilst exams and tests form part of the programme, it is continuously assessed, using prescribed assessment criteria that are published by the IB. The content is flexible so that schools can design the programme to meet the needs of their community, as well as to properly prepare students for entry into the DP. The Personal Project is a culmination of five years of ATLs (Approaches to Learning) skills, which provide a very strong foundation for the Extended Essay in the DP.
MYP assessment criteria are converted into term grades using the IB 1-7 scale, in line with the DP grading system. All MYP schools go through a process of authorisation in order to be approved to offer the programme. Once authorised, MYP schools are checked through a process of verification and monitoring. Schools that wish to have official IBMYP certificates for their students go through a process of moderation of assessed tasks and student work.
Key Changes in the Next Chapter.
The ‘Next Chapter’ contains a number of changes designed to better meet student learning needs in the 21st Century. Overall, there remains a strong skills component, but an increased emphasis on inquiry and concept-based learning where broad ideas and key questions are used to drive learning. Alongside these, units are planned around six ‘global contexts’ which provide a real-world setting and meaning for the learning.
As well as changes to the way in which units are planned, there is an increased emphasis on Approaches to Learning skills, which are mapped across the five years of the programme, and provide a strong skills foundation for the DP. Assessment criteria are also being streamlined to be more in line between subjects.
Subject-group flexibility means that not all eight subject groups are compulsory in the last two years of the programme, though most still are. There have been some name changes to subject groups: Humanities becomes Individuals and Societies, Physical Education becomes Physical and Health Education, Language A becomes Language and Literature, Language B becomes Language Acquisition, Design and Technology becomes Design.
In terms of external assessment by the IB, there are two key changes. Firstly, moderation of the Personal Project (with a Community Project for schools that do not run all five years of the MYP) will become compulsory for all schools. Secondly, schools that wish their students to have IB certificates will enter their students for e-assessments. These are two-hour long examinations, or e-portfolios in more practical subjects, and are available in a range of subjects as well as interdisciplinary.
Community and Service has always been a compulsory component of the MYP: this encourages students to think about the wider community, and their place within it. Previously, community and service was one of the Areas of Interaction. With the new changes, it becomes a separate part of the programme, named ‘Service as action,’ reflecting the emphasis on taking learning outside the classroom.
Why are the changes better for students?
There are several ways in which the changes will benefit MYP students. The changes are based on up to date educational research, and aimed to prepare students not just for the DP, but for their adult lives. The IB strives to create lifelong learners: in a world where the future is uncertain, and technology is rapidly advancing, as educators we simply do not know what future jobs our students will be doing: many may simply not yet exist. To prepare them for this uncertain future, the MYP prepares students to be effective learners with a range of skills and knowledge.
The subject-group flexibility means that students who find it difficult to cope with all eight subject groups are better able to access the MYP, and schools that have compulsory national curriculum requirements are also better able to offer the MYP. The subject name changes reflect changes in each subject that better meet current needs. Physical Education being widened to include a health component, for example, and Design replacing Design Technology, reflecting the increased focus on the process of the design cycle.
The assessment criteria, for all subject groups, as well as interdisciplinary units and the Personal Project, are much more clearly aligned with each other and easier to follow for students and parents alike. All subjects now have four criteria, each out of a maximum level of 8. They still convert, using prescribed levels from the IB, to an overall IB 1-7 grade, at the end of each term.
The increased emphasis on Approaches to Learning skills and the moderation of the Personal Project reflects the strong focus on skills needed for learning, and the ATL skills continue into the DP as well as providing a strong foundation for university and other higher learning.
The optional e-assessments will help where students are intending to move onto universities that require external exam certificates. Whilst the MYP certificate is relatively well-recognised, the e-assessments will be more widely accepted by universities in different countries as a final certificate for the programme, where this is required.
Overall, these changes to the MYP, which have been developed over a number of years with careful piloting and wide consultation with schools, should mean that the programme is better able to meet the needs of 21st century students. In today’s constantly changing world, it is more important than ever that our students are equipped to be lifelong learners.
BY CLARE MCMINN MITCHELL – MIDDLE YEARS PROGRAMME COORDINATOR – GEMS ACADEMY ETOY