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PISA Global Competence and Middle Years Programme (MYP)

What skills do young people need to thrive in an increasingly interconnected and rapidly changing world? This question led the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to define a set of global competencies through their Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). In this blog, we explore the connection between the PISA global competence assessment and the Middle Years Programme (MYP) framework and how the MYP helps students develop these global competencies.

Four ways the MYP is connected to the PISA global competence framework

By  Maricruz Marcos Suarez and Shadrach Pilip-Florea

What is the PISA global competence assessment?

PISA has been testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students through internationally agreed upon metrics to understand performance differences and harness collaboration to act upon the data. The test has evolved since it started back in 2000, from one based on competences about reading, mathematics and science to one that aims to test the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values required to live in a 2030 world. The global competence framework was developed to assess these skills.

Through the global competence framework, PISA aims to assess how well schools enable young people to see the world from different perspectives, engage with different ways of thinking and appreciate different cultures.

IB programmes have been developing these competencies since its launch in 1968. And for that reason, when describing and presenting the opportunity to assess global education and competency, the OECD included the International Baccalaureate (IB) as a model that promotes global understanding. Given the IB’s expertise in international education and emphasis on international-mindedness, IB staff members contributed to the development of the PISA global competence framework.

How does the MYP address global competence in their programme?

The concept of international-mindedness, an overarching construct related to intercultural understanding, global engagement and multilingualism, has been at the heart of the IB education since its conception over 50 years ago.

The Middle Years Programme (MYP), the middle programme in the IB continuum, addresses the pedagogical needs of students aged 11 to 16 years old. Research shows that students who participate in the MYP develop an understanding of global challenges and a commitment to act as responsible citizens. The programme encourages students to make practical connections between their studies and the real world, develops active learners and internationally-minded young people who can empathize with others and empowers students to inquire into a wide range of issues and ideas that are significant locally, nationally and globally.

“The MYP provides ongoing, authentic and meaningful opportunities for students to investigate globally significant issues”.

James Lawrie, Head of MYP Programme says: “The MYP aims to help students develop their personal understanding, their emerging sense of self and their developmentally appropriate responsibility in their community. The programme promotes the fundamental concepts of intercultural understanding, communication and holistic learning. The unique features of the programme are valued by IB World Schools around the world today’’.

But how does the MYP develop global competencies in their students? Let’s take a closer look into each defined dimension:

PISA global competence framework dimension one: Examine issues of local, global and cultural significance.

This dimension refers to the practice of effectively combining knowledge about the world and forming a critical opinion about global issues.

The MYP framework emphasises intellectual challenge and requires students to make connections between their studies in traditional subjects and the real world. Unlike traditional content-based curriculums, the MYP encourages schools to focus on concepts, ‘big ideas’ that are significant and enduring. In the MYP, concepts represent the vehicle for students’ inquiry into the issues and ideas of personal, local and global significance.

To achieve this, MYP teachers use global contexts to engage and inspire international-mindedness while making learning meaningful and relevant for students. As demonstrated by research, learning outside of context will limit students’ attention or understanding.

To further deepen the students’ knowledge and understanding, interdisciplinary teaching and learning are planned through units focused on significant issues. Interdisciplinary teaching and learning bring together concepts, knowledge and methods from distinct subject groups in order to develop new perspectives on complex issues.

School Story: Emirates International School

The MYP provides ongoing, authentic and meaningful opportunities for students to investigate globally significant issues. At Emirates International School, the MYP teams align many units of inquiry with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and present students with “wicked problems”, socially complex problems with numerous interdependencies that prevent complicated solutions.

The school makes globally significant issues appear in explicit interdisciplinary units such as “The way migrants are portrayed in the media and how that can affect the relationships within and between communities”. In this unit (explored through individuals and societies and English), students investigate multiple examples of migration and analyse the language used in the media to assess how this helps or hinders the current refugee crisis and social cohesion issues in countries that receive large amounts of migrant populations.

PISA global competence framework dimension two: Understand and appreciate the perspectives of others.

This concerns student’s ability to consider multiple viewpoints, recognizing differences but at the same time appreciating similarities that creates a foundation for common understanding.

The IB mission is to promote intercultural understanding and respect through education. Many elements of international-mindedness are reflected in the IB learner profile: 10 attributes developed in all students throughout their IB education and which represent the IB’s mission statement in action.

The MYP fosters the development of communication skills, intercultural understanding and global engagement—qualities that are essential for life in the 21st century. MYP schools provide opportunities for students to explore and develop their personal and cultural identities. Adolescents typically seek groups which they can identify, feel empowered and affirmed within. By developing a caring, reflective and open-minded attitude, students learn to show empathy, consider and understand their own strengths and weaknesses and critically appreciate their values and those of others.

Research studies have shown that the MYP programme has a positive impact on open-mindedness and global-mindedness. The research also confirmed that there is a clear and significant relationship between attending an MYP school and having a greater level of open-mindedness with regard to awareness of cultural differences. The studies also concluded that MYP students spend more time on international issues in their coursework and are more likely to initiate and engage in volunteer activities outside of school.

School story: GEMS World Academy

Helping people create and develop their knowledge and skills to become active contributors in their communities is fundamental. The MYP framework is designed to do exactly this. Students learn on a daily basis how to positively and critically challenge and gain knowledge to effectively investigate different perspectives, communicate balanced arguments and take action to promote strategies for the challenges their communities face.

One example of this is a grade 10 MYP humanities unit called “Voice Our Concern”. In this unit, students study different types of governmental systems, understand who decides and creates individuals’ civil rights and investigate a current example of civil rights being upheld or violated. They produce an art piece informed and inspired by their investigation so they can take action and raise awareness of their own and others’ rights.

PISA global competence framework dimension three: Engage in open, appropriate and effective interactions across cultures.

This dimension describes what globally competent young people are able to do when they interact with people from different cultures. They understand the cultural norms and can flexibly adapt their behaviour and communication to suit.

A distinctive characteristic of the MYP is that students learn a second language, which connects to the concept of an international education that promotes multilingualism and intercultural understanding, both of which are central to the IB’s mission.

Learning a new language is only the beginning of appreciating and understanding another culture. In that respect, dimensions of moral, social and ethical implications, as well as international, historical and multicultural aspects, are considered in each subject group when planning for learning and teaching.

Furthermore, students are encouraged to engage with subjects using a variety of communication formats and styles. This increases their respect and understanding of other cultures and enables them to become critical and competent communicators. By placing a great emphasis on communication skills, MYP students learn how to express themselves confidently but also collaborate and listen carefully to the perspectives of others.

School Story: International School of Belgrade

The International School of Belgrade (ISB) has students from over 40 nationalities. The linguistic diversity of the community is a rich resource and ISB promotes foreign language learning and mother tongue learning in addition to English. All MYP Serbian students take language and literature classes in both English and Serbian. By learning about local history, they gain an understanding of the region and the role of the nation in the world community. When studying national music and poetry, they can also transfer concepts to other learning.

PISA global competence framework dimension four: Take action for collective well-being and sustainable development.

This dimension focuses on young people’s role as active and responsible members of society and refers to individuals’ readiness to respond to a given local, global or intercultural issue or situation.

Action (learning by doing and experiencing) is a key component in constructivist models of education, including the kind of teaching and learning common to all IB programmes. Service, as a subset of action, has always been a shared value of the IB community.

Service as action is a foundational element of the MYP which seeks to develop caring members of the community and requires students to engage with their local community through community and personal projects. When embedded in the curriculum, service as action provides an opportunity to enrich and satisfy the younger minds in the MYP.

Most recently, the IB developed the MYP Innovators Grant—an incentive to start or continue a social impact initiative—to support the creativity, courage and commitment of young changemakers. The 2020 student finalists come from 13 different countries and are eligible to receive grant funds of more than $145,000 combined. The projects range from creating new technologies to making the environment safer and cleaner. With the added complexity of adapting to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) crisis, the finalists will now have to adapt their plans to fit a world of social distancing, remote learning and restricted travel in the same way that organizations and businesses have adapted.

School Story: Jumeirah Baccalaureate School

Besides allowing students opportunities to learn about globally significant issues in stand-alone subjects such as individuals and societies, science and languages, students are also encouraged to take action to help others who are less privileged. There are a number of student-initiated service as action projects running during the course of the school year. These range from raising awareness about the need for improved sanitation schemes in underprivileged areas to organizing a food bank by storing food in fridges stationed in the streets around the school during Ramadan.

If you would like to learn more on this topic, have a look at these stories from schools, students and educators across the globe. The infographic on driving global competence in the Middle Years Programme (MYP) is available here and you can also visit the IB’s research website pages if you are interested in reading more about key research findings that illustrate the impact of the MYP.

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