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Creating dynamic programme development plans

Programme development is the intentional and focused development of a school’s IB programme(s). Schools are always working to develop and improve their programmes and devoting time and resources to make their IB programmes more effective.  Programme development planning aims to support schools in their efforts to be more effective for their students and communities.

The cycle of programme development begins during authorization of an IB programme and is on-going for all schools. The IB Programme standards and practices (for use from 2020, is available in the Programme Resource Centre) to support schools in moving beyond the focus of meeting requirements and towards the goal of developing programmes that have a greater impact on student learning, and eventually, toward achieving the IB mission.


The IB programme standards and practices (PSP) are designed to support schools as learning organizations. Using the PSP framework, schools will integrate IB philosophy into their context through programme development planning.

The IB has designed a programme development plan template, available on the Programme Resource Centre (PRC), that schools are encouraged to use. Schools also have the option to create their own template that is best suited to their context.

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There are three simple steps schools can follow to create a dynamic programme development plan:

  1. Determine the area of focus: The focus for a development plan is something that should reflect the school’s context and priorities. The school might consider using the evaluation process to identify an area of focus, surveying stakeholders, or examining other initiatives in the school for programme development planning. Linking the area of focus to the school’s mission statement, and the IB mission, will keep the plan focused on the overall goals of the school community. Once the area of focus is determined, it is important to capture the rationale for this area of focus by articulating a shared understanding of where the school is at the beginning of this plan and why this is relevant. The school is encouraged to involve the school community in this step to create wider ownership of the plan.
  2. Identify the relevant practices: Next, the school is to identify the relevant IB practices that will help guide them in strengthening the IB programme(s) and make an impact on the school’s learning.  Schools ground their goal in four to eight IB practices that address the conditions for selecting the area of focus, as well as who, why and how the area of focus will be developed.  Connecting the area of focus to a group of practices in this way will keep the actions focused on their specific, measurable goal, and will more likely lead to achievement of a positive impact on the student learning experience.
  3. Develop a workplan to achieve the school goal: Finally, the school will outline the actions and plans to be taken at the school to achieve the goal. Details should include actionable items with timelines, responsibilities, agents, and resources to address each of the IB practices selected to support the goal. This strategic and detailed planning, as well as systematic reflection, will keep the school on track for achievement.

Considerations when creating a programme development plan:

  • The plan can be complex, such as a strategic plan that will take multiple years to achieved, or it can be a simpler plan that is achievable in a shorter timeframe.
  • The plan can have impact on learning for all students or focus on a smaller subset of students within the learning environment.
  • The plan can be the responsibility of few stakeholders, such as a grade level team wishing to improve an aspect of the programme for their students, or many stakeholders, such as the leadership team wishing to strengthen the vertical articulation of approaches to learning skills across the school.

School Reflections

School leaders from the International School of Como, École Oasis Internationale, and Universidad de Monterrey Unidad San Pedro shared their reflections on how they created their first, dynamic programme development plans:

“It surprised me how quickly we all as a community became mini researchers. The students themselves were curious about the process and it really empowered staff to take risks, to try new ideas and observe the impact.”

Jane Whittle, International School of Como

As your school begins the programme development planning journey, there are several resources available to further support the creation of programme development plans:

Three self-paced, free learning opportunities on the IB public website:

Additional Resources for IB Coordinators on the Programme Resource Centre (PRC), accessible after logging into My IB:

• PYP: Programme Development Support
• MYP: Programme Development Support
• MYP: Sample programme development plan with area of focus on continuity of learning during the Covid-19 pandemic
• DP: Programme Development Support
• CP: Programme Development Support
• All programmes: An example of programme development on the topic of academic integrity.
• All programmes: IB programme standards and practices 2020 at a glance.