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The flexibility of the MYP: Seven common questions

The IB receives many questions from schools about implementing each of the programmes on the IB continuum.

This blog is the first in a series looking at the diversity of implementation and the flexibility of the Middle Years Programme (MYP). Our expert teams have answered common questions from schools about MYP requirements and the planning possibilities offered by the MYP curriculum framework. More questions will be answered in future blog posts – leave a comment with a question if you’d like it answered!

Question: Is the MYP a curriculum?

The MYP has been designed as a curriculum framework for teaching locally prescribed content/standards of learning. It offers schools increased flexibility to develop curriculum that meets local requirements and individual student needs. This means the MYP can be implemented in a variety of schools that may have different external requirements to meet and curricular demands.

Schools who have implemented the MYP successfully have found solutions to issues such as:

  • the choice of subjects available to students
  • time allocation provided for subjects
  • the organization of teaching and learning
  • the school’s structure
  • alignment of external requirements with the concepts, objectives, skills and knowledge of the corresponding subject group in the MYP
  • teaching approaches used to help students achieve the aims and objectives of the MYP.

The MYP suggests concepts and contexts that represent a shared understanding of what students need to know and why they need to know it. Schools must populate the framework with content that suits their context, with the concepts/global contexts used as lenses through which students explore them. However, the MYP curriculum framework does not require specific, year-on-year “coverage” of these design features, nor does it prohibit schools from adding concepts and contexts that are relevant in local circumstances and in line with IB educational philosophy and MYP design.  

Must all students be involved in the Middle Years Programme?

There are many curriculums, including national models, that schools may have to, or choose to, apply within the framework of the MYP. The MYP curriculum framework allows schools to meet national, state, provincial or other subject-specific curricular requirements while fulfilling the IB mission and implementing IB philosophy. In situations where this is not possible, schools can have flexibility in the MYP programme structure opting for the length of programme that suits their needs (2 years, 3 years, 4 years or 5 years in length), as well as “school within a school” models. In these models, students are not excluded from the programme, but they have a choice as to whether to engage in the MYP or other curriculum offerings at the school.

The MYP is intended to be an inclusive programme that can cater to the needs of all students and is designed to include students with learning support requirements. You can learn more about the IB and inclusive education on the Programme Resource Centre.

Do schools need to use the unit planner templates provided by the IB?

The value of unit planning is in the process, rather than the end product. Videos and other resources that unpack the key stages of unit planning are available are available on the Programme Resource Centre. Though the IB (and external providers) provide various templates for schools to use, schools are free to adapt them to their context – as long as the key steps articulated in the Evaluating MYP unit planners document are present. Schools might adapt them as they get accustomed to using them, or they might add features that support their context (such as local curriculum standards being addressed, or possible interdisciplinary opportunities based on the school timetable).

Should all learning and teaching in an MYP course be organized according to the MYP unit planning process?

Teaching and learning should be inquiry driven and organized by MYP planning processes and include the key MYP elements, but schools are free to adapt or use alternative unit planning templates from the example templates provided by the MYP.

When planning to teach a subject as part of the MYP, it is important to ascertain students’ prior knowledge, and to provide experiences through the curriculum that give students opportunities to test and revise their models, to make connections between their previous and current perceptions, and that give them the opportunity to construct their own meaning. The MYP encourages teachers to provide opportunities for students to build meaning and refine understanding through structured inquiry.

Schools that follow a national, state or local curriculum need to align the local content standards with MYP requirements. For schools with no required curriculum, teachers are responsible for choosing appropriate content that will enable students to reach MYP subject-group aims and objectives.

Must the statements of inquiry (SOI) be completely transferable statements?

Teachers construct the statement of inquiry for a unit by combining a key concept, one or more related concepts, and a global context for the unit into a meaningful statement that students can understand. The most important thing about the statement of inquiry is that it is meaningful to students and that it drives the unit. The statement of inquiry should be transferable to some other contexts, but this might only be between subjects within a subject group or a handful of subjects. Students should be able to create a variety of summative assessments that address the inquiry – that is a demonstration of the transferability. The statement of inquiry should not be so specific that it just describes one unit within a subject, but it does not need to be transferable to all contexts and contents. To help educators create the statement of inquiry, they should know that they can use synonyms or words from the description of the concepts or global context, (including the global context’s exploration).

Are MYP teachers only allowed to use MYP key and related concepts provided for their subject group?

Teachers use key concepts from their own subject group(s)—as well as key concepts from other subject groups— to plan disciplinary and interdisciplinary units of work. Teachers identify one key concept that drives the unit’s development. Teachers can add a key concept, related concept or global context to use in their classroom or school.

Do MYP students need to complete service hours?

The IB does not set specific requirements regarding the number of hours students must devote to the core element of Service as Action. In practice, schools often help students to develop a healthy balance of activities and responsibilities by suggesting flexible, developmentally appropriate guidelines for reasonable participation in service as action.

The seven learning outcomes for Service as Action are developmental, reflecting what students may expect to experience and learn over time. The outcomes describe broadly how students can change and grow through service with and for others; they are not intended to be met by every student in every service activity or documented in every year of the programme. Longer, more complex service-learning projects offer opportunities to address more learning outcomes. More information can be found in the Further guidance for developing MYP Service as Action document on the Programme Resource Centre.