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What Is the IB Middle Years Program? An Expert Introduction


The International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programme (MYP) is an international, advanced learning program designed especially for students between the ages of 11 and 16. The goal of the IB Middle Years Programme is to give students in this age group advanced learning opportunities through a curriculum that’s tailored to their developmental stage. 

To help you get acquainted with the IB MYP, we’ll provide a full explanation of the following in this article: 

  • What the IB Middle Years Programme is and who it’s for
  • How a student can benefit from doing the IB MYP
  • Where the program is available, and how to find schools that offer the IB MYP
  • What the curriculum covers
  • How the program compares to the IB Diploma Programme, and
  • The level of difficulty of the IB MYP

Now, let’s take a closer look at the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme!


(Marco Verch/Flickr)


What Is the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (IB MYP)?

The International Baccalaureate Organization, or IBO, offers four advanced learning programs for students that can be implemented in schools around the world.

The Middle Years Programme (MYP) is one of the four IBO learning programs and is designed to educate students aged 11 to 16 for this mission. The Middle Years Programme is offered at authorized schools in almost 100 countries and can be seamlessly integrated with local educational requirements.

The MYP is a five-year program that participating students typically begin at the age of 11 and complete by 16. However, there are also abbreviated versions of the MYP, organized into two, three, and four year formats. Individual schools that are authorized to offer the IB MYP are responsible for selecting the version of the program that they’d like to offer their students. Consequently, you’ll need to check with your school to see which version of the IB MYP it offers to students.

Regardless of which version of the IB MYP is offered at your school, all versions of the MYP offer students a challenging series of courses that connect their studies with real-world issues and circumstances. You’ll get a great education regardless of whether you take the full-length or the abbreviated IB MYP!

While authorized IB middle schools and high schools have some freedom in how they choose to put the MYP into practice, the International Baccalaureate Organization encourages schools to implement the programme the way the IBO intended: to be inclusive of students with a wide array of interests and academic abilities. This means that, unless an authorized school chooses a different approach, any student attending the authorized school can participate in the IB MYP. 

In other words, the MYP is designed to help almost any student grow to exhibit the IB “learner profile,” which includes the following traits: 



In order to develop these traits in students, the MYP promotes active learning, international-mindedness, and empathetic thinking. MYP students will use these skills to explore and interrogate a wide range of local, national, and global issues and ideas while taking MYP courses. The IBO’s goal is to equip MYP students to think creatively, critically, and reflectively so they can make the world a better place. 



One of the major benefits to the IB MYP is that it prepares you for the IB Diploma Programme in high school. (US Department of Education/Flickr)


Why Should You Do the IB Middle Years Programme? 

The IB Middle Years Programme offers many benefits for students that can be hard to come by in traditional school classrooms. For instance, the IB MYP gives its students the opportunity to direct their own educational journey, prepare for careers in global relations, and successfully complete the IB Diploma Programme should they choose to continue on to complete the IB Diploma Programme

The IB MYP allows its students to have a more active role in shaping their education, including what they learn, how they learn it, and what they research or study for projects and papers. MYP students will frequently collaborate with MYP teachers and their MYP peers to create unique learning experiences tailored to their specific interests and goals. Students who struggle to feel engaged or stimulated by typical classroom teaching techniques often thrive in the unconventional approach employed in IB middle school and high school courses. 

The IB MYP also prepares its students for their future careers. The curriculum is designed to give students a strong foundation in politics, diplomatic relations, or just doing work that involves pursuing peace in the world. One of the foremost goals of the program is to enable students to inquire into real-world issues and ideas on a local and global scale. 

This kind of critical thinking is a crucial skill for politicians, diplomats, and other professionals who are involved in international relations and global peace-making/keeping. IB MYP students are able to hone these crucial critical thinking skills through the MYP’s imperative to promote and encourage learning by doing in the real world. This knowledge will help students as they move into college and enter their future career fields. 

Finally, the IB MYP is the best preparation available for the IB Diploma Programme (DP), which allows students to complete college-level work and earn college credit. The MYP lays the groundwork for successful completion of the IB Diploma Programme by implementing a similar philosophy and giving students practice with the learning styles and expectations that are at the center of the Diploma Programme.

In other words, students who complete the MYP won’t be surprised by the high expectations and advanced coursework that are part of the IB Diploma Programme.   

One last note on the IB MYP program: if you decide to do the IB MYP program, you’re not required to move on to complete the IB diploma. While many students choose to tackle the IB Diploma Programme after the MYP, doing so is an optional next step. 




Where Can You Take IB Middle Years Classes? How Do You Find an IB MYP School? 

The IB Middle Years Programme is hosted by certain schools around the world that have completed an authorization process through the International Baccalaureate Organization.

Becoming an authorized IB middle school or high school involves professionalization training for the school’s faculty, securing adequate financial support, and passing a trial implementation of the MYP.  Schools that successfully receive authorization are called “IB World Schools.” Students who attend an IB World School will have the opportunity to participate in the IB MYP!

If you’re looking for a full list of schools that are authorized IB World Schools, check out the online IB World Schools Yearbook. This digital “yearbook” is the official guide to schools offering IB programmes. You can search specifically for your school, or browse a full list of the authorized IB MYP schools.

The guide is updated annually, since schools can gain or lose IB World School status in the span of a year. If you want to find out if your student’s school is an IB middle school or high school, the IB World Schools Yearbook is the place to look!


What Is the Curriculum for the IB MYP? 

The IB MYP designs its own curriculum that is simultaneously challenging, flexible, and compatible with an individual school’s mission and goals. Since global awareness and change is an important goal of the IB programs, the curriculum for the IB MYP is built upon six concepts that are situated into global contexts: identities and relationships, personal and cultural expression, orientations in space and time, scientific and technical innovation, fairness and development, and globalization and sustainability. These six themes are incorporated into each of the program’s subject groups and inform the issues and questions that individual courses address. 

The IB MYP curriculum offers courses that fall into eight subject groups: language acquisition, language and literature, individuals and societies, sciences, mathematics, arts, physical and health education, and design. Authorized IB middle schools and high schools are required to provide at least 50 instructional hours in each subject area every year.

Each year, MYP students are also required to engage in at least one interdisciplinary unit, which combines topics from at least two of the courses listed above. The goal of the interdisciplinary unit is to help students recognize the connections between the questions asked by different disciplines in order to integrate those disciplines and create new understandings about the world.

The most important assignment involved in the MYP curriculum is a long-term project (called “the Personal Project”) that is required of each MYP student who completes the program in five years. In completing this long-term project, students are able to determine what they want to learn about, identify their existing knowledge on their chosen topic, discover what they will need to know to complete the project, and define the criteria for completing the project. The project is completed over an extended period of time so as to give students time to reflect and reshape their project’s outcomes.

Students who meet the success criteria for the IB MYP at the end of their time in the program will earn a formal, internationally-recognized certificate. MYP students’ work is assessed by both the MYP and their local school using ePortfolios of students’ coursework, including the Personal Project, and a two-hour, on-screen examination. You can learn more about the ways the IB ensures that assessments for the MYP are meaningful and fair on their website




How Does the IB MYP Compare to the IB Diploma Programme Curriculum?

While the MYP and the Diploma Programme are offered at schools around the world, there are some differences between the two curricula. One of the biggest differences between the MYP and the DP is the age groups they serve: the MYP is for students aged 11 through 16, and the DP is for students aged 16 to 19. Like we mentioned earlier, the MYP is intentionally designed to prepare its students for participation in the DP. 

Since the DP is designed for older students, the DP is more challenging than the MYP. Though it's  a more difficult program, the DP is philosophically-aligned with the MYP, as both programs are centered on developing attributes of the IB learner profile

The MYP and the DP also have different core components. The DP curriculum is organized around three core components, which are studied alongside individual subjects and throughout a student’s time in the DP. The three core elements of the DP curriculum are theory of knowledge, the extended essay, and creativity, activity, and service. (For more information about the DP curriculum, be sure to check out this article.)

Also in contrast to the MYP, where all students are learning the same curriculum, the DP offers courses at different levels: a higher level (HL) and a standard level (SL). HL and SL courses are held to the same grading standards, but students are expected to demonstrate a greater body of knowledge, understanding, and skills in higher level courses. Each student takes at least three (but not more than four) subjects at higher level, and they take the rest of their courses on the standard level.

Additionally, final program assessments differ pretty substantially between the IB MYP and IB DP programs. For the MYP, students design their own Personal Projects that teach students how to develop an inquiry, conduct research, and reflect on their findings. Rather than designing a Personal Project, like in the MYP, DP students write an extended essay. 

While both of these assessments revolve around conducting research, the DP assessment involves conducting in-depth, student-driven research that culminates in a substantial final essay. In fact, the DP extended essay is 4,000 words (that’s around 16 double-spaced pages)! 

As you can see, there are quite a few differences between the IB MYP and IB DP curricula. But it all boils down to this: the DP curriculum is specifically designed to prepare its students for the rigors of college-level work, while the MYP is more focused on developing foundational learning skills and traits that prepare students for the transition into the IB Diploma Programme.


How Hard Is the IB MYP?

The IB MYP isn’t necessarily designed to be harder than regular coursework, but it's designed to be different.

The IB MYP asks students to take some responsibility for their learning by encouraging them to develop their own academic interests. The coursework is designed to encourage students to explore their learning preferences, develop a sense of personal identity, and become responsible global citizens. This level of “freedom” could make some students uncomfortable, especially those who find the structure and predictability of regular classrooms comforting.

Students who have not had the opportunity to practice designing their own projects and deciding what they need to learn may experience some friction when the MYP Personal Projects are assigned as well. The Personal Project asks students to take almost total ownership of their learning.

Students who are accustomed to being told how and what to learn may struggle to get started and find a direction for their Personal Project. But the plus side is that the MYP is designed to teach students how to manage their own even if you’re not confident about learning independently now, you will be by the time your Personal Project rolls around.

One final thing to keep in mind about how hard the IB MYP program is, is that the MYP incorporates some out-of-school requirements. A key component of the MYP is community service, and many schools that implement the MYP require MYP students to serve a set number of hours in the community each year. For students who already have a demanding extracurricular schedule, the community service hours requirement could prove difficult! This can also be particularly tough for students who don’t have access to reliable transportation since these opportunities usually take place off campus.

While the MYP curriculum is both advanced and demanding, the great thing about the IB MYP is that it aims to develop students who are able to ease into these new types of learning experiences. Students who may feel intimidated by the flexibility and freedom offered by the MYP will receive support and encouragement along the way so that they can succeed in the MYP’s learning environment!




What's Next?

Before you make your decision about whether to participate in the IB MYP program, it might make sense to learn more about how an IB diploma can benefit you as you apply for college (and beyond). This article will help shed light on both the IB program and how it can help you in the future.

If an IB program doesn’t seem like a good fit for you, that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck when it comes to taking advanced courses in high school. Most U.S. high schools offer Advanced Placement classes, or AP classes, that help students get ready for college. You can learn more about the differences between AP and IB courses here.

One of the benefits of taking IB or AP classes in high school is that they can improve your GPA by weighing it. Here’s a complete guide to weighted GPAs, and here’s a guide that explains what a weighted GPA means for college admission.



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Ashley Robinson
About the Author

Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.

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