Understanding the MYP
The very first programme to be introduced in 1968 by the International Baccalaureate was the High School Diploma Programme, also known as the IBDP. The aim of this programme then was to provide young people with skills and attitudes to better understand and then act to improve our world. Those of us who are IB teachers therefore believe that if our students learn through concepts, ideas and issues, which are broad and can transfer across time, place and multiple cultures, we may come closer to our own aims of wanting to bring about social change through education.
If we want our students to be to be ready for the 21st century, and emerge from our school as thinking, caring individuals who respect each other and believe that other people with their differences can also be right, then this process must start earlier. The IB introduced the Middle Years Programme (MYP) in 1994 and the Primary Years Programme (PYP) in 1997. For many of us, the Diploma Programme seems a good choice for graduation into University, and the Primary years are those where the children enjoy learning. Hence these two programmes gained immediate and wide spread acceptance. It is the Middle Years Programme, that we all as educators and parents need to look at a deeper level, to understand why this is a programme which promotes true and deep learning.
Middle School, where children are between the ages of 11 to 16 years are a very critical period in their lives. This is a time where students are establishing their identity and building their self-esteem, hence life at school needs to take care of all aspects of personal, social and emotional well-being. How do we as educators or as parents measure success for our students, more importantly, how do we define success? Is it the achievement of a grade in a subject, or is it the disposition of the student, or is it the compassion and empathy that is displayed in a situation? What are the parameters we may use?
The only understanding that we have of schools is our own, and most of us were taught in a traditional Indian curriculum, wherein the only measure of success we had was the examination at the end of an academic year. Does this measure the learning of a student, or is it only a score, an indication of how much a student remembered and has then written? Let us not even consider the nature of the examination – whether it tested a multiple-choice method, or a short answer, a long answer, an application to a situation, or a numerical answer and/or interpretation of a picture or a graph, or a paragraph? The result is that an examination is a uni-dimensional test of what a student may know or understand, however it can never be a true example of how much a student has learned. Does this kind of an evaluation enable students in the middle school to attain their personal, social or emotional well-being? Does an examination promote learning? More importantly, does this methodology encourage a student to truly understand?
So how is the MYP different, and what are some of the ways that as a framework, it helps address the needs of adolescents. The programme created is inspired by the IB mission: namely, holistic learning, intercultural awareness and communication. Moreover, it gives students opportunities to think differently, to explore their concerns and become more aware of themselves and the world around them.
The MYP takes the following aspects into consideration:
There is a wide choice of subjects available to students through eight subject groups: language and literature, language acquisition, individuals and societies, sciences, mathematics, arts, physical and health education, and design. The subjects may be taught either as discrete subjects or integrated. For example, biology, chemistry or physics may be taught individually or within the sciences subject group.
There is a clear time allocation provided to each of the subjects during the school timetable.
Each subject group has well defined objectives, skills and knowledge and these are then aligned with concepts, which are used for teaching and therefore enable the students to truly learn the subject discipline, and not merely prepare for individual examinations.
The teachers are encouraged to use a wide range of assessment strategies, and these may include compositions—musical, physical, artistic, creation of solutions or products in response to problems, essays, questionnaires, investigations, research, performances, presentations and even examinations! The essential factor here is that there are multiple ways in which teachers assess student learning, and the examination is only one of them.
Students must complete two projects, the community project and the personal project. The community project focuses on community and service, encouraging students to conduct an in-depth inquiry, which leads to service as action in the community. The personal project starts with a challenge which motivates and interests individual students, and then enables them to consolidate prior and subject-specific learning and strengthen their skills.
At the end of Grade 10, the MYP offers an assessment, which is carried out online, in order that students may demonstrate understanding, critical and creative thinking, problem-solving skills and the ability to apply knowledge in unfamiliar situations. Schools may offer IB-validated grades through these on-screen examinations and portfolios. Today, the Association of Indian Universities, Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE), Council of Boards of School Education in India (COBSE), Maharashtra State Board of Secondary & Higher Secondary Education all give MYP the equivalence with Grade 10 of an Indian Board.
Not only does the MYP prepare students for academic instruction, but it also addresses the needs of students in the middle school giving them an opportunity to explore skills, understand meaningfully and emerge as learners who are ready to face the next stage of High School.