A Quick Guide To The IB Syllabus And What It Stands For

With the staggering number of education choices out there, it’s no wonder that parents have a headache when it comes to choosing the right education programme for their child.

So why is the International Baccalaureate (IB) one of the most preferred educational programmes in more than 4000 international schools? Let’s find out.

A long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away…

So how did it all start? Well, IB was founded in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1968. It offers 4 educational programmes:

Long story short, its early objective was to create an education programme that could provide an internationally recognised university entrance qualification for globally mobile families with children aged 16 to 19. But ultimately, its aim is to provide an education that “develops internationally minded young people who, recognising their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world.”

The profile of an IB learner

Sounds awesome, right? In fact, this philosophy can be neatly summed up in these IB Learner Profile attributes that the programme strives to nurture in its learners:

  • Inquirers
  • Open-minded
  • Knowledgeable
  • Caring
  • Thinkers
  • Risk-takers
  • Communicators
  • Balanced
  • Principled
  • Reflective

In a world that’s ever evolving due to globalisation and digitalisation, these future-ready skills have become more important than ever because they prepare your child for the jobs, challenges and experiences of tomorrow. In other words, it’s no longer enough to focus on academic results – you have to boost your repertoire with the appropriate knowledge, skills and attributes needed in the 21st century.

Now that we know the story behind IB, let’s hop on over to check out 3 of the education programmes in its continuum.

Primary Years Programme (PYP) – pre kindergarten to grade 6

Remember all the rote learning and memorisation you had to go through back in the good old schooling days? Well, the PYP takes a different route with its inquiry-led transdisciplinary framework. This means that students are encouraged to become inquirers who take ownership of their learning as they explore six transdisciplinary themes in local and global real-life contexts such as ‘who we are’ and ‘sharing the planet’.

And the best thing of all? Students investigate these themes with the knowledge and skills they had developed in subject areas such as language, mathematics, science, and arts—which effectively transports their learning beyond the traditional confines of such subjects! For example, in an inquiry for a unit like “sharing the planet” where the students are learning about plants, they could be sketching plants and labeling the different parts, germinating seeds and measuring root growth or composing plant-related lyrics.

All of these provide a strong foundation for the next step: the Middle Years Programme (MYP).

Middle Years Programme (MYP) – grade 7 to 10

While PYP focuses on transdisciplinary themes, MYP students take courses in eight subject areas like languages, sciences, arts and design etc. But that’s not all. To help students develop a deeper understanding of their conceptual learning and make practical connections between different disciplines, they participate in a collaboratively planned interdisciplinary unit that integrates a minimum of two subject areas. Using the knowledge, skills and forms of communication they had picked in the various disciplines, the students are given the opportunity to solve a real-life problem, create a product, explain a phenomenon or analyse an issue from a new angle in intercultural and global contexts like “identities and relationships” or “orientation in space and time”.

Sounds complicated, right? But no worries! The MYP has it all planned out. In fact, it focuses on “learning how to learn” through“the systematic development of approaches to learning (ATL) skills for communication, collaboration, organisation, self-management, reflection, research, informational literacy, media literacy, creative and critical thinking, and transfer of learning”.

MYP students are also expected to put into action what they had learned in class by devoting themselves to community projects that make a positive difference to their community and environment. Looks like our MYP student is shaping up to be well-rounded global citizen!

IB Diploma Programme (DP) – grade 11 to 12

Last but not least, the IB DP. A two-year curriculum that culminates in the award of a Diploma recognised worldwide by universities, the IB DP is an assessed programme that’s made up of the DP core (Theory of knowledge, extended essay as well as Creativity, activity and service) and six subject groups like science and language.

Students choose courses from the six subject groups, some of which will be at higher level (HL) to allow for specialisation and the rest at standard level (SL). Like all rigorous pre-university programmes, the IB DP depends on internal and external assessments to gauge the extent of a student’s academic skills in fulfilling goals like analysing and presenting information, creative problem solving, and evaluating and constructing arguments.

If you think the curriculum sounds challenging, that’s because the IB DP aim is to prepare students “for success in higher education and encourages them to become active participants in an increasingly global society”. No wonder one study suggests that IB DP students are better equipped than their peers at managing challenging workloads and meet expectations!

After reading so much about IB, are you impressed by it yet? We love how the IB framework nurtures a well-rounded individual in a systematic yet globally inclusive continuum of educational programmes so why not check in with the international school of your choice to find out more?

There are many international schools in Singapore that offer this amazing educational framework. For example, one of the international school in Singapore, CIS is one such institution that offers all 3 IB programmes so you should definitely check it out. Good luck on making the most important decision of your child’s life!

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