Here, Karin Purcell, development director at Marymount International School London, looks at the UK’s current preoccupation with reforming the curriculum for 11 to 16 year-olds, and examines the approach of the International Baccalaureate’s Middle Years Programme (MYP).
Currently the UK media is packed with headlines reflecting the controversy and debate surrounding GCSEs and the UK government’s proposals for reforming the curriculum for 11 to 16 year olds.
Here are but a few examples of recent headlines:
- “'Tick-box exercise' education is too focused on exams and kills imagination”
- “Is the curriculum putting students off learning?”
- “Will new generations be condemned to educational failure?”
- “GCSEs U-turn is a lost opportunity for improving our exam system”
Even for those who are familiar with the vagaries and complexities of the British education system, this can be puzzling and confusing. All governments of the day seem to have an insatiable desire to produce a constant stream of alterations, initiatives and reforms. For parents who are new to the UK this causes nothing short of utter bewilderment.
In choosing a well-established curriculum which can act as a viable and solid alternative to GCSEs, it would be wise to consider the International Baccalaureate’s Middle Years Programme (MYP) for this age group. Essentially the MYP curriculum delivers a well-rounded, broad education which focusses on holistic learning whilst fostering the development of communication skills, intercultural understanding and intellectual rigour.
At an age when students are naturally bursting with curiosity and poised to explore the world, the MYP is designed to develop this inherent energy and receptiveness. Always encouraged to take the initiative and to be creative, the student learns to enquire and think independently whilst continually making connections across all subject areas.
At the same time the curriculum is deliberately placed within a strong framework of values which is based on integrity, respect for others as well as compassion. This framework sets out to foster a student who is reflective, principled, knowledgeable, open-minded and balanced. Furthermore with a strong emphasis on educating students in a global context, language acquisition forms an essential part of the programme. Nothing could better equip the student with the necessary international mindedness and cultural fluency which are such useful tools both for further education as well as for the workplace.
As an MYP student reaches out to the next stage – to the IB Diploma and beyond – the benefits of the MYP programme truly come into their own. Independent research by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) shows that IB students are more likely than their peers with A-levels to enrol at one of the top 20 Higher Education Institutes in the UK.
Once enrolled, IB students obtained a higher percentage of First Class Honours and Upper Second Class Honours than A-level students. Furthermore, IB entrants into tertiary education institutions are less likely to drop out during the first year; as the product of a system which equips students with the necessary tools to cope under pressure, this should hardly be surprising.
The education of 11 to 16 year olds clearly cannot be seen in isolation. Within a wider context the benefits of the MYP certainly stack up. Having taught the MYP for 17 years, students and teachers at Marymount International School London attest to its effectiveness as a rock solid educational foundation capable of delivering skills and qualities which are essential for life in the twentyfirst century.