When I first started teaching MYP Science I was working in a big international school in Bangkok, called New International School Thailand, or NIST. I was lucky, they had a great staff who were very supportive. NIST taught ‘pure’ MYP Science for Year 7, Year 8 and Year 9 in a combined, inquiry driven manner.

Year 10 and Year 11 we taught the IGCSE’s (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) using, in theory, the MYP framework. All students sat for their IGCSE exams at the end of Year 11. That did not work so well. The philosophies of the Cambridge based IGCE’s and the International Baccaleaurate do not align particularly well. Essentially what happened is that the teachers all taught the IGCSE’s and paid lip service only to the MYP.

In theory, it should work, the IB MYP is a framework, IGCSE is a set of curriculum statements, so what is the problem ? Time, purely and simply time. The amount of knowledge that students have to rote learn for IGCSE’s means that there is no time left for inquiry based, student centred learning, you just cannot do it. A teacher is forced to move at a pace in order to ensure that the entire syllabus is covered, leaving no time for the essence of the MYP, no time for deeper understanding or exploration.

What are the major differences ?

IB MYP Science is a framework, the curriculum is up to the schools to develop (you can use the IGSCE as a starting point if you wish, jsut recognize that it is (nearly) impossible to cover all the learning statements.

IGCSE Sciences are a series of curriculum statements a school must cover.

IB MYP Science uses six criterion for assessment. (Criterion A: One World, Criterion B: Communication, Criterion C: Scientific Knowledge and Understanding, Criterion D: Scientific Inquiry, Criterion E: Data Analysis, and Criterion F : Scientific Attitudes)

IGCSE Sciences use a paper based exam for ~75% of the grade and a practical exam for the rest. (sometimes delivered as a paper based exam also, depending on the exam centre)

IB MYP Sciences also use backward by design as a means of planning their ‘Unit Plans’ which contain an Area of Interaction and Significant Question as  means of providing real world context and interest to the content.

IGCE’s allow many teachers to avoid planning altogether and to just follow the statements  and books day by day.*

*This is not to say all University of Cambridge Schools teaching the IGCSE’s do it exactly like this, but there is most certainly a large number that do, based on my observations and experiences.

In the end we dumped the IGCSE’s, turned out, after we gave students and parents a choice, that they realised that they didnt really need to sit the IGCSE’s anyway, they do not mean anything in today’s world, when most of our students go on to complete high schooling at year 12 (or Year 13, depending on the school).

NIST found that teaching a ‘pure’ MYP course much easier, more flexible and were able to deliver a much great focus on the student, the centre of our learning in IB MYP. Criterion based assessment allowed students to really focus on the learning, rather than just rote learning.



About Pak Liam

Living, teaching and traveling in Asia.
This entry was posted in Best Practise, Grading and Assessment, International Education, MYP, Science Education and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to IB MYP or IGCSE’s?

  1. Allison says:

    This information is invaluable! Thanks for sharing! Please consider writing for the IBO. So many schools/communities in East Asia are not educated about the actual differences of IGCSE and MYP, much less have first-hand experience with both.

    • Allison says:

      This information is invaluable! Thanks for sharing! Please consider writing for the IBO. So many schools/communities in East Asia are not educated about the actual differences between IGCSE and MYP, much less have first-hand experience with both.

  2. William says:

    I wanted to send a note about your article about MYP vs. IGCSE. I couldn’t post it on your wall because I didn’t want others from my school to see. My school is abandoning the IB because the students were doing poorly in it. Now they will only offer the IGCSE (as a diploma!). It is beyond ridiculous. I am PYP but due to the culture of the student body and the attitudes of the school “steering committee” we did not have a gr 5 exhibition, and have opened the door for these further changes to the middle and high schools. It was good to see that there are similar feelings and arguments in other places in the world. well done.

  3. Pingback: Top 10 pages on my blog and search terms that found it | MYP @ Global Jaya International School

  4. Fariha says:

    Hey please guide. My son is goin to the school where they r offering IGSCE’S with MYP so suggest me should I continue with this school or not

    • Fariha says:

      I think so it’s a good option

      • Pak Liam says:

        It’s difficult, but not impossible, as long as the school can show you that they have thought about it and have worked on a solution, then you should be fine!

    • Pak Liam says:

      I’m sure the school is fine, but you can ask the teachers how do they deal with the difficulty of balancing both systems, if they can explain it well, you know they are doing a good job, if they are not able to explain it well. You know they have not properly thought about it.

  5. jo says:

    My daughter has an introvert personality. She is more study-type & not so good in social skills and lack of self confident.. I am thinking of to enrol her in the IB MYP to improve her soft skills and enhance her self-esteem. Do you think this is a good idea as I understand that it is not easy to change a person’s character ?

    • Pak Liam says:

      I think that would be fantastic for her, a school doing the IB MYP will give her plenty of opportunities to collaboratively work with other students, make presentations and improve all sorts of creative and artistic skills. For sure changing character is not easy, but giving her chances to experience success may help her to blossom.

  6. Skott says:

    Complete rot. From my own experience of MYP in year 8, It is not the bright kids that commended at all. In fact the way the assessments re done leaves many children really not caring how well they do or not. If you have a bright child, I think the IGCSE would be better as the content would keep kids on their toes more than the MYP.

  7. Pak Liam says:

    OK, Here’s another report with independent research showing that students, in general, perform better in MYP than IGCSE.

    Publicado en News
    According to a study carried out by the British National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) which compares the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) and the GCSE and IGCSE programmes.

    The comparison highlights the breadth and depth of the MYP, and its comprehensive English language curriculum.

    IB students demonstrate greater awareness of global issues, greater interest in understanding other cultures and greater self efficacy and sense of civic responsibility (local and global) than students of British programmes.

    Findings from the study also suggest that the MYP promotes a valued teaching style and school ethos, develops students as independent learners, critical thinkers and active citizens, encourages involvement in local and global communities, positively impacts school culture and classroom environments, promotes feedback and reflection, and is engaging and motivating for students and teachers.

    Check the detailed research summary or check the full report.

    Other studies and publications show that the IB is the ideal preparation to access universities around the world, and indicate that IB students get better grades in UK and US colleges than students of others programmes.

    Read these and other research reports at http://www.ibo.org/research/


  8. SS says:

    I feel MYP/IB is a broad curriculum with no set boundaries which looks good..BUT…. It’s totally teacher dependant…. Therefore the school needs to have systems in place and the teachers need to be trained well and supervised so that they follow the methodology or else the children miss out on basics and have a weak foundation……as it is there is not so much depth in the content until IB….Children in IB are all of a sudden exposed to so much content and exams….they find it difficult to cope,….. Therefore for MYP/IB to be better (practically) the selection of school that conducts the MYP properly is a must and as parents how do we get access to that kind of information and be sure about it ????

  9. Pak Liam says:

    Hi SS,

    Regarding your comment about the IB being teacher dependent, yes, it is. I totally agree that schools and administration need to monitor what teachers are doing in classes to ensure that the programme is being taught properly.

    Though I will disagree that there is not much depth in content until IB DP, because what you should say is that there is not much depth of content that is externally set or decided. It is a misconception of the IB MYP that some parents/teachers/schools think that the IB MYP has not content, it does! Lyn Erickson’s research very clearly states that we cannot adequately learn concepts without sufficient basics in disciplinary knowledge or content.

    So an IB MYP school must still teach depth of content, it is just not set by an external body. So a school in America could articulate the importance of disciplinary knowledge with regards to the American Civil War whereas students in Indonesia might find depth of knowledge with regards to Indonesia’s struggle for independence. The content of these topics is very important, but does not transcend across the globe. However, the broader concepts of these topics might be Change & Conflict, which do transcend the actual content.

    As to how can a parent be sure that schools are properly monitoring this and providing sufficient levels of rigour and disciplinary skills, knowledge and attitudes alongside the broader concepts ?

    Ask them. Can teachers and administrators explain how they teach all of this, do they have curriculum mapping documents or scope and sequences available to parents ? Just as a school teaching other curricula would still have to be able to articulate how and when they teach to a certain set of standards and outcomes so too does an IB MYP school need to be able to a certain Scope and Sequence that they have mapped out.

    Be careful of any school that says that their curriculum is from IB or from Cambridge or from this particular textbook or that particular country but are then unable to show you how and when they translate that to the context of their school and situation. A reliance on the programme alone is just lazy teaching and not particularly effective for teaching or learning, regardless of ‘brand’.

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