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Four programmes at a glance

What are the four programmes?

StudentWhat started as a single programme in 1968 has developed into a full continuum of education for students, spanning the years from kindergarten to pre-university.

The four programmes from the IB are now available to students aged 3 to 19 from a wide range of cultural, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds; and taught at almost 3,500 IB World Schools in 143 countries around the world.

The IB continuum of international education is unique because of its academic and personal rigour, challenging students to excel in their studies and in their personal growth.

  • The IB Primary Years Programme, for students aged 3 to 12, focuses on the development of the whole child as an inquirer, both in the classroom and in the world outside.
  • The IB Middle Years Programme, for students aged 11 to 16, provides a framework of academic challenge that encourages students to embrace and understand the connections between traditional subjects and the real world, and become critical and reflective thinkers.
  • The IB Diploma Programme, for students aged 16 to 19, is an academically challenging and balanced programme of education with final examinations that prepares students for success at university and beyond.
  • The IB Career-related Certificate, for students aged 16 to 19, is the newest offering from the IB. The IBCC incorporates the vision and educational principles of the IB Programmes into a unique offering specifically designed for students who wish to engage in career-related learning.

How does the IB define "international education"?

The International Baccalaureate® (IB) chooses to define "international education" according to the following criteria.
  • Developing citizens of the world in relation to culture, language and learning to live together
  • Building and reinforcing students' sense of identity and cultural awareness
  • Fostering students' recognition and development of universal human values
  • Stimulating curiosity and inquiry in order to foster a spirit of discovery and enjoyment of learning
  • Equipping students with the skills to learn and acquire knowledge, individually or collaboratively, and to apply these skills and knowledge accordingly across a broad range of areas
  • Providing international content while responding to local requirements and interests
  • Encouraging diversity and flexibility in teaching methods
  • Providing appropriate forms of assessment and international benchmarking

How long has each programme been established?

The PYP was developed through the vision and effort, sustained over ten years, of the former International Schools Curriculum Project (ISCP). Its purpose was to produce a common international curriculum and to develop international-mindedness on the part of children. It has been offered by the IB since 1997, and continues to promote inquiry as the leading pedagogical approach.

The MYP began as an initiative of the International Schools Association. The aim was to develop a curriculum encouraging international awareness with emphasis on the skills, attitudes, knowledge and understanding needed to participate in a global society. From 1994 it has been one of the four IB programmes and has continued to grow in the same spirit of collaboration with and among schools.

The Diploma Programme was established in 1968 to provide students with a balanced education, to facilitate geographic and cultural mobility and to promote international understanding. Since then, innovative and committed teachers and examiners from around the world have played a significant role in the development of the programme.


How do the four programmes form a coherent sequence of education?

The four programmes form a coherent sequence of education by promoting the education of the whole person through an emphasis on intellectual, personal, emotional and social growth.

In all four programmes, the education of the whole person is manifested through all domains of knowledge, involving the major traditions of learning in languages, humanities, sciences, mathematics and the arts.

Furthermore, all four programmes:

  • require study across a broad range of subjects drawing on content from educational cultures across the world
  • give special emphasis to language acquisition and development
  • encourage learning across disciplines
  • focus on developing the skills of learning
  • include, to a varying extent, the study of individual subjects and of transdisciplinary areas
  • provide students with opportunities for individual and collaborative planning and research
  • include a community service component requiring action and reflection.

Do schools teach more than one programme?

A significant number of schools offer more than one IB programme, thereby ensuring consistency of education for the student.

IB World Schools, which are schools authorized by the organization, may choose to offer:

  • only one IB programme
  • more than one IB programme, ie any combination of two programmes, or all four programmes
  • local or national programmes in addition to one or more IB programmes.

IB World Schools are a mix of international, private and state schools. They range in size from very small to over a thousand students.


In which languages are students taught?

  • The Primary Years Programme (PYP) may be taught in any language.

The IB publishes PYP curriculum documents in English, French and Spanish but this does not prevent schools teaching the programme in other languages.

  • The Middle Years Programme (MYP) may be taught in any language.

The IB publishes MYP curriculum documents in English, French, Spanish and Chinese but this does not prevent schools teaching the programme in other languages. However, if schools require the grades of their students to be validated by the IB then sufficient student work must be produced in English, French, Spanish or Chinese.

  • The Diploma Programme may be taught in English, French or Spanish.

The IB publishes Diploma Programme curriculum documents and produces examination papers in English, French and Spanish. Schools must therefore choose at least one of these languages as the language of instruction in the school.