In many parents’ criteria for the best schools in Dubai, where their children could start their educational journey, the curriculum often ranks as one of the top considerations. That’s because this choice defines how their child’s learning capabilities, character development, and future higher education and career prospects will unfold. 

According to KHDA’s Growth and Quality report on Dubai private schools for the academic year 2023-24, the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum scored one of the highest enrolment rates, with over 25,992 students in 17 schools. 

If you’re unfamiliar with the IB programme and why it continues to attract a sizable share of eager learners, read on to find out.

What is the IB Curriculum?

The IB curriculum was established in 1968 in Geneva, Switzerland, to offer students a holistic education transcending disciplinary, national and geographical boundaries and promoting cultural awareness and a global perspective.

The IB Curriculum Framework

The IB curriculum consists of three programmes tailored to different age groups and abilities, each ending in a project requirement.

1. Primary Years Programme (PYP) 

The PYP offers a student-centred, inquiry-based curriculum for learners from the age of three to age 12. It adopts the premise that children are agents of their own learning and partners in their educational journey.

This means that students are encouraged to ask questions, collaborate with teachers and peers, and reflect on their learning to develop the knowledge, conceptual understandings and skills they need to effect change in their lives, communities and beyond.

At this stage, they also engage in ongoing assessments to learn how to become self-regulated students who can critically analyse their progress, set goals and act on constructive feedback.

2. Middle Years Programme (MYP) 

The MYP is a five-year curriculum framework that drives students’ intellectual curiosity and prompts them to form connections between what they learn in the classroom and the real world.

Here, IB schools present learners aged 11-16 with eight subject groups to provide a broad and well-rounded education. These include: 

  • Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Individuals and societies
  • Arts
  • Language acquisition
  • Language and literature
  • Physical and health education
  • Design

In each year of the MYP programme, students must have at least 50 hours of teaching time for each subject group. In the final year, they may opt for the MYP eAssessment, which measures their performance based on examinations and coursework. 

3. Diploma Programme (DP) 

DP marks the final stage of IB education. It’s a two-year programme that aims to enrich students’ learning experience and challenge them to apply their skills and knowledge. At this level, learners between the ages of 16-19 must complete two requirements:

DP Subjects

Students need to study a subject from each of the following six fields:

  • Studies in language and literature (e.g., Language A: literature and Literature and performance).
  • Language acquisition (e.g., Language B and Classical languages).
  • Individuals and societies (e.g., Business management, Economics and History).
  • Sciences (e.g., Chemistry, Biology and Physics).
  • Mathematics (e.g. Analysis and approaches and Applications and interpretation). 
  • Arts (e.g., Dance, Film and Theatre).

They may replace a subject in the arts category with an additional language, sciences or individuals and societies topic.  

Learners must also take some subjects at a higher level (HL) and others at a standard level (SL). HL and SL subjects vary in scope; however, they’re assessed using the same grade descriptors that often demand HL students display a deeper understanding and greater capabilities. 

Students typically study a minimum of three HL subjects and the remaining ones at SL. 

DP Core

The DP core is the second requirement of the DP programme and is made up of three mandatory components, including:

  • Theory of Knowledge (TOK): where students reflect on the nature of knowledge and how we know what we claim to know.
  • Extended Essay: an independent, self-directed 4,000-word research paper.
  • Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS): a project-based learning experience that embodies those three values.

4. IB Projects

In all three programmes of the IB curriculum, students must complete a culminating project to celebrate their learning journey

In PYP, students complete the exhibition project. Here, Year 6 learners explore, document and share their take on an issue or opportunity of personal significance.

At the MYP stage, Year 3 or 4 students carry out a community project in which they collaborate and engage in service learning. Meanwhile, MPY Year 5 learners follow through with a self-directed personal project that allows them to examine a topic through a cycle of inquiry, action, and reflection. 

Finally, for DP, it’s the extended essay mentioned above in which students can explore a topic of interest to them. This topic may relate to one of the learners’ six DP subjects or take the interdisciplinary method of a World Studies extended essay and focus on an issue of global significance, such as climate change, migration, the food crisis or others.

Why Choose the IB Curriculum

Whether your child is just starting school or is already a student of a different curriculum, here are a few reasons why the IB system could be a good fit:

1. Global Outlook 

The IB curriculum incorporates global contexts into its framework by emphasising an understanding of languages, awareness and respect for different cultures, and exposure to internationally significant ideas and issues. As a result, IB students are more inclined to become globally-minded citizens, ready to embrace diversity and become agents of positive change.

2. Holistic Growth 

This curriculum’s teaching and learning methods promote balanced growth in students, nurturing their cognitive, emotional, physical, and social development, as well as academic skills.

3. Academic Rigour

The IB curriculum’s extensive coursework creates an intellectually stimulating environment through which children can develop skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, research and communication to benefit them in higher education and beyond.

4. University Recognition

IB Diploma graduates have a competitive edge in university admissions. According to a survey of over 4,000 students performed by the International Baccalaureate Organization and International Insight Research Group, IB graduates are accepted into Ivy League universities at a rate that’s up to 18% higher than the overall population acceptance rate. 

Moreover, IB students are admitted to top-ranked universities outside the Ivy League at a rate that’s 22% higher than their peers from other curriculums.  

5. Cultivating Life Skills

In taking responsibility for their learning, children acquire essential skills like time management, self-reflection, resilience and collaboration that prepare them for success later in life. 

Start Your Child’s IB Education

The IB curriculum moulds young minds into conscientious, worldly, and curious learners. 

Reach out to IB schools in Dubai to learn more about how this programme fits your child’s educational goals and sets them on a path to a successful future.