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Why the International Baccalaureate curriculum is the best choice for your child

As of November, Amity International School Amsterdam is officially accredited as an International Baccalaureate (IB)World School for the Primary Years Programme. It’s a great milestone for the school, but why have they chosen this holistic approach to learning? What makes the IB curriculum different from the traditional Dutch education? In this article we will outline our reasons for choosing to teach the IB Curriculum, and why we believe it is the best choice for your child.

What is the IB Curriculum and what makes it different?

The IB Curriculum is an international curriculum, favoured by many international schools around the world, which is comprised of four programmes: Primary Years (PYP), Middle Years (MPY), Diploma (DP), and the Career-related Programme (CP). Currently, Amity Amsterdam is a Candidate School* for the MYP and DP following its recent accreditation as PYP school.  The curriculum places a strong emphasis on intercultural understanding and having both a global and local outlook. The learner profile is built around ten key attributes, which include being open-minded, principled, caring and reflective.

What makes the International Baccalaureate programmes different from more traditional models is the way the learning is steered by the students. Through the curricula they try to develop students who will build a better world through intercultural understanding and respect. Instead of learning the materials by heart from a text book or learning about things that are either irrelevant or unimportant to them, students are encouraged to think critically and challenge assumptions. All programmes encourage students of all ages to consider both local and global contexts.

The IB Organisation conducts extensive research on a continual basis in order to review, evaluate and improve the programmes and their outcomes. Some of this research is commissioned to leading research institutions, and some is carried out in-house. This research has repeatedly shown that students of the IB Curriculum tend to perform better academically than their peers, and are more likely to enroll at top universities.

Now let´s take a more detailed look at each of the IB programmes.

The Primary Years Programme

The PYP, for ages 3-12, is an inquiry-based curriculum which fosters young students’ natural curiosity, promotes ownership of their own learning, providing them with agency, self-efficacy and responsibility through action from a young age. It also encourages reflection on their learning, and emphasises relationships and community, introducing them to critical and creative thinking and allowing them to consider different perspectives.

The PYP is guided by six transdisciplinary themes of global significance, building understanding of a complex and interdependent world and encouraging international mindedness. These themes are:

  • Who we are,
  • Where we are in place and time,
  • How we express ourselves,
  • How the world works,
  • How we organise ourselves, and
  • Sharing the planet.

These themes provide the opportunity to incorporate local and global issues into the curriculum and effectively move beyond the confines of learning solely within traditional school subject areas.

The Middle Years Programme

The MYP is for ages 11-16 and comprises eight subject groups, from which students can take six different courses. These subject groups are:

  • Language acquisition & Language and literature,
  • Individuals and societies,
  • Sciences,
  • Mathematic,
  • Arts,
  • Physical and health education, and
  • Design.

The courses are not taught in isolation, however, and students are encouraged to make connections between the different subjects. Students also complete long-term community or personal projects, enabling them to engage in practical explorations through inquiry, action and reflection.

There is a strong emphasis on learning by doing and connecting their learning to real-life situations and the world around them, further promoting the global mindset introduced in PYP. They train themselves to be organised, to concentrate, to persist, to collaborate, to reflect, and to learn for understanding and not simply memorise information. The way in which students are assessed reinforces this training and creates more well-rounded learners. Each subject has four specific marking criteria, each worth 25%; for example, Mathematics consists of: Knowing and Understanding, Investigating Patterns, Communicating, and Applying Mathematics in real-world contexts.

The Diploma Programme

The DP is for students aged 16-19 and is made up of six subject groups with a variety of different courses. Students take three or four courses, at either Higher of Standard Level. These courses are complemented by the DP Core, which consists of three components which are required elements for all students. These components are:

  • Theory of Knowledge (TOK),  in which students reflect on the nature of knowledge and on how we know what we claim to know;
  • Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS),  in which students complete a project related to those three concepts; and
  • Extended Essay, which is an independent, self-directed piece of research, finishing with a 4,000-word paper.

Students are assessed not only on basic skills such as retaining knowledge, understanding key concepts, and exam techniques, but also on the extent to which they have mastered advanced academic skills such as analysing and presenting information, evaluating and constructing arguments, and solving problems creatively. You can read more about how the DP is assessed here, on the IB website.

Due to this variety, breadth and depth of learning, DP students care about more than just results; they learn outside the classroom and develop emotionally and ethically as well as intellectually. They learn to become independent, responsible, and confident in their talents and abilities, as well as developing valuable skills such as time management and of course, critical thinking at every step. The DP leads to graduates who are globally minded and well prepared for further education and versed in real-world issues. It also increases academic opportunity, as has been shown in IB research.

At Amity, we strive to provide our students with the very best education, allowing them to flourish not only intellectually, but also socially, ethically and emotionally, and this is why we have chosen the IB Curriculum. If you would like to know more about IB, you can visit the website, or why not get in touch with us directly and speak to our IB Coordinators?

*Amity International School Amsterdam is a candidate school for the MYP and DP pursuing authorisation as an IB World School. IB World Schools share a common philosophy – a commitment to high-quality, challenging, international education. Only schools authorised by the IB Organisation can offer any of its four academic programmes: the Primary Years Programme (PYP), the Middle Years Programme (MYP), the Diploma Programme (DP), or the Career-related Programme (CP). Candidate status gives no guarantee that authorisation will be granted.