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IB Middle Years Programme and the P21

October 27, 2017--

What is P21? Progressive educational theorists often cite the Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21) as the future of desired educational outcomes. It is a group of US-based educational leaders, entrepreneurs, and government policymakers who are tasked with advancing the US public education system to ensure students have 21st Century skills.

P21 has been in existence since 2002 and has “brought to the forefront a comprehensive set of skills, that along with content mastery, are what all sectors can agree are essential for success” (  

P21 endorses the traditional core disciplines (English, Math, Science, Humanities, Arts, Foreign Language) but then goes further, arguing that certain key skills must be brought into the US public school system “because it is the right thing to do for our students, our economy, and our democracy.” P21 asserts that all students, not just those bound for university, must be prepared for quickly globalizing and technologically advancing world of the 21st century.

Beyond teaching the traditional subjects, P21 advocates that students must be able to “work collaboratively with individuals [from] diverse cultures, religions and lifestyles in a spirit of mutual respect and open dialogue in personal, work, and community contexts” so that they can understand and address global issues.  Beyond this, students must be able to communicate effectively for a range of purposes within diverse environments, using multiple media technologies.  With the pace of technological change, the nature of communication changes just as quickly.  

Students must know how to not only access information, but more importantly evaluate their sources of information.

P21 advocates that schools must teach students to think critically and creatively, work critically and creatively with others, and be able to demonstrate originality and inventiveness, all the while “viewing failure as an opportunity to learn.”  In order to do this, students must be flexible, adaptable, show initiative, and self-direction, as well as be highly responsible, productive leaders.  In short, the demands placed upon students are exceptionally high, and at the same time, necessary.  

P21, ISD and the Middle Years Programme (MYP) When comparing the goals of P21 with those of ISD, there is a high degree of overlap. While P21 is good to draw upon in terms of defining the vision of what a 21st century learner needs to be, know and do, it does not offer the roadmap of how schools are to achieve this.  

In the Secondary School at ISD we have formally been investigating the adoption of the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP).  The MYP is a curricular framework for grades 6-10 that builds upon the Primary Years Program (PYP) which we have in the Elementary School, and leads purposefully into the Diploma Program (DP) which we have as our curricular program in grades 11 and 12.  

The MYP offers 8 subject areas across the traditional domains, similarly to P21.  Like P21, it then goes much further.  The MYP specifies key Approaches to Learning that the school must explicitly teach, along with key dispositions towards learning as seen through the IB Learner Profile.  

The driving factor for dedicating so much time and energy in evaluating the MYP is that it not only reflects the vision of education reflected by such groups as P21 – and therefore fits our ISD mission and vision – but it offers extensive detail, support, and essentially a roadmap to achieve that shared vision.  Further, the MYP coheres with what is already in place at ISD in the Elementary School, as well as that which is our end target of the Diploma Program.  The overlap between P21 and the MYP is exact in many cases, as seen through its systematic development of critical thinking, creative thinking, communication, and other key learning attributes.  For example, while P21 encourages students to see failure as an opportunity to learn, the MYP (as well as the PYP and DP) encourages students to take intellectual risks in order to test the boundaries of their knowledge, and grow from where they fall short.  

With the implementation of the Primary Years Program in the Elementary school and the continued development of the Diploma Program in grades 11 & 12, it is an exciting time to be considering the implementation of the Middle Years Program in grades 6-10 – not simply because it fits well with what we are doing, but because it offers the best educational framework to structure teaching and learning across grades 6-10. 

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