Inquiry-based education is grounded in the belief that we learn by inquiring and constructing meaning, that content is very important and that it is inadequate to focus primarily on teaching skills and traditional tests as measures of learning. To help students thrive academically and socially, learning must go beyond skill acquisition and memorization to high order thinking skills and the mastery of content that provides students with the ability to apply what they learn to new situations, solve problems and create new ideas. This depth of understanding and intellectual capacity leads to a love of learning, an ability to develop innovative solutions to problems and the capacity to create new knowledge.
The International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (PYP), Middle Years Programme (MYP) and Diploma Programme (DP) offer the best approach to inquiry-based education. The PYP, MYP and DP are based upon comprehensive research and extensive, wide-ranging experience – excellent practice derived from a variety of national systems and schools. They provide a framework to guide coherent content instruction from grade to grade, encouraging steady academic, social and intellectual progress as students expand their intellectual and social capacities, knowledge and skills. Teachers plan activities, engage students in learning and asses their progress, and then reformulate the plan according to the results.
The PYP and MYP are curriculum frameworks, whereas the DP is a prescribed curriculum. There are important reasons for this difference. Each programme is designed to meet the developmental needs of students of particular ages and at key stages of identity formation.Schools need room to shape the curriculum according to local requirements and to their cultural realities and priorities. The DP has to provide students with the qualifications to gain entry to universities anywhere in the world, hence the increased level of prescription in the programme.
The PYP and MYP are coherent and comprehensive programmes that allow schools, through collaborative teams of teachers, to develop their own content-content that is relevant to the cultural context of the school. The framework offers some degree of flexibility, allowing schools o incorporate local or national curriculum requirements if necessary. Student learning is assessed internally by teachers and, in the MYP, teachers’ assessment can be externally moderated by the IB in order to meet recognized global standards. The DP is, equally, a coherent and comprehensive programme but the curriculum and assessment procedures are prescribed in more detail in order to meet the requirements for university entrance around the world. Student learning in the DP is assessed largely by external examinations set by the IB.
The PYP and MYP are inclusive programmes with the flexibility to meet the needs of all students. The DP is not exclusive but, because it is aimed at providing students with all they need to be successful in higher education, the full IB Diploma Programme may not be the best fit for all students.