International Baccalaureate® (IB) Program Transition Challenge Study (Abstract)

The International Baccalaureate® (IB) offers high quality programmes of international education to a worldwide community of schools. There are more than 900,000 IB students in over 140 countries.

The IB learner profile is the IB mission statement translated into a set of learning outcomes for the 21st century. The learner profile provides a long-term vision of education. It is a set of ideals that can inspire, motivate and focus the work of schools and teachers, uniting them in a common purpose.


Do you teach in the IB Diploma Program (DP) or the Middle Years Program (MYP)? If you do, you may have at some point noticed that students sometimes have problems when they transition from the MYP to the DP.

The challenges students have may be caused by way the programs were developed, namely in an evolutionary manner rather than a strategic manner. In a recent article published in the Journal of Research in International Education, the investigators studied this by collecting quantitative data from program coordinators in IB schools.

A key challenge identified by the majority of the Coordinators was “dealing with detailed and prescribed content”. This finding, in which DP program has detailed and prescribed contents, contrasts with the more Inquiry-based learning in the MYP. This related to issues of consistency and coherence in teaching and assessment in the DP program.

The Coordinators identified six specific strategies to articulate the links between the DP and the MYP. The three most common were:

1. published MYP vertical and horizontal articulation documents

2. IB published articulation documents

3. more teacher support and guidance for the MYP

Program transition challenges in IB Schools


Philip Hallinger
Moosung Lee
Allan Walker


International Baccalaureate (IB) schools have experienced dramatic growth worldwide over the past decade in response to burgeoning demand for high-quality education with an international orientation.

One increasingly common trend has found international schools adopting two or more of the three programs offered by the IB: the Diploma, Middle Years and Primary Years programs.

While the IB’s three academic programs cover the full K-12 education continuum, they were developed in an evolutionary rather than a strategic fashion and operate with very different curricular assumptions.

Thus schools adopting multiple IB programs have reported a variety of ‘transition problems’ as students move from one program to the next.

In light of these reports, the IB undertook a global survey of IB Program Coordinators in 2008 with the goal of better understanding the extent and nature of this problem.

In this study we analyze those data in an effort to understand the challenges that schools are experiencing as they seek to support students in making a successful transition from the Middle Years Program to the Diploma Program.

We also highlight differences in the challenges faced by partial continuum and full continuum IB schools and offer recommendations for addressing the ‘transition problems’ identified in the study.

Journal of Research in International Education August 2011 vol. 10 no. 2 123-136

For further info or correspondence, contact

Moosung Lee:

Phillip Hallinger:

About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
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