The MYP – Middle Years Programme in Hong Kong

Reading Time: 3 minutesMany schools in Hong Kong study the MYP, or Middle Years Programme. But do you really understand how the framework functions? 

What is the MYP?

The MYP, or Middle Year Programme, is a five year framework administered by the IB Organisation for students aged between 11 and 16. Much like its primary school counterpart (Primary Years Programme), the MYP is designed to prime young learners for the demands of the IB Diploma. MYP students typically study between six and eight subjects across a range of disciplines, and are graded on submitted assignments and class projects rather than through standardised examinations. The MYP is flexible in nature and allows teachers room to construct their own assessments. This allows students to develop as individuals and independent learners, effectively preparing them for entry into the IB Diploma.

How does MYP work?

The curriculum emphasises two skills in particular. These are, the ability to follow instructions, and reflective writing. The former is self-explanatory and can be easily managed over the course of the school day. The latter often poses more difficulty. Students are asked to examine and scrutinise theories and concepts across their subjects, and learn to formulate clear lines of argument. This emphasis on critical and analytical thinking is invaluable for those who wish to progress to the IBDP. Of course, this skill is developed over time through multiple school years. What’s more, teachers often collaborate across subjects in order to teach students the value of lateral and interdisciplinary thought.

However, the MYP poses a number of distinct challenges to students, regardless of if they come from the PYP or another school system. With no fixed curriculum and content left up to each individual teacher, few online supplementary resources can prove truly helpful. Additionally, the flexibility of the assessment structure means they can be difficult to navigate, especially in the early years of the programme when students are getting used to the assessment criteria. Each subject is marked on four criteria (A-D) with eight marks available per Criteria. Confusingly, a classroom teacher might not choose to assess each Criteria on every assignment. For example, in Science, a student might be assigned a “Crit B/C” for homework; as Science Criterion B assesses Planning and Research design, and Criterion C assesses Analysis, the student is in effect being asked to write a detailed lab report. In English, a “Crit D” Assessment might require students to give an oral presentation or record a video discussing their understanding of a text. To score highly in any of these domains, organisational skills and a proactive attitude towards schoolwork is essential. Those who find this more challenging may need consistent support to help them develop these skills.

How is the MYP different?

It’s worth noting that the MYP is very different from other school systems, including the UK curriculum. The MYP is the equivalent of Key Stage Three and Key Stage Four (GCSEs), but its unusual structure sets it apart. There are no external examinations in the MYP, as it is more of an educational ethos rather than having specific content that all students studying the curriculum must study. This stands in contrast to the UK curriculum that has very clear content outlines and unambiguous external benchmarks from the examination board for what constitutes an A or A* grade.

Advantages and disadvantages of the MYP

Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages; where the MYP develops students into independent learners and thinkers, the UK system familiarises its cohorts with the rigours of external examination much sooner. In some respects, this prepares students well for the examinations of the IBDP, as they acquire vital examination and revision skills that their MYP counterparts may not possess. On the other hand, the IBO champions the MYP’s interdisciplinary approach to learning, and students emerge from the curriculum with a critical mindset and greater research skills.


Overall, the MYP is a rigorous framework that prepares learners for the next part of their education, but its challenges should not be underestimated. Parents who are thinking about enrolling their children into an MYP school should reflect carefully on their child’s academic profile and self-management skills to determine if it is the best fit.


Jerome Barty-Taylor, BA, MSc. (Oxon.) is the Managing Director of Barty Education and Development (BartyED). They work with families and schools to provide rigorous tuition in all subjects, acceleration for gifted children and mentoring for students with learning differences.


You might also be interested in reading:

When Children Speak More than One Language

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Stay up-to-date with all the latest news, views and giveaways in Hong Kong