What are the pros and cons of the IPC and the IMYC?

The International Primary Curriculum (IPC) and the International Middle Years Curriculum (IMYC) make up two parts of a curriculum for 3 – 14 year olds curriculum provided by Fieldwork Education. The curriculum is primarily targeted at schools delivering a British style education and the learning objectives heavily correlate with the outcomes of the English National Curriculum. I have taught both the IPC and IMYC in the last few years and have come to grips with both the pros and cons of the curriculum – after all no curriculum is perfect! In fact, looking at some of the pros and cons of the curriculum and addressing these in my teaching practise has been what has driven me to want to create this blog.

The Pros

Both curriculums are very thorough. I particularly love the IMYC’s idea of having a central Big Idea which the students are encouraged to reflect upon throughout the unit. There is a clear focus on assessment and inexperienced teachers are given thorough unit plans outlining what to teach, when and with ideas for how to structure the lesson. Both programmes use almost identical learning cycles (note the IMYC includes a stage for reflection) which are not too dissimilar to the inquiry cycle pioneered by Kath Murdoch.



My students always get excited about the Entry Points and often want to know a few weeks in advance what their next Entry Point will be.  

Boat races (2)

In our Entry Point for “Go with the Flow” the students had to work collaboratively to create a boat from recycled materials which they would then use in a boat race.

They find having the inquiry cycle on the wall a useful aide and will often ask when they are going to be progressing onto the next part of the inquiry process. 

Post 1

An example of the inquiry cycle display in my classroom. Items are added to this display as the students progress through their unit of inquiry.

The Exit Point acts as a brilliant focal point which the students work towards at the end of the unit. I have had Exit Points where students create videos, give presentations to the class or even run a mini-exhibition in which their parents were invited to celebrate their learning.


My Year 5 students running a mini-exhibition for one of their Exit Points.

Finally, the trainers at Fieldwork Education actively encourage teachers to adapt and innovate upon the existing written curriculum to make it best for their specific learners. There is no pretence that they have created the perfect curriculum which needs to be rigidly adhered to and this has allowed me the freedom to experiment and innovate.

The Cons

Like I said before, no curriculum is perfect and the same can be said for the IPC and IMYC. Both curriculums claim to be inquiry based approaches to learning. Whilst yes, they do have an inquiry cycle and yes, most of the lessons start with a question, the written curriculum as it stands involves a lot of the teacher leading the learning and not the students doing so themselves. The teacher is the possessor of the knowledge and the students are on a journey to obtain that knowledge. I agree that there is a time and place for this approach but I also believe that meaningful, child centred inquiry has students asking questions, researching and asking further questions at the centre of it with the teacher in the role as ‘guide on the side’. With the way these two curriculums are written at the moment there is limited scope for this. However, there is the freedom to incorporate more student focused inquiry approach into the units.

I have begun to do this by giving my Year 5 students the Big Idea at the start of each unit and asking them to work collaboratively to rewrite it in their own words (sometimes I throw out the IPC version of the Big Idea completely and present the students with the key learning objectives before encouraging them to create their own Big Idea). I find this helps the students to internalise what it is they are going to be learning in the unit and focuses their attention in the next phase of the process.

Space Scientists Big Idea

My students re-written version of the Big Idea for their ‘Space Scientists’ unit.

Once the students are clear on the the general direction of their inquiry I share with the students this inquiry planner (by clicking here you can download a Word version for yourself).

Inquiry Planner

This is something I am constantly looking at, editing and improving but I find it is great way for the students to plan their own independent line of inquiry. A great by-product of this approach is that because the students are leading this it is naturally personalised to their own needs and builds upon their prior learning (although sometimes this needs a bit of gentle prodding by the teacher to ensure it happens!).

Finally, during the research phase I incorporate the ‘Sorting Out’ part of Kath Murdoch’s inquiry cycle into the IPC learning cycle, meaning the research happens in two blocks, not one, and the students are invited to take action based on their learning whilst they are approaching the Exit Point.

Edited photos (1)

Students taking action to raise money for WaterAid.

What are your thoughts? How have you adapted and developed the IPC in your classroom to make it more suitable for the 21st century classroom? Please leave your comments in the box below.

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