What is the IB Primary Years Programme?

Janet Goswell & Amanda Scott
We asked Janet Goswell, our PYP Coordinator for her insights into what it means to be an IB World School, and how we implement the IB Primary Years Programme.

What does it mean to be an authorised IB World School?

Any school that offers an IB (International Baccalaureate) programme: PYP, MYP (Middle Years Programme) or IB Diploma, must first complete a rigorous authorisation process to become an IB World School. The school applies for candidacy, during this process the IB supports the school in building the understanding and organisational structures needed to implement the PYP. During this time all teachers and school leaders are required to undergo IB Professional Development Courses. Once the school has been accepted as a candidate school they then start the authorisation process to become an IB World School. The initial process takes 2-3 years. ICS Cote D’Azur became an authorised IB World School in 2018. We are getting ready for our next full self study, which will take one year, and our reevaluation visit that will take place in spring 2023.

How does the PYP work?

Schools who offer the PYP all adopt a common curriculum framework in conjunction with the Programme Standards and Practices. These are both guidelines and benchmarks for accountability and success that schools must adhere to. The PYP curriculum framework is structured by six transdisciplinary themes that are spread across the school year. Within these broad themes, teachers design units of inquiry.

What does the PYP mean for the students?

The PYP places student voice and choice in the centre of the framework. We focus on the development of the whole child as an engaged inquirer, expecting them to demonstrate ownership for their learning both in and outside of the classroom. In the classroom, we think about how disciplines and knowledge are interconnected and apply this to researching and solving authentic problems that children care about. Together, guided by their teacher (who will introduce the topic with a stimulus designed to provoke interest and reflection), students design their own lines of inquiry based around their curiosities and wonderings. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ or test in the PYP approach. Students create, reflect, make connections, apply, take risks, fail and get back up again. They are actors of their learning, and are encouraged to reflect upon how they learn, thus building valuable metacognition skills that will serve them for life. These are called ‘Approaches to Learning’ and, as parents, you can find an appreciation of how your child is doing on the report card. The IB Learner Profile, also referenced on the school report, provides a roadmap for all students in IB programmes to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners.

Do you have any examples for Kindergarten?

Making connections to the world around us and what we observe in nature is an important part of our learning in the PYP programme and the unit ‘Sharing the Planet’. Our KG children develop their ideas and follow their interests using engaging educational resources which are freely available in our classes, such as life cycle models, pictures cards, and books. Children explore their interests and develop understanding in fun and interesting hands-on learning experiences, in which children and their teachers work together.

What does it mean to be a PYP teacher?

As PYP teachers we have a voice as designers, not just deliverers of learning. The programme acknowledges that teachers know their own students best. The subject content is not fixed or prescriptive, and we have the flexibility to weave student interest into everything we do. The advantage is that this stimulates students' curiosity and engagement. Our classrooms are vibrant hubs for research, trial and error and collaboration, and students gain confidence as they become strong communicators in a variety of ways. As a bilingual school, we also take care to keep the National French and UK curricula firmly rooted and look for connections across all our programmes. As an Apple Distinguished School we have access to technology, which helps us to live the mission and vision of the PYP, as it offers a gateway to finding out about the world as well as ways for students to become creative presenters.