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A glimpse into International Baccalaureate® Primary Years Programme (IB PYP)

Posted on July 19, 2018 | by Vinod Kakumanu

In the course of establishing, managing and improving schools throughout the country, School Serv has dealt with all aspects of learning to make sure institutions achieve optimum learning outcomes. Selection of appropriate curriculum and its implementation has always been our top priority. Our research wing also keeps a tab on developments and studies the features of curriculums to enable school promoters choose the best according to their context.

With the advent of IB  in India, school IB Primary Years Programmepromoters who wanted to try different curriculums have found a way. In our role as curriculum implementation consultants, we have found out that before deciding on IB sometimes the groundwork of understanding and appreciating the course had not been done by school management, as a result, series of surprises were encountered. There are some very distinct features of IB curriculum which are important for school promoters to understand before opting IB as the curriculum of their school. In this article we have tried to provide a practical understanding of IB PYP curriculum as it remains the area wherefrom most of the queries arrive.

The primary year’s programme (PYP) of International Baccalaureate® is for children aged between 3 and 12. This implies that the inception of PYP happens in Kindergarten and it goes on till grade 5 making way for the Middle Year Programme (MYP).

The PYP programme is self-contained, which means that its significance will not get diminished even if it is not followed by the next level of IB i.e. MYP and DP. That actually applies to all these IB programmes and they are all independently pursued in many schools, yet, a continuum is recommended by IB and if a school could run successive programmes, it would make an ideal scenario.

It has to be said that IB PYP has a complex curriculum model which has several aspects constituting it. Once the staff adapts to it, IB PYP curriculum starts to show its rewards in the form of student engagement and parental satisfaction. Incorporated into ‘hexagonal model’, the IB PYP curriculum design and objectives are laid down for teachers to understand.

It is mentionable that like all other curriculums, the IB primary years that continue for 9 years of a student’s life will also cover subjects including Mathematics, Science, Language, Social Studies and Arts. The features that distinguish IB from other curriculums obtain from the fact that it is derived from a ‘framework’. The said framework is made up of overarching transdisciplinary themes including ‘who we are’, ‘where we are in place and time’, ‘how we express ourselves’, ‘how we organize ourselves’, ‘how the world works’ and ‘sharing the planet’. These themes underlay the content covered in the syllabus and make the pedagogical style international in perspective and transdisciplinary, meaning that while learning the concepts of a given subject or discipline the students also get introduced to concepts or themes which fall in the purview of other subjects.

Besides the themes, the curriculum is composed of three interlinked components including ‘written’, ‘taught’ and ‘assessed curriculum’. The components of the PYP curriculum confirm the commitment to increased involvement of the learner in the learning process. The significance of the components is as follows—

  1. The written curriculum —The written curriculum is, in effect the answer to ‘what do we want to know’? The written curriculum can be described as an organized set of learning outcomes. Studying “scope and sequence” document provided by IBO and assessment of other curriculums is done to derive certain benchmarks for designing the written curriculum. As a result, the curriculum will have topics gleaned from and compared against the major curriculums like CBSE, ICSE etc. However, discretion is exercised while charting the course or the way of teaching the content in the class and the sequence in which topics are introduced. Therefore it is quite possible to come across certain topics which are introduced in lower classes of IB are in higher classes of other boards. With respect to the syllabuses, certain omissions and commissions are made, but the primary objective to keep it coherent with the IB learner profile remains intact.
  2. The taught curriculum —’in what way will we learn best’? That’s the question that forms the cornerstone of the quest for the IB PYP taught curriculum. Innovation from the teachers, use of the teaching aids become essential in teaching the written curriculum in the best way. Helping individual children is also an objective of operationalizing the taught curriculum. The pedagogy determines the efficacy of the taught curriculum and its effectiveness for children who seldom have uniform learning styles.
  3. The assessed curriculum —the quest that defines the assessed curriculum is about knowing how to determine what we have learned? Conventionally, the assessment strategy is written exams complemented with vivas. In the case of IB PYP, assessment is multifarious and mimic higher education assessments. The methods of assessments are chosen by teachers or suggested to them and finally the validity, reliability of the assessment methods determining its suitability to assess the taught curriculum. The assessment methods also determine the direction of learning of the pupils, deviation from the instruction and in the process, the taught curriculum gets informed by the assessed curriculum.

The synergy between these three components brings out and effective IB PYP curriculum consummate in every respect. Furthermore, IB has a ‘learner profile’ in place which enlists the values and qualities that the student is expected to develop while he courses his way through the curriculum. IB expects the learner profile to be consolidated in the personality of the student, The profile signifies the attributes of a cosmopolitan or internationally-minded person. In fact, the learner profile is the core of the IB PYP curriculum.

IB curriculum is informed by the constructivist philosophy of education. When children are believed to be ‘constructors’ of knowledge their interaction in the classroom increases, they are given time to meditate about their learning and how they are learning, physical mobility and furniture configuration of the classroom does not remain conventional but becomes markedly different.

The curriculum throughout the primary years will drive the students towards the development and achievement of five essential elements including –

  1. Knowledge – The body of knowledge that the syllabus constitutes
  2. Concepts – form , function, causation ,change, connection ,perspective, responsibility and reflection
  3. Skills – disciplinary and transdisciplinary skills, thinking skills, social skills, research skills, communication skills, self-management skills.
  4. Attitudes –  the perspective to look at the issues of the world around
  5. Action – which means motivated action that the knowledge incites within the child to bring about the desired change.

The IB curriculum enforcement is aided by IBO through workshops and material for the trainee teachers. Our International School Consultants have successfully designed, implemented the IB PYP curriculum and trained the teachers to practice and sustain it.

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Vinod Kakumanu

Founder & Consultant - School Serv

Vinod Kakumanu heads a team of school services professionals and is an independent commentator on Indian school education scenario. Vinod has assisted school promoters establish 35+ schools besides providing ancillary services to over 1000 schools across India. He envisions a future where quality education is made available to every child of the country. The focus he places on the quality of the deliverables and customer satisfaction has made him renowned in the field of K-12 school education.

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