Primary Years Programme (PYP) at ALS

At Advanced Learning Schools, all students from KG 1 to grade 5 are involved in the Primary Years Programme of the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO). The PYP focuses on the heart as well as the mind and addresses social, physical, emotional and cultural needs in addition to those considered to be more academic. The traditional subject areas are valued, with an extra emphasis on the balance between the acquisition of essential knowledge and skills and the search for the meaning of, and understanding about the world.

This overview of the Primary Years Programme is encapsulated in the PYP model.

The PYP enables students to develop an insight into the world around them through:

  • the knowledge component of the curriculum
  • the IB learner profile and the attitudes that support it
  • the students’ own conceptual development
  • the expectation that they will engage in socially responsible action as a result of the learning experience.

The significant, challenging, engaging and relevant units of inquiry and feedback on their learning process.
For more information about the Primary Years Programme, please contact Carmen Hill , PYP Coordinator :

More information

A concept-driven curriculum

In the PYP there is a commitment to a concept-driven curriculum as a means of supporting inquiry The PYP provides a framework for the curriculum, including eight key concepts as one of the essential elements. It is accepted that these are not, in any sense, the only concepts worth exploring. Together, they form a powerful curriculum component that inspires the teacher- and/or student-constructed inquiries that lie at the heart of the PYP

  • Form: What is it like?
  • Function: How does it work?
  • Causation: Why is it like it is?
  • Change: How is it changing?
  • Connection: How is it connected to other things?
  • Perspective: What are the points of view?
  • Responsibility: What is our responsibility?
  • Reflection: How do we know?

Expressed as open-ended questions, the eight key concepts provide the underlying structure for the exploration of the content of the whole programme. For example, asking “What are the points of view?” is a common practice in IB World Schools offering the PYP. It broadens the thinking of students as they take that first essential step towards international-mindedness—expressing a curiosity about and a willingness to consider another’s perspective. Teachers refer to these questions during the process of collaborative planning; they focus the teachers’ thinking as they generate key questions relevant to particular content, whether it is subject-specific or related to transdisciplinary themes.

The transdisciplinary nature of the programme

The PYP acknowledges the importance of particular subject areas: language; mathematics; social studies; science; arts; personal, social and physical education. However, the PYP also recognizes that educating students in a set of isolated subject areas, while necessary, is not sufficient.

Of equal importance is the need to acquire skills in context, and to explore content that is relevant to students and transcends the boundaries of the traditional subjects. “To be truly educated, a student must also make connections across the disciplines, discover ways to integrate the separate subjects, and ultimately relate what they learn to life” (Boyer 1995: 82). In the PYP, this idea of human commonalities shapes the transdisciplinary themes.

The programme defines transdisciplinary themes that identify areas of shared human experience and have meaning for individuals from different cultures and ethnicities. These themes are part of the common ground that unifies the learning in all PYP schools. They provide the opportunity to incorporate both local and global issues in the knowledge component of the PYP written curriculum—what we want students to know about.

There are six transdisciplinary themes.

  1. Who we are
  2. Where we are in place and time
  3. How we express ourselves
  4. How the world works
  5. How we organize ourselves
  6. Sharing the planet

The school has developed a Programme of Inquiry, organized around these six transdisciplinary themes, and each will be revisited throughout the schooling of the students, emphasizing those human commonalities and making connections between the six units of inquiry studied each and every year.

The construction of knowledge

The PYP curriculum model is committed to using a constructivist approach. Learners have beliefs about how the world works based on their experiences and prior learning. Those beliefs are revisited and revised in the light of new experiences and further learning.

When planning units of inquiry, teachers make sure to ascertain students’ prior knowledge, and provide experiences that give them opportunities to:

  • test and revise their models
  • make connections between their previous and current perceptions
  • construct their own meaning

Inquiry as a pedagogical approach

Inquiry, as the leading pedagogical approach of the PYP, allows students to be actively involved in their own learning and to take responsibility for that learning. Inquiry allows students’ understanding of the world to develop at their own rate.

Inquiry can be defined as the process initiated by the student or the teacher that moves students from their current level of understanding to a new and deeper level of understanding.

Inquiry can take many forms, including:

  • exploring, wondering and questioning
  • experimenting and playing with possibilities
  • making connections between previous learning and current learning
  • making predictions and acting purposefully to see what happens
  • collecting data and reporting findings
  • clarifying existing ideas and reappraising perceptions of events
  • deepening understanding through the application of a concept
  • making and testing theories
  • researching and seeking information
  • taking and defending a position
  • solving problems in a variety of ways.

Many different forms of inquiry are recognized, based on students’ curiosity and on their wanting and needing to know more about the world. They are most successful when students’ questions and inquiries are genuine and have real significance in helping them progress to new levels of knowledge and understanding.

An explicit expectation of the PYP is that successful inquiry will lead to action, initiated by the student as a result of the learning process. This action may extend the student’s own learning, or it may have a wider social impact.

Assessment as feedback

The prime objective of assessment in the PYP is to provide feedback on the learning process.
Teachers select assessment strategies and design assessment instruments to reflect clearly the particular learning outcomes on which they intend to report. They employ a range of strategies for assessing student work that take into account the diverse, complicated and sophisticated ways that individual students use to understand their experiences. Additionally, the PYP stresses the importance of student self-assessment and reflection.

The assessment strategies and instruments—rubrics, anecdotal records, checklists, anchor papers, continuums, portfolios of work—proposed by the PYP, are designed to accommodate a variety of intelligences and ways of knowing. Where possible, they should provide effective means of recording students’ responses and performances in real-life situations that have genuine problems to solve. These authentic assessment strategies may be used in conjunction with other forms of assessment, such as standardized tests or diagnostic assessments, in order to help plan student learning, assess student performance and the efficacy of the programme.

In its approach to assessment, the PYP recognizes the importance of assessing the actual process of inquiry as well as the result of inquiry, and aims to integrate and support both. The teacher is expected to record the detail of the inquiry initiated by students in order to look for an increase in the substance and depth of the inquiry.

The teacher needs to consider:

  • if the nature of students’ inquiry develops over time—if, in fact, they are asking questions of increasing depth and providing evidence of the capacity to think critically
  • if students are becoming aware that real problems require solutions based on the integration of knowledge that spans and connects many subject areas
  • if students are demonstrating mastery of skills and an accumulation of a comprehensive knowledge base to enable them to conduct their inquiries successfully, find solutions and solve problems
  • if students are demonstrating both independence and an ability to work collaboratively.

The PYP Exhibition

In the final year of the PYP the students participate in a culminating project; the PYP exhibition. This requires that each student demonstrates engagement with the five essential elements of the programme—knowledge, skills, concepts, attitudes, action. It is both a transdisciplinary inquiry conducted in the spirit of personal and shared responsibility, as well as a summative assessment activity that is a celebration and rite of passage, symbolic and actual, from the PYP into the middle years of schooling.

Through their presentation students demonstrate confidence and knowledge about their topic, presenting it to a variety of audiences and adapting to each and every one. They share their action plan and we hope they remember their Exhibition resolutions.

Several ALS teachers are involved in making this a success; working with and guiding the students. These teachers include the grade 6 homeroom teachers, the teacher assistants, the PYP Coordinator and the many teachers who volunteer as mentors.

Many thanks to everyone who gives of their time and effort in each year!

First PYP Exhibition

On June 15th, 2010 the grade 6 classes presented the first PYP Exhibition in the history of ALS. The central idea that drove the students’ inquiry was “Sustainable use of resources provides opportunities for future generations.” Students chose topics, researched and presented in small groups using this

Second PYP Exhibition:

On May 11, 2011 ALS presented its second successful PYP Exhibition. During the six weeks prior, the PYP Exhibition process involved all Grade 6 students in identifying, investigating and offering solutions to real-life issues. The students had many opportunities to demonstrate independence and responsibility for their own learning, exploring multiple perspectives and demonstrating how they can take action as a result of their learning while working with one common central idea within small groups.

Many visitors were in attendance: parents, siblings, representatives from Jeddah Knowledge and King Faisal Schools as well as all K-5 students and their teachers. At several points during the afternoon, there was standing room only!

First Independent PYP Exhibition:

On April 21, 2013 the fourth successful PYP Exhibition was held at ALS. This exhibition differed from the past as students worked on their inquiries on an individual basis and not in small groups. The transdisciplinary theme was also changed to “Who We Are”. Individual students were responsible for identifying their topic, writing their own central idea as well as identifying their lines of inquiry and research guiding questions. Students were given eight weeks to conduct their inquiries and prepare their exhibitions.

This new format is proving to be very successful for students and appreciated by parents. Students are able to show their level of knowledge and understanding through genuine conversations about a topic they were interested in. Attention is given to assuring that the audience truly understands the ramifications of and perspective on their topic. It is amazing to see and hear students so knowledgeable and committed to their topics. We look forward to continued work in this format in coming years.

General Regulation: Primary Years Programme

Article 1: Scope

1.1: The International Baccalaureate Organization (hereinafter “the IB Organization”) is a foundation that has developed and offers three programmes of international education entitled the “Primary Years Programme” (PYP), the “Middle Years Programme” (MYP) and the “Diploma Programme”. It authorizes schools to offer one or more of these programmes to its students.

1.2: An “IB World School” (hereinafter “school”) is a school that has been authorized by the IB Organization to offer one or more of its

1.3: This document describes the regulations that apply to those schools that have been authorized as IB World Schools to offering the PYP.

1.4: When used herein the term “legal guardians” encompasses parents and individuals with guardianship of any student enrolled in the PYP

Article 2: Role and responsibilities of schools

2.1: In addition to the articles in these general regulations General regulations: Primary Years Programme (hereinafter “general
regulations”), schools must comply with the Rules for IB World Schools: Primary Years Programme, which are detailed in a separate document.

2.2: The IB Organization has established a curriculum framework, as well as standards, practices and requirements for the
implementation of the PYP, which is an inclusive programme aimed at students in the 3–12 age group.

2.3: Because the IB Organization is not a teaching institution and does not provide teaching services to students, the PYP is
implemented and taught by IB World Schools. Schools are entirely independent from the IB Organization and are solely
responsible for the implementation and quality of teaching of the PYP.

2.4: Schools are responsible for informing legal guardians regarding the general characteristics of the PYP and how the school
implements it.

2.5: The IB Organization cannot guarantee that a school will remain capable and willing to implement the PYP. Consequently, schools bear sole responsibility towards students and legal guardians if, for any reason, a school’s authorization to implement the PYP is withdrawn by the IB Organization or a school decides to terminate its authorization.

The Primary Years Programme

Article 3: Content and implementation of the programme

3.1: A primary school, or primary section of a school, must offer the PYP as an inclusive programme for all students in the 3–12 age

3.2: Schools must implement the PYP in conformity with the Programme standards and practices, Making the PYP happen: A
curriculum framework for international primary education; Making the PYP happen:Pedagogical leadership in a PYP school and the current PYP Coordinator’s handbook—the procedures manual issued by the IB Organization for schools.

3.3: Teaching and learning in the PYP is predominantly in the context of transdisciplinary themes and through the pedagogy of inquiry
that promotes the construction of meaning by students.

3.4: Schools must provide instruction in the learning of a language other than the principal language of instruction of the school from at
least the age of seven. Schools are not required to offer a third language to their students.

3.5: Schools carry out all teaching and assessment alone, without any intervention or supervision from the IB Organization. This
includes the assessment of each student’s development in the areas described in the IB learner profile and of each student’s
learning as demonstrated during the PYP exhibition in the final year of the programme.

3.6: The IB Organization does not award any form of diploma or certificate of merit in connection with the PYP and permits recognition
only of a student’s participation in the programme, for which purpose it makes available to schools an optional PYP “Certificate of
participation”, which they may choose to issue to their students.

3.7: Legal guardians must use the school’s PYP coordinator as the intermediary for any communication with the IB Organization.

3.8: If legal guardians have any questions regarding the general content (curriculum and philosophy) of the PYP or how a school
implements it, they must address themselves to the school’s PYP coordinator.

Article 4: Use of materials produced by students

4.1: Students produce materials in a variety of forms during the course of their schoolwork. These materials (hereinafter “the materials”)
include all forms of written work, audio and visual materials and, in certain cases, materials containing images of the students.
From time to time, the IB Organization may ask schools for samples of these materials to use for educational, training and/or
promotional purposes relating to the IB Organization’s activities, or to those related activities of which it approves.

4.2: Upon students entering the PYP, schools must ask legal guardians to indicate in writing whether they agree to their child’s
materials being submitted to the IB Organization from time to time for educational, training and/or promotional purposes relating to the IB Organization’s activities, or to those related activities of which it approves.

4.3: By providing written consent to schools, legal guardians are granting the IB Organization a nonexclusive, charge-free, worldwide
licence, for the duration of the statutory copyright protection, to reproduce submitted materials in any medium for the uses outlined in article 4.1.

4.4: Where the IB Organization uses these materials, it may modify, translate or otherwise change them to meet particular needs and
will anonymize them before publication in print or in electronic form.

Article 5: Use of student data

The IB may use data in ways relevant to carrying out its legitimate purposes and functions, such as research on IB students’ educational paths and performance, and will take due care in the use, collection and storage of data and do its utmost to keep all data accurate, timely and secure.

Final provisions

Article 6: Governing law

Swiss law governs these general regulations.

Article 7: Arbitration

Any dispute arising from or in connection with these general regulations shall be finally settled by arbitration, taking place in and in accordance with the rules applicable in Geneva, Switzerland. The proceedings shall be confidential and the language of the arbitration shall be English.

Article 8: Entry into force and transitory rules

This version of General regulations: Primary Years Programme shall enter into force on 1 September 2011 for PYP schools whose school year begins in August/September, or on 1 January 2012 for PYP schools whose school year begins in January/February. The IB Organization may amend these general regulations from time to time.