Primary Years Program » IB PYP Q&A


These are common questions that come up from parents, community members or board members. Feel free to use any of these in your own website or school materials. 

What is the PYP?

The IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) is an educational framework that guides children from the ages of 3-12 to become curious independent, lifelong learners and critical thinkers both at school and beyond.  

The PYP is designed to provide a stimulating, challenging learning environment that nurtures and fosters a lifelong love of learning.  This all encompassing framework provides an engaging student centered inquiry-based curriculum that recognizes a child's natural curiosity, creativity and ability to reflect and take meaningful action.  


What makes a PYP school different from other elementary schools?

The PYP is different from a traditional elementary school setting because the transdisciplinary framework by nature allows students to explore various topics across subject areas, rather than merely memorizing facts or studying topics in isolation.  This provides students the opportunity to expand their skills and knowledge and apply them in real-world contexts.

In PYP schools there is also more of a focus on student agency where the framework is designed to be more individualized to student needs.  Students are asked to make connections between life in school, life at home and life in the world. These connections contribute to the development of the attitudes that contribute to international mindedness.


How does the IB PYP teach students to be internationally-minded? 

What does it mean to be “internationally minded” and why is it important? 

Being internationally minded is a thoughtful, critical perspective that applies to who we are and what we do. It includes how we communicate, our political awareness, cultural understanding, celebrating diversity, global awareness of global issues, and a reflection on how knowledge is constructed and applied. 

At PYP schools,  the IB PYP teaches students to be internationally-minded through teaching and modeling the IB “Learner Profile.” Regardless of the IB school in any part of the world, these attributes are foundational to the IB learning experience. 


What is the Learner Profile? 

IB programmes share a powerful vision that is informed by the values described in the learner profile.  The IB learner profile represents ten attributes valued by IB world schools that can help individuals and groups become responsible members of local, national and global communities. 

The IB Learner Profile Attributes seek to develop students into individuals who are inquirers, thinkers, communicators, risk-takers, knowledgeable, principled, caring, open-minded, balanced and reflective. 


What will my child be learning at a PYP school? 

In the PYP, six transdisciplinary themes called the Units of Inquiry provide the framework for exploration and construction of knowledge. The curriculum is created by utilizing each school’s specific standards while being guided by these transdisciplinary themes for exploration and study. The six transdisciplinary themes are... 

  • Who We Are 
  • Where We Are in Place and Time 
  • How We Express Ourselves 
  • How the World Works 
  • How We Organize Ourselves 
  • Sharing the Planet
What does Transdisciplinary mean?

Transdisciplinary is the word that the PYP uses to describe a discipline that applies across all disciplines- math, language, science, social studies, information technology, the arts, physical education and library throughout the curriculum.  

In the PYP, the transdisciplinary themes help students make connections between the subjects and applied in real life.  One example of this is by teaching the IB Key Concepts.


What are the PYP Key concepts? 

An IB key concept is not isolated to one subject but stretches across math, science, language arts, and social studies and ties it all together.  In the PYP there are eight fundamental concepts; expressed as key questions, to propel the process of inquiry. The eight fundamental concepts and guiding questions are…

  • 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? 
  • Reflection: How do we know?


In what other ways is the PYP different from a traditional elementary school?

At PYP schools not only are students learning content knowledge and concepts they are also learning particular skills necessary for their future success in college and the workforce.  The IB ATL’s or “Approaches to Learning” skills are sets of relevant 21 century skills that students acquire to help thrive and adapt in any profession, challenge or situation. 

The five IB ATL (Approaches to Learning) skills are 

  • Thinking 
  • Communication 
  • Social 
  • Research 
  • Self-Management


Another way a PYP school is different then a traditional school is a focus on taking action.  In the PYP we believe that taking action is an important component of learning that incorporates students making connections to what they have learned, applying a variety of real life skills,  and demonstrating an enduring understanding.  Action is best grounded in the students’ own experiences and it can be a small thing that arises from a genuine concern and commitment after a unit of inquiry has been completed and often takes place beyond the classroom. At PYP schools students are provided opportunities to choose, to act, to decide on their actions and to reflect on these actions in order to make a difference