PYP Perspectives

International-mindedness: the PYP Perspective

  • The attributes listed in the IB Learner Profile are central to the PYP definition of what it means to be internationally minded.

  • The learner profile is value laden. This kind of learning is what PYP values; it is what PYP stands for and it is the embodiment of what international education is all about.

  • A PYP school is a school that, regardless of location, size or constitution, strives towards developing an internationally minded person, meaning a person who demonstrates the attributes of the IB learner profile.

How is the PYP curriculum defined?

The PYP curriculum contains three interrelated key components, which explain how students learn, how educators teach, and the principles and practice of effective assessment within the programme.

The three components are expresses in open-ended questions

A. What do we want to learn?

The written curriculum: The identification of a framework of what’s worth knowing.

The balance sought between acquisition of essential knowledge and skills, development of conceptual understanding, demonstration of positive attitudes, and taking of responsible action.


B. How best will we learn?

The taught curriculum: The theory and application of good classroom practice.

It is the direct reflection of the written curriculum to which in the course of learning, the PYP essential elements blend and are synthesized in three main ways:

  • through the learner profile which is supported by a curriculum framework based on the five essential elements

  • through the exploration of conceptually based central ideas linked to the transdisciplinary themes, which support and are supported by the other four essential elements

  • through the collaborative planning process, which may involve input from students, that consider all three components of the PYP curriculum model – written, taught, assessed – in an interactive manner

C. How will we know what we have learnt?

The assessed curriculum: The theory and application of effective assessment

Assessment is integral to all teaching and learning and is central to the PYP goal of thoughtfully and effectively guiding students through the five essential elements of learning. 

Essential Elements of the PYP

In the written curriculum, five essential elements are emphasized to achieve the balance between knowledge, skills, conceptual understanding, attitudes, and action.

These are:

  • Knowledge

  • Concepts

  • Skills

  • Attitudes

  • Action


KNOWLEDGE: What do we want students to know about?

Knowledge is the significant, relevant content that we wish the students to explore and know about, taking into consideration their prior experience and understanding.

In PYP Curriculum, six transdisciplinary themes have been identified to give opportunities to incorporate local and global issues into the curriculum and effectively allow students to make connections across the disciplines and integrate the subject areas.


What are the PYP transdisciplinary themes?

  • Who we are 

Inquiry into the nature of the self; beliefs and values; personal, physical, mental, social and spiritual health; human relationships including families, friends, communities, and cultures; rights and responsibilities; what it means to be human.

  • Where we are in place and time

Inquiry into orientation in place and time; personal histories; homes and journeys; the discoveries, explorations and migrations of humankind; the relationship between and the interconnectedness of individuals and civilizations, from local and global perspectives.

  • How we express ourselves

Inquiry into the ways in which we discover and express ideas, feelings, nature, culture, beliefs and values; the ways in which we reflect on, extend and enjoy our creativity; our appreciation of the aesthetic.

  • How the world works

Inquiry into the natural world and its laws, the interaction between the natural world (physical and biological) and human societies; how humans use their understanding of scientific principles; the impact of scientific and technological advances on society and on the environment.

  • How we organize ourselves

Inquiry into the interconnectedness of human-made systems and communities; the structure and function of organizations; societal decision-making; economic activities and their impact on humankind and the environment.

  • Sharing the planet

Inquiry into rights and responsibilities in the struggle to share finite resources with other people and with other living things; communities and the relationship within and between them; access to equal opportunities; peace and conflict resolution.


Students inquire into, and learn about, these globally significant issues in the context of units of inquiry, each of which addresses a central idea relevant to a particular transdisciplinary theme. Lines of inquiry are identified in order to explore the scope of the central idea for each unit.


CONCEPTS: What do we want students to understand? 

These are the big ideas that broaden or deepen students' understanding beyond isolated facts. They are powerful ideas that have relevance within the subject areas but also transcend them and that students must explore and re-explore in order to develop a coherent, in-depth understanding.


These concepts are:

  • Form - What is it like?

The understanding that everything has a form with recognizable features that can be observed, identified, described and categorized.

  • Function - How does it work? 

The understanding that everything has a purpose, a role or a way of behaving that can be investigated.

  • Causation - Why is it like it is? 

The understanding that things do not just happen, that there are causal relationships at work, and that actions have consequences.

  • Change - How is it changing?

The understanding that change is the process of movement from one state to another. It is universal and inevitable.

  • Connection - How is it connected to other things? 

The understanding that we live in a world of interacting systems in which the actions of any individual element affect others.

  • Perspective - What are the points of view? 

The understanding that knowledge is moderated by perspectives; different perspectives lead to different interpretations, understandings and findings; perspectives may be individual, group, cultural or disciplinary. Perspectives may be individual, group, cultural or disciplinary.

  • Responsibility - What is our responsibility? 

The understanding that people make choices based on their understandings and the actions they take as a result do make a difference.

  • Reflection - How do we know? 

The understanding that there are different ways of knowing and that it is important to reflect on our conclusions, to consider our methods of reasoning, and the quality and the reliability of the evidence we have considered.

SKILLS: What do we want students to be able to do?

These are the capabilities that the students need to demonstrate to succeed in a changing, challenging world, which may be disciplinary or transdisciplinary in nature.


These skills are relevant to all subject areas and also transcending them, and are needed to support fully the complexities of the lives of the students. The PYP transdisciplinary skills are:  .

  • Thinking skills

Acquisition of knowledge; Comprehension; Application; Analysis; Synthesis; Evaluation; Dialectical thought; Metacognition.

  • Social skills 

Accepting responsibility; Respecting others; Cooperating; Resolving conflict; Group decision-making; Adopting a variety of group roles.

  • Communication skills 

Listening; Speaking; Reading; Writing; Viewing; Presenting; Non-verbal communication.

  • Self – management skills 

Gross motor skills; Fine motor skills; Spatial awareness; Organization; Time management; Safety; Healthy lifestyle; Codes of behaviour; Informed choices.

  • Research skills  

Formulating questions; Observing; Planning; Collecting data; Recording data; Organizing data; Interpreting data; Presenting research findings


ATTITUDES: What do we want students to feel, value and demonstrate?

These are dispositions that are expressions of fundamental values, beliefs and feelings about learning, the environment and people.


PYP recognizes that knowledge, concepts and skills, these alone do not make an internationally-minded person. It is vital that there is also focus on the development of personal attitudes towards people, towards the environment and towards learning, attitudes that contribute to the well-being

of the individual and of the group.


Attitudes are an essential element of PYP and together with the IB learner profile, it shows the commitment to a values-laden curriculum.

How do they work together?

ACTION: How do we want students to act?

Action is the demonstration of deeper learning in responsible behaviour through responsible action; a manifestation in practice of the other essential elements.


PYP believes that education must extend beyond the intellectual to include not only socially responsible attitudes but also thoughtful and appropriate action. An explicit expectation of the PYP is that successful inquiry will lead to responsible action, initiated by the student as a result of the learning process. This action will extend the student’s learning, or it may have a wider social impact, and will clearly look different within each age range. It is intended that students’ action will grow from the experience, and that the process of taking action, or not, will contribute to each student establishing asset of values. 



Making the PYP happen: A curriculum framework for international primary education. December 2009. Cardiff, UK. International Baccalaureate.

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