The journey’s just begun

Schools that have completed the PYP authorization process have gone through a huge transformation. Here four educators reflect on that adventure

Anindya Windita Hartono

PYP Coordinator, Global Jaya International School, Indonesia

“Community counts.”

Being an IB World School means that we value the diversity of cultures and perspectives that exist in local, national and global communities. It is this local community, in particular, that brings the PYP alive within our school.

The Indonesian curriculum is very different in content and teaching style to the PYP. Even at elementary level, it is focused on exams.

But this is changing; last year, integrated, thematic concepts were introduced to the curriculum – which aligns well with the aims and attributes of the PYP learner profile. Global Jaya International School is one of 43 IB World Schools in Indonesia. We work with other schools in the country through the PYP Dunia support network.

Every year, it holds meetings for PYP coordinators to aid professional development. It also runs an annual job-alike session, which provides training for staff at member schools. There’s also good collaboration with the MYP Dunia and IB Diploma Programme Dunia networks.

In my role as PYP Coordinator, I meet monthly with the MYP and IB Diploma Programme Coordinators to plan for the short- and long-term evolution of our teaching and learning practices. Parents and local leaders are a big part of our school.

We often invite guest speakers into class and host regular coffee mornings and information sessions for our students’ parents, which cover topics such as the IB learner profile. This supportive environment enables our students to take ownership of their learning. They set their own goals, and take every opportunity to reflect on and evaluate their work.

Ian Dickinson

Deputy Principal, Bucklands Beach Intermediate (BBI) School, New Zealand

“We shifted mindsets."

At BBI we teach only two year groups, so all of our 800 students are 11, 12 or 13 years old. Most of them don’t come to us from PYP primary schools, and many won’t go on to study IB programmes when they leave us.

We get just two years with them, and they squeeze every drop of learning out of their time here. Becoming an IB World School in 2012 changed everything about us: our culture, our mission, our students and teachers.

The PYP isn’t an add-on: we truly became a PYP school. We had to immerse ourselves in the programme, and shift our philosophy, our understanding of why we are here, as educators, and the job we needed to do. Our authorization journey took four years and making the change was about more than having the right systems in place.

We used the stability of the local community, and of the teaching staff – many have been here since the school opened – as a foundation. We had to shift people’s mindsets, so they no longer saw BBI as a place where students were educated for two years, but viewed it as a community resource. Taking on the PYP is immensely rewarding but also very challenging.

One of the main differences is that the focus of control shifts to the student. Parents tell us that their children now drive their own learning. Relinquishing that control in the classroom has been difficult to get used to for some teachers.

Teaching the PYP also requires a huge amount of skill. It’s not about lecturing – you need to help students construct their own understandings. This brings with it big opportunities for collaborative learning. We have 13 classes in each year, with 3 teams per year group.

Rather than having isolated islands in those teams, the year groups work together. They collaborate on lesson planning as well as on reflection, which has helped us build up a library of reflections on the programme and units over the years. The end result is that we have a programme that truly engages our young learners.

Seetha Murty

Principal and ‘principal learner’, Silver Oaks, The School of Hyderabad, India

“A new spark in students."

A few years ago, we had a beautiful campus but our learners’ outcomes were questionable because of a focus on exam-centric rote learning and conventional teaching methods. Even worse, this approach wasn’t leading to outstanding exam results. Fast-forward to 2014 and four years after our PYP authorization, our students have a sense of pride in learning and enjoy showcasing their skills and knowledge.

Group learning and a student-centric approach have created a new spark. Introducing an unknown international programme to our parents was a challenge: they wanted to see their children get outstanding exam results and preferred quantitative learning to quality teaching. It took us a year to reassure the parent community about our sincere intentions.

Where previously conversations with parents were business-like, our discussions with them have become friendly and supportive. When visitors come to the school, the positivity of the students is palpable. We faced challenges in adjusting our practice. The biggest was bringing the topics together, to make teaching and learning transdisciplinary.

We grew out of our textbooks and designed our own curriculum that aligned with the PYP approach. Teachers in India are traditionally single-subject specialists, so re-training our faculty was difficult. We see that the PYP has inspired ordinary people to become extraordinary teachers.

Healthy corridor talks, professional reading sessions and pride in their work are now the norm among our staff. It’s vital that anyone considering introducing the PYP to their school understands the essence of the programme. It’s not a brand: it’s a philosophy that completely changes your teaching and students.

Agustin Onsari

PYP Coordinator, St. Francis College, São Paulo, Brazil

“Bringing out potential.”

A school that decides to implement the PYP commits itself to working towards developing international-mindedness in the whole school community – among students, parents and staff. This is a continuous process: a journey that we have been on since our school was authorized in 2005.

You must plan the best way for the community to develop the attributes of the IB learner profile, implement these actions and continuously reflect on and improve the process. We can only be satisfied as a school that we have achieved this goal when everyone’s activities benefit the individual, the local community and the environment.

We can assess how successfully the PYP has been implemented by looking at how the programme’s five essential elements – knowledge, concepts, skills, attitudes and action – are organized and used by school members to develop the best versions of themselves, and how action is based on international-mindedness.

The challenges presented by the PYP approach are never-ending, and so are the satisfactions. Students see the potential they have as human beings, and realize they have an active role to play in their own decisions.

Teachers enjoy equipping students with the tools they need to construct their own identities through their actions. It is educators’ role to develop awareness, primarily through modelling behaviour.

It is by being internationally minded that we can cause people to reflect on the effects of their actions and choose how to act. Without this commitment, we run the risk of creating a superficial programme where all the tools are in place but there is no conviction and passion to make it happen.