Learning languages in the PYP

From at least the age of 7, all students in the International Baccalaureate® (IB) Primary Years Programme (PYP) have the opportunity to learn more than one language.

This can happen in different ways, depending on the context of the school. For example, students might be learning in:

  • a programme with one dominant language of instruction, which may be the student’s mother tongue or an additional language
  • a bilingual programme where, most often, one of the languages of instruction is the student’s mother tongue
  • a programme that offers support for students who are new to the language(s) of instruction, as well as additional mother-tongue support.

The PYP acknowledges that development of mother-tongue language is crucial for both cognitive development and maintaining cultural identity.

Teaching languages in the PYP

Language is involved in all learning and is an essential vehicle for inquiry and the construction of meaning. It provides an intellectual framework to support conceptual development and critical thinking.

All PYP teachers have a responsibility to address the language needs of their students in the language of instruction. When teachers plan learning experiences that enable students to develop language within meaningful and enjoyable contexts, students are able to make connections, apply their learning, and transfer their conceptual understanding to new situations.

In many schools, students are learning in a language other than their mother tongue. This means that schools pay close attention to students’ language needs and abilities to ensure they participate fully in the programme and are able to reach their full potential.

Further guidance for PYP teachers

For further information on language development in the PYP, IB educators can access materials in the IB’s online curriculum centre (OCC).

The OCC, which contains a number of free materials, is only available to IB World Schools. Find out how to become an IB World School.