Our Educational Approach

The Primary Years Programme (PYP) is an international curriculum framework designed for all children between the ages of 3 and 12 years. The programme focuses on the total growth of the developing child, addressing social, physical, emotional and cultural needs in addition to academic development.

The PYP offers a comprehensive, inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning. It combines the best research and practices from a range of national systems with a wealth of knowledge and experience from international schools, to create a relevant and engaging educational programme.

Teaching methodologies and assessment strategies reflect teachers’ engagement with current educational thinking and high quality ongoing professional development.

IB Primary Years Programme

In the PYP, learning is approached in a transdisciplinary way, based on Units of Inquiry that are designed to both meet learning outcomes for each grade level and allow for student agency in their learning. At St. John’s, students approach Units of Inquiry through a variety of subject areas including language arts, math, visual art, drama, music, dance and physical, social and personal education (PSPE). 

PYP building for the future

Programme of Inquiry

Below you will find our Programme of Inquiry, which outlines the Units of Inquiry that each grade level will focus on throughout the year.

Download the Primary School Programme of Inquiry



Student agency is a critical element of the PYP.  With more agency, students take responsibility for their own learning and work in partnership with the teachers to make progress. Students are involved in their learning process with:

  • Choice: They help decide how they learn or how they might share what they have learned.
  • Voice: They share their ideas openly and feel that their ideas are heard and respected.
  • Ownership: They direct their learning with a strong sense of identity and self-belief and work with teachers and peers to build a sense of community and awareness of the opinions, values and needs of others.

Learner Profile 

The attributes of the learner profile represent a broad range of human capacities and responsibilities that encompass intellectual, personal, emotional and social growth. The development and demonstration of these attributes are foundational to students becoming internationally minded, active and caring community members who respect themselves, others and the world around them.

Download IB Learner Profile


Action is integral to the PYP learning process.  As students take action throughout their inquiry process, they come to understand the responsibilities we each have toward ourselves, our communities, and our planet.  Action is most successful when it is initiated by students, authentic to their inquiries and interests, and meaningful to the student. Students are encouraged “think globally, act locally.” This allows them to take their passion for a global or wide-spread issue and find ways to make a change in their own life or local community. 

Action could be:

  • a change in attitude or thinking 
  • planning for action in the future
  • a demonstration of responsibility, or of respect for self, others and the environment
  • leading or participating in a youth advocacy group
  • participating in school, community or global decision making 

Transdisciplinary Learning 

Units of Inquiry are organised into six transdisciplinary themes of global and local significance. These 6 themes are addressed each year of the PYP in different contexts through inquiries that are substantial, in-depth and usually last for several weeks:

Transdisciplinary Themes: 

  • Who we are
  • Where we are in place and time
  • How we express ourselves
  • How the world works
  • How we organise ourselves
  • Sharing the planet


The PYP is a concept-driven curriculum, encouraging students to think critically about the world around them. The PYP identifies seven key concepts which are central to understanding:

  • 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?

Approaches to Learning 

Approaches to learning (ATL) are an integral part of PYP learning and complement the learner profile, knowledge, conceptual understanding and inquiry. These skills are grounded in the belief that learning how to learn is fundamental to a student’s education/ The ATLs are grouped into 5 categories: 

  • Thinking skills
  • Social skills 
  • Communication skills 
  • Self-management skills
  • Research skills


The PYP embraces collaboration as a part of the learning process.  Students learn strategies to collaborate with their peers to achieve common goals and improve themselves as learners and communicators. Teachers and students practice ongoing collaboration to ensure the learning environment is student-cantered and to allow for student voice, choice and ownership of their learning process. 

International Mindedness 

International mindedness is at the heart of the PYP.  Students are encouraged to embrace their differences and value what makes them unique.  They are also encouraged to find commonalities between themselves and others and appreciate diverse perspectives. An open-minded approach to global issues allows students to see multiple perspectives and embrace a common sense of shared responsibility for each other and our planet. 

"Apprendre une autre langue, c’est comme le commencement d’une autre vie." - Michel Bouthot

Instructor Model
One bilingual teacher instructs the class in both languages.

Language Support
Students attend differentiated French language classes with their grade-level peers. During these classes, the focus is on the mechanics of the language as well as on acquiring new vocabulary. Those students who are at a beginning level in English (CERF Pre-A1/A1), will attend English support classes at that time.

Languages of Instruction across the Curriculum
In the homeroom classroom, curriculum is transdisciplinary. Unit of Inquiry learning experiences are primarily taught in French.
• French and English Language Arts are integrated with the Units of Inquiry whenever possible.
• Math is primarily taught in English.

Single-subject classes:
• Physical Education
• Art
• Music
• Drama
• Dance
• Library
Single-subjects are taught in French or English to align with the 50/50 Two-Way Immersion Model.

Bridging the two Languages
By Grade Four, the curriculum is taught in a more fluid bilingual environment.
Students transition between the two languages with the goal of accessing and applying academic vocabulary in all areas of content.