Primary Years Programme

//Primary Years Programme
Primary Years Programme 2018-10-23T13:19:00+00:00
ISB logo, International School of Bologna

International School of Bologna

Primary Years Programme

ISB logo, International School of Bologna

The Transdisciplinary Programme

Students engage with the curriculum in the traditional subject areas. However, teaching is not confined to teaching subjects in isolation. Students engage in units of inquiry, where learning requires students to be developing knowledge and skills across a number of subject areas.

The Units of Inquiry

Our Transition to ES5 classes study six units of inquiry. Our Reception and Kindergarten classes study four units of inquiry, allowing time for extended units and emerging inquiries coming from the children’s own interests. Collectively the units of inquiry are known as The Programme of Inquiry.

The Transdisciplinary Themes

Transdisciplinary themes provide the framework for the units of inquiry studied in each class.

Students explore these themes:

  • 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

The Subject Areas

Students study six subject areas. Social studies, Science are taught within the units of inquiry. The other subject areas are taught as stand alone subjects as well as being integrated into the units of inquiry.

The subject areas are:

  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • Mathematics
  • Language
  • The Arts (Music and Visual Art)
  • Personal, Social and Physical Education
For information about subject strands click here

The Transdisciplinary Themes and subject areas outlined above form the knowledge element of the programme. The programme can be illustrated by a hexagon with the six transdisciplinary themes surrounding the six subject areas:

Infographics Primary Years Programme, ISB International School of Bologna

Transdisciplinary Skills

While skills are identified in individual subject areas, students also acquire and apply a set of transdisciplinary skills. These skills are not taught in isolation, but are developed throughout the programme in all subject areas and by all teachers.

These skills are:

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


We believe 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 look different within each age range. Every student, every year, has the right and should have the opportunity to be involved in action. This action may be taken by an individual student or by a group of students working collaboratively. Teachers have a responsibility to enable their students to choose their action carefully, to facilitate this action, and to encourage them to reflect on the action they undertake. This is viewed as an important part of students’ active participation in their own learning. 


The Primary Years Programme is a concept-driven curriculum. Key Concepts are central to the curriculum and are presented in the form of questions. These questions support student’s engagement in structured and purposeful inquiry, within the transdisciplinary programme and subject specific inquiries.

A set of eight concepts have been identified:

Key Concept The Question
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?
Reflection How do we know?

Related Concepts are defined in each subject area and can be viewed as subject specific examples of the Key Concepts. The Related Concepts help to focus the inquiry.

For more information about the IBO Primary Years Programme please visit:

The Learning Environment

Classroom space is stimulating and well organized. Displays demonstrate individual achievement and support engagement in the learning process.

Every classroom has a ‘Unit of Inquiry Area’ which shows the Central Idea, driving questions, Learner Profile and Skills the children are developing. There is space to record students’ on-going ‘wonderings’.

The classroom environment openly celebrates the diversity of its students and their mother tongue languages. Teachers and students show respect, tolerance and empathy towards others of different gender, nationality and levels of academic or language development, etc.

Student Learning


  • are involved in self and peer assessment to reflect upon their achievement against learning outcomes
  • have opportunities to develop ‘criteria for success’, for example, developing rubrics and when peer assessing
  • set learning goals and are supported in achieving them
  • are inquirers whose natural curiosity is nurtured and who are empowered to feel responsible, show initiative and take action
  • work collaboratively
  • make choices and decisions

Teaching Strategies

Classroom management strategies are based on developing intrinsic motivation through positive reinforcement of student achievement.

The teacher:

  • gives instructions in English and continually encourages students to use English when communicating needs. (While it is recognized that enabling students to discuss concepts in their mother tongue supports learning, students are encouraged to use English as much as possible)
  • facilitates exploratory discussions where students develop ongoing questions and wonderings, which are shared
  • models inquiry through exploratory discussions and by modeling the ‘language of inquiry’
  • encourages students to take initiative by choosing of resources and appropriate means of demonstrating learning
  • uses a range of grouping strategies, switching flexibly between individual, group and whole class
  • facilitates a balance between lessons which involve students in acquiring and developing knowledge and skills and applying these in ‘real tasks’ to develop understanding
  • provides opportunities for students to plan and engage in self initiated inquiries