What is the IB and PYP Curriculum Framework Available at International Schools in Japan?
A guide to Choosing the Right Program for your Child
Finding the right educational program for your primary school age child can be daunting, particularly in Tokyo with its multitude of options, but it’s a vital task for every parent. We explore what’s on offer with the help of an expert.
As one of the greatest influencers on a child’s development, early education is of critical importance; how a child learns about the world will ultimately impact his or her place in it. With this in mind, parents are, understandably, keen to place their child in the most ideal environment for his or her bright future.
In Tokyo, a growing number of families consist of at least one non-Japanese parent. Expat families, meanwhile, increasingly consist of both parents from different countries and children born in different or several different cultures. Such internationalization is leading to greater demand for international early-years education that will support children in becoming global citizens and embracing both their own identity and that of their peers.
Play is the vehicle to scaffold children’s learning, to drive children’s curiosity, and to help challenge children.
But with such varied education options in Tokyo, it can be a struggle to decide which program best suits youngsters’ needs. That’s why Savvy Tokyo has asked the principal of Summerhill International School, Anita L. Sutton, to share some of the benefits of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. As an expert in early childhood curriculum development, having set up learning centers in locations across the globe, Anita has a wealth of experience in understanding what makes kids tick and how to help them achieve their potential.
Catering to students aged 3 to 19, the IB program offers a continuum of international education, encouraging children and young people to achieve both personal and academic growth via four programs: Primary Years Program (PYP), Middle Years Program, Diploma Program, and Career-related Program.
The PYP is not a worksheet-based curriculum, nor is it a rote-learning approach. Our children develop a deep understanding of content and how to make their ideas heard.
With more than one million students undertaking the IB in more than 146 countries, it is one of the largest international education programs in the world. Expat families, therefore, can enjoy peace of mind that their child can transfer smoothly from an IB program in Tokyo to one in Singapore, Sydney, London, or New York should the need arise. What’s more, the IB program is highly respected by among the best universities globally.
“With more internationally acclaimed universities giving preference to students who have gone through the IB program, expat families, in particular, are seeking out IB for their children. And IB schools worldwide maintain consistency; families can travel from differing cultures, but the set-up is the same in the longer term,” Anita explained.
Perhaps most important, though, the IB program helps children to understand their strengths and weaknesses, to be resilient in the face of difficulties, and to solve problems through a “think-outside-the-box” mentality. Children develop skills to become critical thinkers and to utilize creativity and imaginative skills.
According to Anita, this development starts in the Primary Years Program, which is child-led.
“At the heart of the PYP is inquiry-based learning. Programs aim to do more than other curricula—by developing inquiring, knowledgeable, and caring young people who are motivated to succeed,” she said. “The PYP is not a worksheet-based curriculum, nor is it a rote-learning approach. Our children develop a deep understanding of content and how to make their ideas heard. Learning is tailored to each child’s needs to ensure they are constantly being challenged in a fun, engaging way.”
Engaged children will always go further and perform better,
In the PYP, children are facilitated to become agents of their own learning in order to encourage understanding and foster a lifelong love of learning. Anita shares with us that at Summerhill International, teachers guide children’s learning and learn alongside them. In considering education topics, teachers, therefore, consider children’s interests.
“Engaged children will always go further and perform better,” she said, adding that international research demonstrates that children who spend more time learning through play in their formative years perform better in the upper primary and secondary years. “Play is the vehicle to scaffold children’s learning, to drive children’s curiosity, and to help challenge children.”
Learning is tailored to each child’s needs to ensure they are constantly being challenged in a fun, engaging way.
At Summerhill International, for example, the K4 class (aged 4 to 5) are tasked with creating a vehicle that allows them to travel underwater, overland, or through the air. Educators document the children’s progress in language acquisition, explanation of ideas, as well as inventive and creative thought. This ensures that the children are meeting the academic and personal milestones of children on the PYP in other parts of the world by learning at their own pace, in a safe and explorative environment.
In the class for three-year-olds, meanwhile, teachers support the children to reach mathematical, literacy, and language outcomes with a project on dinosaurs.
“The children can explain in great detail about dinosaurs: their names, their dietary habits, and other information they have devoured from their love of asking questions, listening to stories, and retaining the information because it interests them,” explains Anita.
As an international program, the IB also seeks to instill in children an awareness of and interest in the world and its people.
“We strive to develop students who will build a better world through intercultural understanding and respect,” Anita says of Summerhill International’s approach, adding that the diverse cultural backgrounds of families at Summerhill add to the children’s global education. Children are encouraged to appreciate themselves and each other.
“Being part of a school with families that identify as ‘third culture kids’ can be a wonderful experience. A truly international school acknowledges all identities and all the nationalities that individual families identify with,” said Anita.
In differences, we are the same.
“We celebrate these differences to ensure that children don’t lose their sense of identity. Identity is a very personal construct; only when that is acknowledged, do we make peace with it, embrace our own differences, and accept the differences in others. In differences, we are the same.”
With such efforts to aid children’s personal, social, and academic growth embedded in the IB program, it can act as a solid foundation as children move into secondary and even tertiary education.
About Summerhill International School
With the International Baccalaureate (IB) program approach that focuses on teaching 21st-century skills, such as learning how to learn, creativity and critical thinking, Summerhill International School is helping children grow into well-rounded individuals. In the leafy, yet central surrounds of Moto-Azabu, its early childhood educators are supporting children’s holistic development, physically, emotionally, intellectually, creatively and in language. Find out more about Summerhill International School on their Savvy Tokyo schools page.