Photo of teacher and  ib primary years students in dar es salaam


Primary Years Programme

From Early Childhood (age 3) to Grade 5, students follow the inquiry-based, concept-driven Primary Years Programme (PYP) from the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO). IST has been authorized since May 2000 to offer the PYP.

Our goal is to create an environment where young students understand the interconnectedness (transdisciplinary aspect) of big ideas while grasping the essential elements (concepts, knowledge, skills, attitudes, action) that will form the foundation for future learning.



Primary Years Programme Curriculum

The PYP stresses the importance of determining the existing knowledge that students bring to new experiences in order to allow children the opportunity to make connections between their previous and current perceptions.

An overview of the IST Elementary curriculum is provided in the Parent Handbook.

Primary Years Programme logo

Five Essential Elements

The five essential elements—concepts, knowledge, skills, attitudes, action—are incorporated into the PYP framework, so that students are given the opportunity to:

  • Gain knowledge that is relevant and of global significance
  • Develop an understanding of concepts, which allows them to make connections throughout their learning
  • Acquire transdisciplinary and disciplinary skills
  • Develop attitudes that will lead to international-mindedness
  • Take action as a consequence of their learning


Children in the Primary Years Programme
primary years programme students holding up children's books


Primary Years Programme Curriculum

The PYP curriculum stresses the importance of determining the existing knowledge that students bring to new experiences in order to allow children the opportunity to make connections between their previous and current perceptions.

The Programme of Inquiry

The subject areas within the PYP curriculum consist of mathematics, language, science, social studies, arts and personal, social and physical education and are organized under six transdisciplinary themes. These themes provide IST with the opportunity to incorporate local and global issues into the PYP curriculum and effectively allow students to “step up” beyond the confines of learning within subject areas. The six transdisciplinary themes within the PYP curriculum are: who are we, where we are in place and time, how we express ourselves, how the world works, how we organize ourselves and sharing the planet.

Who we are
  • An inquiry into the nature of the self 
  • Beliefs and values
  • Person, physical, mental, social and spiritual health
  • Human relationships including families, friends, communities and cultures
  • Rights and responsibilities
  • What it means to be human


Where we are in Place and Time
  • An inquiry into orientation in place and time
  • Personal histories
  • Homes and journeys
  • The discoveries, explorations and migrations of humankind
  • The relationship between and the interconnectedness of individuals and civilizations, from local and global perspectives
How we Express Ourselves
  • An inquiry into the ways in which we discover and express ideas, feelings, nature, culture, beliefs and values
  • The ways in which we reflect on, extend and enjoy our creativity
  • Our appreciation of the aesthetic
How the World Works
  • An inquiry into the natural world and its laws, the interaction between the natural world (physical and biological) and human societies
  • How humans use their understanding of scientific principles
  • The impact of scientific and technological advances on society and on the environment
How we Organize Ourselves
  • An inquiry into the interconnectedness of human-made systems and communities
  • The structure and function of organizations
  • Societal decision-making
  • Economic activities and their impact on humankind and the environment
Sharing the Planet
  • An inquiry into rights and responsibilities in the struggle to share finite resources with other people and other living things
  • Communities and the relationship within and between them
  • Access to equal opportunities
  • Peace and conflict resolution

The Exhibition

The Exhibition is an important part of the PYP curriculum for all students. In the final year of the programme, students undertake a collaborative, transdisciplinary inquiry process that involves them in identifying, investigating and offering solutions to real-life issues or problems. As the culminating experience of the PYP curriculum, the Exhibition offers students an exciting opportunity to demonstrate independence and responsibility for their own learning.


As in many international schools, the language profiles of our students are complex and diverse. While the language of instruction is English, we strongly acknowledge the role that development of mother tongue language has in cognitive development, and in maintaining cultural identity. We actively seek ways to promote and celebrate students’ mother tongues and make connections with these and the languages to which they are exposed at school.

Your children will have the opportunity to learn more than one language from early childhood classes onwards. Every learner benefits from having access to different languages and as a result, access to cultures and perspectives. Acquisition of more than one language enriches personal development and will help facilitate international-mindedness in your children. 

Students are learning language, learning about language and learning through language during all aspects of their school experience, and every teacher is considered a language teacher.

The PYP curriculum has identified three strands of language that are learned across and throughout the curriculum, with each strand being an integral component of language learning. Each strand is considered through the receptive aspect (receiving and constructing meaning), and the expressive aspect (creating and sharing meaning). 

The three strands of the PYP language curriculum are:

  1. Oral language - listening and speaking
  2. Visual language - viewing and presenting
  3. Written language - reading and writing

We use the PYP Language scope and sequence document alongside the Bonnie Campbell-Hill developmental continuums for reading and writing to guide our planning, teaching and learning opportunities, as well as to measure students’ progress.

The school utilizes a whole language/balanced literacy approach to reading and writing. By this, we mean that language learning should be contextual wherever possible and should include a balanced range of opportunities to read and write for different purposes.

Additional Languages

The acquisition of an additional language is one of the keys to promoting international understanding. All students at IST must learn Kiswahili during their first year of modern language instruction. 

Children from Early Childhood to Grade 4 may only take Kiswahili. Learning Kiswahili within the host country opens the door of communication between people of different cultural backgrounds and develops a better understanding of Tanzanian society, history, culture and traditions. The Kiswahili programme consists of three flexible instructional groups: beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. Levels may sometimes be combined based on students’ previous knowledge of the language and the size of the group. 

Children who are on a student services register (English as a Second Language and Learning Support) may not have the option of taking an additional language. They are placed in Kiswahili when they exit the support programme. 

Additional languages are taught three periods per week from Kindergarten to Grade 5 (twice per week for early childhood). Kiswahili, French and Spanish are taught as living languages. The topics are taken from daily life and sometimes connect to the Units of Inquiry. Lessons are animated and enhanced with songs, rhymes, stories, games, films, role-playing, cooking and local cultural events. Emphasis is placed primarily on listening and speaking.


The power of mathematics for describing and analyzing the world around us is such that it has become a highly effective tool for solving problems. It is also recognized that students can appreciate the intrinsic fascination of mathematics and explore the world through its unique perceptions. In the same way that students describe themselves as “authors” or “artists”, we hope that our programme will provide your children with the opportunity to see themselves as “mathematicians”, where they enjoy and are enthusiastic when exploring and learning about mathematics.

How Children Learn Mathematics

diagram of the math curriculum for PYP

Learners go through the stages shown in the figure when developing mathematical understanding.

  1. Constructing meaning about mathematics (conceptual): Learners begin by constructing meaning, based on their previous experiences and understanding. During this stage, learners are involved in an active process, where they interact with manipulatives and engage in conversation with others, to explore their ideas, make connections and confirm or adjust their current understanding.
  2. Transferring meaning into symbols (making connections): Only when learners have constructed their ideas about a mathematical concept should they attempt to transfer this understanding to connecting it with symbols. Symbols include pictures, diagrams, modeling with concrete objects and mathematical notation. Learners should be given the opportunity to describe their understanding using their own method of symbolic notation and then learn to transfer them into conventional mathematical notation.
  3. Applying with understanding (symbolic representation): In this stage, learners can demonstrate and act on their understanding. Through authentic activities, including a range of practical hands-on problem-solving activities and realistic situations, learners can demonstrate mathematical thinking through presented or recorded formats.

The PYP curriculum has identified five interconnected strands of mathematics: number, pattern and functions, data handling, measurement and shape and space.


The language of describing qualities and the relationships between them, including place value, and operations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Pattern and Function

Identifying patterns in number, and generalized rules of function, leading to the later study of algebra.

Data Handling

Collecting, organizing, representing, summarizing and interpreting data, as well as exploring probability.


Using appropriate tools and units of measure to describe length, weight, capacity, time, etc.

Shape and Space

Exploring the regions, paths and boundaries of space, including 2D and 3D shape.

We use the PYP Mathematics scope and sequence document, alongside the IST Math Developmental Continuum to guide our planning, teaching and learning opportunities, as well as to measure students’ progress. 

Number is taught throughout the year and is closely connected to the pattern and function strand. These strands allow students to inquire into number systems and their operations, patterns and functions. Your children will become fluent users of the language of mathematics as they learn to understand its meanings, symbols and conventions. 

The remaining three strands are taught as units of inquiry and are closely linked to units from the transdisciplinary programme of inquiry. Data handling, measurement and shape and space are best taught in authentic contexts to that learners can use them to research, describe, represent and understand other aspects of the world.


Science is taught within units of inquiry as part of the transdisciplinary programme of inquiry. There is an emphasis on hands-on learning experiences, opportunities to inquire into authentic problems, and challenging students to answer open-ended questions with investigations of their own design. The knowledge component of science in the PYP curriculum is arranged into four strands:

Living Things

The study of the characteristics, systems and behaviours of humans and other animals, and of plants; the interactions and relationships between and among them, and with their environment.

Earth and Space

The study of planet Earth and its position in the universe, particularly its relationship with the sun; the natural phenomena and systems that shape the planet and the distinctive features that identify it; the infinite and finite resources of the planet.

Materials and Matter

The study of the properties, behaviours and uses of materials, both natural and human-made; the origins of human-made materials and how they are manipulated to suit a purpose.

Forces and Energy

The study of energy, its origins, storage and transfer, and the work it can do; the study of forces; the application of scientific understanding through inventions and machines.

Social Studies

Social studies is taught within units of inquiry as part of the transdisciplinary programme of inquiry. There is an emphasis on inquiring into significant and relevant areas of study, exploring a range of perspectives, including individual, local, multicultural and global dimensions, and using factual information to deepen conceptual understanding of the world. There is also a strong emphasis on empowering students to be responsible and to take action in our world today.

The knowledge component of social studies is arranged into five strands:

Human Systems and Economic Activities

The study of how and why people construct organizations and systems; the ways in which people connect locally and globally; the distribution of power and authority.

Social Organization and Culture

The study of people, communities, cultures and societies; the ways in which individuals, groups and societies interact with each other.

Continuity and Change Through Time

The study of the relationships between people and events through time; the past, its influences on the present and its implications for the future; people who have shaped the future through their actions.

Human and Natural Environments

The study of the distinctive features that give a place its identity; how people adapt to and alter their environment; how people experience and represent place; the impact of natural disasters on people and the built environment.

Resources and the Environment

The interaction between people and the environment; the study of how humans allocate and manage resources; the positive and negative effects of this management; the impact of scientific and technological developments on the environment.

Creative Arts

Arts are a powerful mode of communication through which students explore and construct a sense of self and develop an understanding of the world around them. Two common strands have been identified that apply across the different art forms and the artistic process: creating and responding.


Opportunities to communicate meaning, develop technical skills, take creative risks, solve problems and visualise consequences. Your children will be encouraged to draw on their imagination, experiences and knowledge as starting points for creative exploration. They will have opportunities to explore their personal interests, beliefs and values, and to engage in a personal artistic journey.


Opportunities for students to respond to their own and other artists’ works and processes. By responding to artwork, your children can develop the skills of critical analysis, interpretation, evaluation, reflection and communication. They also become more mindful of their own artistic development and the role that arts play in the world around them.

The responding and creating strands are dynamically linked in an ongoing and reflexive relationship. Students are encouraged to reflect continually upon their work throughout the process of creating, thus reinforcing the close link between these strands.

In the PYP curriculum, arts are identified as music, visual art, dance and drama. Our specialist teachers deliver the Music and Visual Art programmes, and the PE teachers incorporate dance into their programme. Drama is included in units of inquiry by homeroom teachers as and when opportunities arise.


The study of music within the PYP curriculum at IST explores the following areas:

  • Performance
  • Melody/harmony
  • Rhythm
  • Listening and appreciating
  • Texture
  • Notation and composition
  • Expression

In music class your children will be exposed to these areas of music through singing, dancing and playing various instruments (ukuleles, recorders and percussion instruments). They will learn basic music theory, interact with music from other cultures through live or recorded performances and work with technology to create their own music.

Visual Arts

In art, students from Early Childhood to Grade 5 explore their own and others’ creativity in a variety of ways. They work with a range of media including textiles, paint, clay, printing and drawing to express their ideas and creativity, as well as to explore elements of art including line, shape, colour, value, form, space and perspective.

Your children’s work is framed by the following Studio Habits which encourages and supports them to:

  • Use tools and materials and learn how to care for them Identify and solve problems in art, be persistent and respect each other’s perspectives
  • Imagine what can’t be seen and think of the steps that can be used to express a feeling or idea
  • Look at details and evaluate their own work as well as the work of others
  • Be a risk taker and discover new ways of creating art
  • Study the work of artists and learn from their work

Personal, Social And Physical Education (PSPE)

Personal, social and physical well-being is linked to all aspects of a student’s experience at school and beyond. It encompasses physical, emotional, cognitive, spiritual and social health and development, and contributes to self-awareness, developing and maintaining relationships with others and the overall participation in an active, healthy lifestyle.

The development of overall well-being is defined through three common strands in the PYP curriculum: identity, active living and interactions. These strands are concept-driven and interrelated.


An understanding of our own beliefs, values, attitudes, experiences and feelings and how they shape us; the impact of cultural influences; the recognition of strengths, limitations and challenges as well as the ability to cope successfully with situations of change and adversity; how the learner’s concept of self and feelings of self-worth affect a student’s approach to learning and how they interact with others.

Active Living

An understanding of the factors that contribute to developing and maintaining a balanced, healthy lifestyle, including an understanding of the following:

  • The importance of regular physical activity
  • The body’s response to exercise; the importance of developing basic motor skills
  • Understanding and developing the body’s potential for movement and expression
  • The importance of nutrition
  • Understanding the causes and possible prevention of ill health
  • The promotion of safety
  • Rights and the responsibilities we have to ourselves and others to promote well-being
  • Making informed choices and evaluating consequences, and taking action for healthy living now and in the future


Interactions includes helping your children understand the following:

  • How an individual interacts with other people, other living things and the wider world
  • Behaviours, rights and responsibilities of individuals in their relationships with others, communities, society and the world around them
  • The awareness and understanding of similarities and differences
  • An appreciation of the environment and an understanding of, and commitment to, humankind’s responsibility as custodians of the Earth for future generations

All teachers can be considered PSPE teachers, and opportunities to explore these strands are found during units of inquiry, during specialist lessons (Art, Music, PE, Additional Languages), and also through the services the counselors provide.

Physical Education

Our specialist PE and swimming teachers take the lead in providing opportunities to explore the active living strand. Regular exposure to all kinds of physical learning experiences will enable students to make informed choices throughout their lives and will include the following types of experiences:

  • Individual pursuits: The development of basic motor skills and the body’s capacity for movement through locomotor and manipulative skills; the techniques, rules and purpose of a range of athletic activities (for example, track and field, swimming); recognizing a high level of achievement and how to improve performance.
  • Movement composition (including dance): Recognizing that movements can be linked together and refined to create a sequence of aesthetic movements. Movements can be in response to stimuli or performance elements and/or criteria and can communicate feelings, emotions and ideas (for example, gymnastics, dance).
  • Games: Recognizing the challenges presented by games; the importance of manipulating space; the categorizing of games; identifying and developing appropriate skills and strategies; recognizing the importance of rules and how they define the nature of a game; modifying existing games and creating new games; teamwork.
  • Adventure challenges: A variety of tasks requiring the use of physical and critical-thinking skills by individuals and/or groups; challenges that require groups to work together collaboratively in order to solve problems and accomplish a common goal; recognizing the role of the individual in group problem-solving.
  • Health-related fitness: Recognizing and appreciating the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle; the body’s response to exercise including the interaction of body systems and the development of physical fitness.


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