A Parents’ Guide to IB Kindergartens in the UAE
The IB, which stands for International Baccalaureate, is a highly thought of curriculum. It is widely used by international and other leading schools around the world. IB results in an excellent qualification, accepted and encouraged by the world’s best universities.
But did you know that the IB curriculum starts in preschool?
Parents looking for international school placements for their toddlers in Abu Dhabi have three main choices. They can decide between an American-based curriculum, the British curriculum, and an IB kindergarten in Abu Dhabi.
Here, we’ll give you the lowdown on the IB preschool curriculum and what makes it stand out.
What are the aims of the IB?
The International Baccalaureate curriculum has a reputation for being excellent and holistic, using the very best international educational research from around the world to drive its teaching. IB is more than just a set of exams, and while knowledge is very important, it is not everything in IB.
Critical thinking is empowered through the IB curriculum. Students’ abilities to solve complex problems are nurtured right away through the curriculum from age 3 to 18. The aim is to produce students who are independent thinkers.
Global citizenship is also very important in the IB curriculum. There’s a focus on being multilingual. Looking at issues with a global mindset is also encouraged, as well as being a caring, empathetic and open-minded person.
IB is not bound by a national, government-led curriculum, so there is the freedom to teach from an international perspective.
Ultimately, pupils finish the IB curriculum with a highly-respected qualification, the IB diploma taken at age 18.
Students choose seven subjects to study at a higher level, which must include two languages, a social science, an experimental science and math subject. Part of the examination is an extended essay on one subject, and students must complete additional activities in expressive arts, physical activity and community service.
What about the IB curriculum in the early years?
The IB gets started straight away with its main philosophies embedded in the curriculum from three years of age. Even the youngest students are encouraged to be critical thinkers, problem solvers, caring citizens and open-minded young people.
The first stage of the IB curriculum is known as the Primary Years Programme (PYP) for students aged 3 to 12. It covers math, languages, science, the arts, physical education, social studies and all that you would expect of a traditional curriculum.
However, the PYP stands out in how it teaches subjects. The IB curriculum does not have strict subject boundaries at this stage of education and uses inter-subject topics to organize learning more than other curricula.
The PYP has six interdisciplinary threads that run through all teaching:
● Who we are
Children learn about concepts of family, friends, and community. As well as looking at the routines of their everyday life, festivals and celebrations from many cultures are covered in the curriculum. Through this theme, children also study the human body and healthy choices.
● Where we are in place and time
The PYP curriculum looks at history from a global viewpoint. Children learn about significant individuals from many cultures and look at how the world has changed for everyday people, too. Within this theme, children study the planet, its rainforests, weather, seasons, and more. The environment and recycling are key topics, too.
● How we express ourselves
Under this theme, children study the expressive arts: music, dance, art, design, nursery rhymes and stories. This theme often overlaps with ‘who we are’ in looking at celebrations and festivities.
● How the world works
This theme encourages children to take a dive into many scientific topics, including light, plant growth, space, natural wonders, forces, states of matter, living things and their habitats.
● How we organize ourselves
Children learn about the systems people use for everyday living. Teamwork, community and friendship are promoted and children learn about business and fair trade, plus community services like hospitals and emergency services. Children also learn about how people communicate with each other.
● Sharing the planet
Students learn about concepts like democracy and equality, sharing finite resources and looking after each other.
Through all these themes, children can take part in activities that build literacy and numeracy skills, problem-solving abilities and empathy towards other humans.
Overall, the aim is to provide authentic learning experiences in these six thematic areas and explore real-world problems. Pupils are empowered by meaningful and purposeful learning.
PYP in the early years
A PYP preschool classroom is designed to promote exploration. Children are encouraged to engage with a range of activities and materials that relate to the six interdisciplinary themes shown above. Learning is hands-on and inquiry-based.
The idea behind the PYP pre-k and kindergarten program is that children gain knowledge and skills through play and real-life experiences. Students are supported in collaborating with their peers and teachers, nurturing the empathy and open-mindedness that are central to IB.
The skills nurtured by the PYP curriculum in the early years are primarily good communication, independent thinking and research, and self-management and social skills.
A love of books and reading is also encouraged through frequent library visits, shared story times and reading initiatives.
The PYP preschool classroom
Like all good pre-k and kindergarten classrooms, PYP classes are inviting and colourful without being overwhelming. You’ll see a comfortable area where children can all come together to share time with their teacher as well as areas for small group enquiry.
The PYP kindergarten should also have a range of facilities that you may not find in other curriculums. These facilities exist so that children can base their learning on real-life, hands-on experiences. The following are crucial spaces in the PYP preschool classroom.
- An extensive and inviting library and reading nooks that are visited regularly
- Outdoor spaces that encourage children to explore and develop their gross motor skills
- Kitchen-lab areas that invite children to experiment and get hands on
- Collaborative areas where children can share their learning with others and celebrate successes
Above all, the IB preschool environment and curriculum is interactive, engaging and fun, preparing young children for a lifetime of enquiry, critical thinking and global citizenship.