Comparing IB Primary Years Programme to Curriculum for Excellence

From my understanding of the two education systems so far, it is clear that they both have much in common in terms of their core values and how both have progressed to steer away from the more dated system of learning, where each pupil was given the same work so that they could be easily compared in their progress.

Both the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) and Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) pride themselves on being an improvement on the older education system as they value pupil’s opinions and are concerned with ensuring each pupil is able to achieve on their own learning journey. I agree that both programmes have pupil’s best interests at heart and I have grown to form my own philosophy of education with similar values to both programmes.

The PYP and CfE are similar because they both encourage transdisciplinary learning in order for pupils to understand that that is how the real world works, and few professions or subjects involve only one discipline. In CfE, this is often encouraged through outdoor learning and exploring nature, not only using biology but also maths and English to make sense of the world around us. I think this is a great example of transdisciplinary learning that advantages pupils as they are able to independently make links between the subjects to form a more complete understanding.

The PYP also highlights six specific transdisciplinary themes that ensure the curriculum is creating global learners. These are:

  • 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 IB Primary Years Programme, 2014)

While it is clear that CfE shares many of the same themes through promoting transdisciplinary learning, these themes are specifically highlighting in the PYP Programme as being core to pupil’s understanding of the world around them, and form the basis on which transdisciplinary learning exists in the PYP.

Furthermore, both curriculums aim to include pupils as much as possible in their own learning, by asking them what they would like to learn, which ensures pupils are engaged throughout a topic. This is an advantageous approach as learning is more enjoyable and pupils are able to see a purpose to the learning because they have used their own inquisition to think of what they want to learn about the world around them.

By valuing the input that pupils can have in their own learning journey, both programmes are working towards creating responsible and valued future citizens of the world, who are able to make their own decisions and views based on the knowledge they have acquired. Both programmes also ensure that learning is a journey that is never finished, encouraging pupils to never stop being inquisitive and challenging themselves, so that they can see the purpose of what they are learning for themselves.


The IB Primary Years Programme. (2014). The International Baccalaureate Organisation. Available at: file:///C:/Users/julia/OneDrive/Documents/University/MA2/IB/IB%20Primary%20Programme%20Brochure.pdf (Accessed 20/8/19).

IB Educational Trends

The IB Programme was initially founded in 1968 when a Diploma Programme was created to merge subjects together and create a holistic understanding for the learner.  This programme provided the core foundations for the later programmes introduced as it is where the ideology of a course focused on interdisciplinary learning began. The Primary Years Programme was created in 1997 to start the IB programme from a young age, in order for learners to maximise their potential in being successful learners and members of society.

Throughout history, the structure of education and the essence of teaching have evolved in a number of ways for the better, ensuring that learners are gaining more from their education experience than a simple structure where standardized testing and memory were important indicators of a pupil’s learning progress. In the 21st Century, an emphasis on following each child’s individual learning journey has been placed, and education focuses more on the following:

  • Critical analysis
  • Student choice
  • Transdisciplinarity
  • Range of skills testing
  • Constructivism
  • Child – centred
  • Education of the whole child
  • Criterion-referenced
  • AV and AL (languages)
  • Open plan rooms
  • Multiple perspectives

(The history of the IB, 2017)

These progressive trends in the education system ensure that learning is now more of an interactive activity, where each child is assisted to perform their best and individual progress is tracked so that each child is progressing at a speed suitable to them.

The latest progressions that have been identified by the IB Organisation are also present in the CfE curriculum that exists in Scotland. For example, CfE is criterion-referenced with the existence of Experiences and Outcomes, which is a nationwide approach to ensuring every child under CfE possesses the same skills and knowledge, so no pupil is disadvantage by not knowing the bare minimum and vice-versa. This ensures that there is a consistent approach of child-centred learning, as Outcomes have been designed to be applicable to modern society and teachers can interpret the Experiences and Outcomes to suit the pupils in their class, choosing when to progress to the next level or when to provide constructive support to help each pupil achieve their potential. This is a contrast to education systems in the past, where learning was not as individually focused and content was the same for all.

‘Student choice’ is also an aspect that can be seen applied in CfE as Principles of Curricular Design exist in the CfE framework to ensure lessons help learners prosper in many ways. ‘Personalisation and Choice’ is one of the core principles because it is important for pupils to develop independence and the ability to manage their own learning, so they must be able to decide what stage of their learning they are at and be able to make learning enjoyable and not a chore for themselves.

Furthermore, it is clear that the approach to teaching has also improved through time as transdisciplinarity is an important aim of CfE also. For example, subjects such as Health and Wellbeing, Mathematics and Languages also have ‘Responsibility for All’ Experiences and Outcomes, highlighting it is the responsibility of the teacher to incorporate these three subjects in as many lessons as they can, as they are essential and relevant to many more subjects also.

To conclude, it is clear that the structure of learning has changed dramatically as the century has changed, particularly with the introduction of CfE in Scotland which aims to modernise learning by taking the factors above into consideration. Therefore, many aspects of inclusive and child-centred learning can be seen present in CfE, making the curriculum relevant to modern day society and ensuring pupils get the most out of their learning experience.


The history of the IB. (2017).  International Baccalaureate. Available at: (Accessed 20/8/19).

What is IB?

The International Baccalaureate Organisation (IB) is an education programme that covers ages 3-19 and has the main aims of creating globally aware learners who are accepting of different cultures and values, aspiring to create a better and more peaceful world.

Learners of the IB curriculum work towards attaining 10 core values that help to build their understanding of the world through enquiry, action and reflection:

  1. Inquirers 
  2. Knowledgeable
  3. Thinkers
  4. Communicators
  5. Principled
  6. Open-minded
  7. Caring
  8. Risk Takers
  9. Balanced
  10. Reflective

The values at the centre of an IB curriculum align with the main aims of Scotland’s main education programme, Curriculum for Excellence (CfE). In CfE, learners aspire to be:

  1. Effective Contributors
  2. Responsible Citizens
  3. Successful Learners 
  4. Confident Individuals 

The two education programmes overlap as for example, ‘Responsible Citizens’ in CfE relates to how in the IB curriculum learners aim to be ‘Caring’, ‘Open-minded’ and ‘Principled’, meaning that all learners should respect all members of our multicultural world and hold their own values of tolerance, encouraging a peaceful world.

Furthermore, ‘Effective Contributors’ in CfE links to being ‘Thinkers’, ‘Communicators’ and ‘Balanced’ in the IB curriculum. All learners in both curriculums should aim to be valuable contributors to modern society, which refers to promoting your own and other’s mental and physical wellbeing, and being engaged in real world issues that challenge society, for example the environment (global warming), rights (LGBTQ+), governance (Brexit), religion (Islamophobia) and cooperation (tackling xenophobia). In the IB curriculum, ‘Communicators’ also refers to possessing knowledge of two or more languages, a valuable skill in the modern world that we live in. This is also encouraged in CfE, with Modern Languages existing as a subject choice.

‘Successful Learners’ is also promoted in both curriculums as learners aspire to be ‘Inquirers’ and ‘Reflective’, ensuring that they develop the skills to manage their own learning through the process of studying what they are interested in and evaluating how they can continue to improve.

‘Confident Individuals’ are important in both curriculums as it is important for learners to be ‘Risk Takers’ and ‘Knowledgeable’. These qualities ensure that learners are able to play a valued role in society and are not afraid to continue to challenge themselves, as they are supported by the knowledge they already possess, so are not intimidated by making mistakes and failing.

From evaluating the core values that both curriculums hold at their foundation, it is clear that they have mutual ambitions and the goal of creating learners who are ready to thrive in the outside world. Through my own experience of CfE so far, from being a pupil to planning class lessons with these values in mind, I have played a part in lessons that promote all of these ideas and it is positive to see this in practice. I particularly enjoy seeing pupils aim to challenge themselves in their learning, as it is clear they are working towards being ‘Risk Takers’ and are not afraid to try out new things and push their boundaries.

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