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Welcome to a quick introduction of the IPC program. This is a summary of the information session that we give in person at ELM International School to introduce parents to the International Primary Curriculum.

First we need to ask: What are we educating our children for? volcano

There are a number of challenges in the 21st century curriculum that were not present in the 20th century curriculum. How do you prepare our children for a future where the average person changes jobs constantly, or maybe even works more than a job at a time? How do you prepare them culturally socially and emptionally in an ever changing connected world? What knowledge do you give them when Google has all the answers? There are the 3 A challenges for the 21st century:

Automation: computers now do what factory workers used to do before. In other words: you don’t want rote learning that turns the student eventually to a human robot.

Abundance: before knowledge was containable in books, at the library. How do you teach children all the knowledge out there available at their fingertips on the internet? You don’t ; instead you have to teach them how to find and select information they need.

A global village: the world is more connected than ever before. Our children need to be prepared to deal with different cultures, societies, languages,  beliefs and values.


The IPC addresses the challenges of the 21st century. It is the curriculum of choice in over 1600 schools in 92 countries worldwide. It is a comprehensive, thematic creative curriculum for the primary years, with a clear process of learning and specific learning goals for every subject, for international mindedness, and for personal learning. Thematic units are 3-8 weeks long. In an academic year your child might cover 4-6 units. Additionally, there are 3 stages or “Mileposts” within the IPC, Milepost 1 for 5-7 year olds, Milepost 2 for 7-9 year olds, and Milepost 3 for 9-12 year olds. Within the IPC units throughout the Milepost 10 subject areas are addressed: Science, Geography, History, Art, Music, Society, Design & Technology, ICT, Physical Education, and International mindedness.

The IPC has 3 types of goals to achieve within all units: Academic, Personal, and International.

Personal Goals are goals that address the child’s character development. The IPC has identified 8 characteristics that are key to success in the 21st century. Enquiry, Adaptability, Resilience, Morality, Communication, Thoughtfulness, Cooperation, and Respect. At ELM we have consolidated the 8 values into our own Personal Goals Tree to fit our motto “Education, Leadership, Morals”.

International does not just mean “foreign”. What international really means within the IPC and at ELM is to know who you are and respect others. It’s about recoginizing our own culture, being open minded, being respectful of other cultures and beliefs, recognize and celebrating diversity as well as similarity, being able to communicate with a wide range of people, being adaptable, and have an growing interest in global issues.

Academic goals are the subject specific goals included in the unit. Academics target 3 things: knowledge, skills, and understanding. Knowledge is objective facts that are easily verifiable; they do not take long to acquire, are learned by memorizing, and can be tested. Skills are the things that we learn to do, like ride a bike, swim, create art, or read a book. Skills build on knowledge, but take time and practice to develop well. Understanding is qualitative and builds on both skill and knowledge-  the teacher make an evaluation as to how the child has been able to utilize the knowledge and skill they have acquired in meaningful ways.

In a nutshell: the IPC seeks to develop the 8 personal goals, international mindedness, as well as address 10 subjects, each with its own knowledge, skills, and understanding academic goals.


How do we achieve all this in an IPC unit? Each unit is of similar structure despite the varying length: Knowledge Harvest, Entry point, Learning tasks, and Exit point.

The Knowledge Harvest helps the teacher and student become engaged in the upcoming topic by asking questions relating to the topic. It also helps the teachers assess what the students already know and want to learn.

The Entry point is a fun activity at the beginning of the unit to engage the students in the upcoming topic. It could be an insect and flower hunt for Flowers and Insects, a virtual flight around the world for Let’s pretend, or a sales pitch for the Young Entrepreneurs unit. supermarket SEEDS1

The Learning tasks take up most of the time of the unit. Each unit may address different subjects. In Young entrepreneurs, Year 4 students might be learning about Geography by looking at different currencies, study the History of money, design a product for Technology, and make a brochure for Art. In Flowers and Insects, Year 1 conduct an experiment to see what plants need to grow, draw still life paintings in Art, and listen to Music inspired by insects.

The Exit point is a way to celebrate and showcase the learning the students have learned over the unit. For Shopping this was a shopping scene done in class. For Young Entrepreneurs it was a long planned ice cream company back yard sale.