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Exploring Ancient Egypt through Inquiry

International School Twente

International School Twente is exploring the possibilities offered by the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (PYP). You can see the results of our first exploration between 20-24 June in our whole-school Museum of Ancient Egypt.

By Jason Wilson, Curriculum Coordinator, International School Twente.

The International School Twente, as part of its mission to provide excellent international education, constantly looks to improve the quality and offering of its programme, and this includes looking at other possible curricula that would be a better fit for the unique context of IST learners.

Investigating the Primary Years programme

Currently, IST Primary offers a combination of two curricula to its students. The school draws upon the National Curriculum Framework for England (NCFE) for its standards in Mathematics and English, and upon the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) for standards in Science, History, Geography, Art, Society, Music, Gym, and International perspectives. Reflecting on ten years of experience with the strengths and challenges of this combination of curricula, we have been looking with more and more depth into the possibilities offered by the Primary Years Programme (PYP) of the International Baccalaureate

Students take greater ownership of their learning

Intrigued by this popular, widely used approach, our teachers and staff have embarked on a collective initiative this year to investigate the PYP and how it could be used to strengthen learning at our school. Our teachers have participated in initial training on the PYP, and have collaborated together on a pilot project to develop a sample Unit of Inquiry. The results of this project is the currently ongoing whole-school exploration of Ancient Egypt, which encouraged students to reflect and take greater ownership of their learning. This unit will culminate in a whole-school “Museum of Ancient Egypt”, which we are hosting in the city center at the end of June.

Approaches to Learning skills

What we have seen so far, even in this limited-scope unit, is encouraging! The PYP approach encourages students to have greater agency in their learning, asking and answering questions to take greater ownership of their learning and enquire more deeply into the topic. Read below for some of the excellent questions posed by our learners at the start of the unit. As well, the programme’s specific focus on the Approaches to Learning skills such as thinking, communication, self-management, research and social skills ensures a focus not only on what learners learn, but how they can learn as well, therefore better equipping them for future studies. 

Other advantages of the PYP include:

  • As the IPC is a derivative of the PYP, a transition to the new curriculum would represent an upgrade, rather than a fundamental change of approach. 
  • PYP retains the child-focused, inquiry skills-driven approach of the IPC, while offering new perspectives and challenges to drive student’s personal development through its learner profile.
  • The PYP requires schools to undergo regular reauthorization, unlike the IPC, offering more opportunities for clear structure and improved quality of education.
  • Unlike the IPC, PYP includes literacy and numeracy, so that all subjects are integrated through one common approach in terms of planning, assessment and teaching. 
  • PYP better acknowledges and supports the diversity of views and skills of international learners.
  • PYP requires teachers to collaborate with each other to develop relevant, engaging units of inquiry which engage directly with students’ interests, while still providing a robust, enriching learning experience.
  • PYP will provide a much more streamlined experience for students entering the IST Secondary school (especially as they are considering adopting the IB Middle Year Programme), and the IB Diploma Programme, as well as better equipping students for future international education in other schools.

The road ahead

We will continue our journey with the Primary Years Programme, taking into account the views of our teachers,

In the meantime, have a look below at what we’ve been learning and preparing for our museum!

Sample inquiry questions from students

  • Why is Egypt important?
  • How did the Egyptians come to Egypt?
  • Where did the Egyptian gods live?
  • Why did the Egyptians need treasure in their tombs?
  • What is the ancient world?
  • When was Ancient Egypt not there anymore?
  • What is the mummification process?
  • What kind of ruler was the Pharaoh? Why is he popular?
  • How big is the desert? Why is it so hot?
  • What was the Egyptian government?
  • How did the Egyptians educate children?
  • How did they come up with the gods?
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