Primary School Curriculum

Zug Campus Handbook 2019-20

This handbook provides you with information that will help you become acquainted with the aims and objectives of the school, a brief overview of the curriculum as well as practical day-to-day information.

Primary School Curriculum and Academic Programme

ISZL follows the Primary Years Programme (PYP) of the International Baccalaureate (IB) from Early Years (3 – 4 years) to Grade 5 (10 – 11 years). In June 2001 the International School of Zug and Luzern was awarded World School status by the International Baccalaureate.

The International Baccalaureate (IB)

The International Baccalaureate (IB), founded in 1968, is a recognised leader in the field of international education. It is a non-profit, mission-driven foundation, which provides international education programmes to over a million students from Early Years 1 to University entrance.

IB Mission Statement

The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. To this end the IB works with schools, governments and international organisations to develop challenging programmes of international education and rigorous assessment. These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.

The IB offers four programmes:

  • The Diploma Programme (DP) for students aged 16 – 19 who wish to pursue a university education
  • The IB Career-related Certificate (IBCC) for students aged 16 – 19 who wish to engage in career-related learning
  • The Middle Years Programme (MYP) for students aged 11 – 16
  • The Primary Years Programme (PYP) for students aged 3 – 12

Meeting International Academic Standards

ISZL must regularly demonstrate that its philosophy, curriculum and educational practices are in line with the published standards of the IBO. This is monitored through submission of paperwork and in-school visits from IB representatives. The school’s last evaluation visit was in March 2015, where the visiting team commended the primary school for facilitating inquiry that supports global and diverse issues, ensuring students are responsible for their own learning and fostering a stimulating and respectful environment to support learning. ISZL is clearly working within the globally recognised values and academic standards of the IB. The next evaluation will be in January, 2021.


The Primary Years Curriculum Framework

At the heart of the PYP framework are the five essential elements of knowledge, skills, attitudes, concepts and action. The PYP supports students to develop the following attributes: inquirer, thinker, communicator, knowledgeable, risk taker, principled, caring, open minded, balanced and reflective. As recommended by the IB, ISZL has also established and made explicit the desired learner outcomes and conceptual understandings within each subject domain. The ISZL learner outcomes and conceptual understandings clarify the key experiences and learning of children at each grade level or stage of development. These are informed by diverse national standards from around the world. Teachers at ISZL plan and reflect collaboratively, using these guidelines, to respond to student interest while considering local contexts and global events and challenges. They suggest and construct learning engagements, which are relevant to students and their needs and interests.

The grade level and phase specific understandings and outcomes, along with more information on the essential elements of the PYP, can be found in the parent grade level handbooks.

The Programme of Inquiry at ISZL

The Primary Years Programme (PYP) is a transdisciplinary curriculum that draws skills and content from different subject areas together into Units of Inquiry. Each Unit of Inquiry invites the students to uncover significant, lasting and transferable understandings that are considered valuable for life. These enduring concepts are called Central Ideas.

Each class, from Grade One upwards, addresses six Units of Inquiry per year, which generally run for about six weeks. Early Years 1, Early Years 2 and Kindergarten engage with either four or five units per year which generally run for longer periods, across the whole year or semester. Together these units represent ISZL’s Programme of Inquiry. The current ISZL Programme of Inquiry is available from the PYP Coordinator and also in the parent grade level handbooks and makes clear the broad and balanced learning experiences of our students.

At each grade level the units of inquiry explore ideas under the themes of:

  • Who We Are
  • Where We Are In Time and Place
  • How We Express Ourselves
  • How the World Works
  • How We Organise Ourselves
  • Sharing the Planet

Both within and outside of these transdisciplinary units of inquiry, students spend significant amounts of time focusing on skills and content specific to mathematical learning, language learning, German, science, social studies, the Arts and personal, social and physical education.

Feedback and Assessment

Working collaboratively, teachers identify how students are developing and consolidating key skills and conceptual understandings at each grade level. In order to cater for and respond to individual students, a variety of learning opportunities and contexts are offered. Teachers at each grade level focus on individual student’s development and self-, peer- and teacher-assessment; and feedback allows students to take ownership of their learning and realise learning goals based on clearly stated criteria. In order to understand more about student learning, parents are encouraged to:

  • Look at and comment on the student portfolios, which are shared online
  • Read the weekly updates on the school’s VLE
  • Participate in parent teacher and student led conferences, which happen regularly throughout the year
  • Read the student’s written reports
  • Regularly discuss learning with their children at home and contact the teacher if they have any questions or need clarification

Next Steps after the PYP

The IB sees the PYP curriculum as an excellent preparation for the IB’s Middle Years Programme (MYP) for 11–16 year olds. Both curricula emphasise critical thinking, personal responsibility for learning, student inquiry and social service. Similarly, the MYP is seen as an ideal foundation for the Diploma Programme of the International Baccalaureate for 16–19 year olds. Many regard the Diploma Programme as the finest pre-university curriculum available.

Transitioning to Other Schools

Although no school or curriculum can guarantee a perfect fit when children transfer to a new school, particularly a school in a different country, parents may be reassured by the following points about the PYP:

  • The significant elements of the primary curriculum may be presented in a different sequence from school to school, but students address the same essential concepts and skills in most contemporary curricula worldwide.
  • Students in PYP schools focus on the skills and attitudes needed for them to become successful, independent learners and confident communicators. These skills are transferable to all curricula and to all aspects of a student’s chosen career or life path.
  • Close attention is paid to a range of national curricula during the on-going development of the PYP curriculum . Feedback from parents and students transferring back to home countries or other national curriculums indicate that students usually respond well and are able to meet or exceed the standards of national schools.
  • Students in other schools implementing the PYP curriculum have common learning experiences in terms of conceptual development, skill acquisition, positive attitudes and meaningful action.
  • The staff of PYP schools attend common in-service training and communicate regularly, which aids in understanding of new students and their previous experiences.

Home Learning

At ISZL, we support the development of the whole child and encourage our teachers, parents and students to think together about achieving balanced lifestyles. We believe that outside of school children should have time for:

  • Rest
  • Relaxation
  • Sports and activities
  • Music and other creative and artistic pursuits
  • Reading
  • Meaningful time with family and friends

For ways in which you can support your child with home learning please refer to the specific guidance in the Parent Grade Level Handbooks.

Guidelines to Grade Level Home Learning

Learning at home is supported by a holistic range of experiences. It is important that children have time to engage in such experiences as:

  • Reading for pleasure (which is strongly correlated with academic growth)
  • Conversing with others in one or more languages
  • Processing the ideas and information they engaged with throughout their day at school
  • Resting and relaxing so that they have the necessary energy to fully engage in learning opportunities the next day
  • Enjoying freely chosen play, which is a powerful vehicle for learning and inquiry
  • Engaging in sports and clubs after school and in the local community
  • Developing meaningful relationships by spending time with family and friends
Supporting Learning at Home:

Regular updates on the VLE will include a sub-heading Supporting your child’s learning at home. This will be an opportunity for teachers to make suggestions of questions they might ask their children, ideas of activities they might do, or ideas your child might be wondering about. The idea is to provide parents with some insight into the concepts their children are engaging with in the classroom, and some possible ideas for supporting their learning, rather than assigning tasks to complete.

Encouragement of Reading for Pleasure:

Teachers, parents and students will develop systems to encourage regular reading for pleasure at home. Reading may be in English or another language. Children will also benefit from listening to a fluent adult read and from discussing their reading with others.

Instrument Practice:

In the 2nd and 3rd grade students begin learning to play the recorder. In the 4th and 5th grades students take instrument lessons as a required part of their curriculum. Students are expected to spend some time at home each week practicing these instruments.

Supporting Language Acquisition:

Some of the most effective experiences to support the acquisition of German are the real-life experiences outside of the classroom. Families will be supported through suggestions from their children’s German teachers posted on the VLE. A bank of resources will also be provided for families who wish to engage in further practice outside of the classroom. Teachers will provide regular updates activities families may engage in, including vocabulary and transactional language students may use in the community or around the school. Children will also encouraged to read for pleasure in German.

Home learning is not assigned on a regular basis:

Research indicates that home learning has a very limited impact on student growth and development. Therefore, home learning is given more as an exception than as a rule; there is no expectation that it is set on a weekly basis. When home learning is given it should focus on deepening children’s understandings of key concepts through experiences which are not easily replicated in the classroom, or when there is an opportunity to further develop and deepen the home-school partnership for student learning.

How to Find out more

A Primary Years Programme Coordinator works within the school to provide information, guidance and support in the implementation of the PYP. If you would like to have more information about any aspect of the ISZL’s implementation of the PYP, you may find out more by:

Contacting ISZL’s PYP Coordinator, David Secomb, at He will be very happy to make an appointment to talk to you and advise you.

Attending one of the information sessions organized during the school year to inform parents about the different aspects of the PYP.

Referring to the parent information section of the IBO website. ( This provides more detailed information on the framework and also answers frequently asked questions.

Referring to the IB public website at This provides interested parties with an overview of all the IB academic programmes and a list of schools around the world, which have been authorised.

Visiting the parent portal on the school’s website ( to view the Early Years’ Vision in Action document.

Viewing the grade level parent information handbooks available on the VLE.


Early Years 1 to Grade 2

Parents are encouraged to read aloud in their mother tongue to maintain growth and development in this area, as well as keeping in touch with the student’s cultural identity.

Grades 3–5

Parents are encouraged to provide books in their mother tongue for shared and independent reading. It is also advised to contact the class or subject teacher for the list of Literature Circle books offered to the children, so that some may be obtained in their mother tongue, allowing for bilateral reading and comprehension.

English as an Additional Language (EAL) support

EAL is English language support for students in Kindergarten to Grade 5 who have non-native English speaking backgrounds or who have been educated in a language other than English. EAL teachers design learning activities that explore the types of language students will need to access the curriculum, as well as to support the development of students’ more general skills of inquiry.

EAL students are supported in their classes by EAL teachers (referred to as ‘push-in’ support). If extra support is needed, students may also receive EAL classes whilst other students are receiving German lessons (referred to as ‘pull-out’ support). EAL teachers regularly communicate with parents through the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and parent presentations, where they share useful advice, extra learning opportunities and the latest research on multilingualism.

Whilst strong English skills are critical to accessing the ISZL curriculum, EAL teachers also recommend that students continue to develop their ‘mother tongue’ skills through participation in first language classes.

If you would like to know more about EAL and First Language support at ISZL, please contact Lorna Caputo, First Language and EAL Coordinator, at