Transcultural capability and the Primary Years Programme: Final report

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    Rapid increases in the flows of people around the world, both temporary and permanent, have meant that national populations – and within them cohorts of school-aged students – have become more culturally diverse, creating both challenges and opportunities for people navigating this diversity. The International Baccalaureate (IB) seeks to address this trend by developing "the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills needed to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalising world" (IB, 2017a). Within this, the Primary Years Programme (PYP) aims specifically to prepare “students to become active, caring, lifelong learners who demonstrate respect for themselves and others and have the capacity to participate in the world around them”. This is achieved through the teaching of five essential elements, one of which is “attitudes, which contribute to international-mindedness and the wellbeing of individuals and learning communities” (IB, 2017b).
    To achieve these goals, it is necessary for PYP teachers to possess the cultural capacity to cater for such diversity as a professional attribute. However, current teaching approaches of multi-and inter-culturalism were conceived before contemporary globalisation; patterns of global mobility were less complex and interactions between people of different cultures were less frequent.
    In today’s world, advanced communications and transport technologies have increased the fluidity of demographic movement and societies around the world are now more culturally complex than before. Consequently, teachers arguably now need to possess a different form of cultural expertise to meet the needs of students, that of transculturalism, which is inclusive of the IB PYP globally constructed mindsets. Transculturalism sees cultural variation as a positive rather than a negative or issue to be addressed in some way (Casinader, 2016), and as the norm rather than the exception (Rizvi, 2011), which, in IB terms, translates to open-mindedness.
    This project sought to understand how well transcultural skills are being developed and utilised by teachers in schools offering the IB PYP in Canada and Australia. Specifically, it determined and measured the degree of transcultural capability in teachers in four PYP schools (three Canadian, one Australian), enabling an evaluation of their transcultural capability, as well as if and how it impacts upon their teaching of the PYP with reference to the Learner Profile and intended student outcomes. There were five main conclusions:
    • All 38 teachers who participated in the study demonstrated some degree of transcultural capability, with 50 per cent being designated as fully transcultural. These teachers showed a high degree of personal and professional commitment to the PYP core principles, as well as a high degree of global and cultural knowledge and awareness.
    • There was a significant minority (23 per cent) of teachers who were distinctly less transcultural than the rest of the cohort. Although this group demonstrated professional commitment to the PYP and its principles, there was less personal commitment to its ideas and attitudes, predominantly because of their lower exposure to globalising experiences that immersed them in cultural difference. This was associated with a lower degree of global awareness, cultural knowledge and cultural awareness.
    • Transcultural teachers tended to have experienced a range of cultural environments throughout their lives for both personal and professional reasons, whether they experienced these within their own country, or most often, internationally. Professional development for transcultural capability therefore needs to focus on long-term strategies that expose teachers to experiences of purposeful cultural dislocation; that is, being immersed in cultural environments that are vastly different to those in their
    locations of origin or custom.
    • The length of teaching experience, direct PYP experience and age tended to have
    relatively little influence on the degree of transcultural capability.
    • In the course of the study, it emerged that the vast majority of teachers were critical of
    the six-topic structure of the annual PYP. They saw the mandating of so many areas as delimiting opportunities for deep understandings of students and the PYP principle of student-centred inquiry learning. They recommended a reduction to 4-5 topics per year. This could free up time for greater depth of investigation of cultural difference in ways suggested by both participants and researchers.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationBethesda, MD, USA
    PublisherInternational Baccalaureate Organization
    Commissioning bodyInternational Baccalaureate Organization
    Number of pages94
    Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2018


    • Transculturalism
    • Transcultural capability
    • International education
    • Cultural Dispositions of thinking
    • Primary Years Programme
    • International Baccalaureate
    • Teacher professional learning and development

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