International School of Beijing: Cultivating Inspirational and Creative Opportunities for Developing Students’ Unique Potentials

“We offer an academically rigorous, balanced and engaging learning environment enriched by being in China and strengthened by collaboration with parents and external partnerships”.

Being the ‘First-One’ is always special. It adds the fragrance of reliability to the aroma of authority. Located in Shunyi District, the International School of Beijing (ISB) is recognized as the first international school in Beijing. It is an adaptive, inspirational, forward-looking learning community, cultivating relationships that ignite each student’s passion for lifelong-learning.

A Walk Down Memory Lane

From the nascent phases of its inception, the stature that ISB has acquired today demonstrates the magnitude of phenomenal growth it represents. In its earliest days, the school was made up of just eight students and two certified teachers in the hallway of a diplomatic apartment compound.  Later in 1980, amid the growth of other diplomatic communities, the US Embassy joined hands with the British, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand embassies and this led to the formal foundation of ISB. In 1991, ISB became the first school in Beijing to offer the full Diploma Program of the International Baccalaureate. Later in January 2002, ISB was allowed to enroll students outside of diplomatic communities. Since then, the school has never looked back. It kept on flourishing and quickly became a respected international school with programs and accreditation worthy of breadth and depth of the school’s vision.

Today, ISB is made up of approximately 1,700 students from PreK 3 to Grade 12, with more than 50 different nationalities represented in its diverse student body. The school continues to lead in its innovative approaches to learning and educator development.

ISB not only carries the wide range of acceptance and popularity among masses, its mode and means of teaching has also got several stamps of approval from reputed accrediting agencies across the world. In 2007, ISB won full marks from three important accrediting agencies: the Chinese National Council on Curriculum and Textbooks (NCCT); the Council on American and International Schools Abroad (CAISA) of the US-based New England Association of Schools and Colleges; and the Council of International School (CIS), an international, globally focused accrediting agency specializing in international education worldwide.

Uniqueness in Approach

International School of Beijing is different from the other contemporary schools in multiple aspects. The school’s curriculum is ‘standards-based’, to inculcate relevance and vibrancy in learning at the school. The curriculum form PreK to Grade 12 at ISB vastly ensures that the learning environment at school adequately prepares students for facing the challenges of the future. It further enables the school to position itself as a world-class environment of excellence.

The framework of education at ISB is named “Learning21@ISB”, also known as L21. It attempts to layer a strong sense of purpose and vision on top of an excellent academic program. At the center of L21 exists the school’s standards-based content curriculum developed from subject-area standards which are the best in their respective fields. ISB’s core subject standards are based on the following: Common Core for English and Mathematics; Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for Science; C3 Standards (College, Career, and Civic life) for Social Studies; Ontario Canada Standards for Health and Physical Education; and National Core Art Standards for Visual and Performing Arts.

The school uses these standards as a base to incorporate the aspects of project learning, technology infusion, integrated learning, experiential learning, social and emotional learning, and comprehensive assessment into each curriculum developed at ISB. This in fact, is the ‘next ring’ of school’s curriculum-compass and is named as “L21 Approaches”. These approaches are research proven and, individually serve as excellent vehicles for the development of 21st Century skill-sets.

The ‘outer-ring’ of school’s curriculum is formed by the “L21 Skills”, which are the need of 21st Century. These skills comprise the qualities of innovation, creativity, communication, collaboration, responsibility, and leadership. At ISB, these areas have become the backbone of education to empower its students in their lifelong learning.

Beyond its homeroom teachers, ISB also has a caring team of specialists to offer help towards the academic, social-emotional, and physical well-being of students. Among several other areas that they cater, Learning Support, Language Support, and Counseling services are some major ones being offered at ISB.

The Rainbow of Offerings

Even while exploring new innovative models of teaching and learning, ISB has maintained its reputation for academic excellence. The school has a valuable group of talented and passionate educators from across the globe which engages students in their learning through a variety of teaching models. The teaching models at ISB are primarily based upon –

  1. Experiential Learning – At ISB, it is believed that the true understanding actually comes from the application of knowledge and skills. Hence, the school creates authentic learning experiences for its students to practice and implement curricular concepts.
  2. Project Based Learning – The educators at ISB design project-based learning experiences for its students. This approach allows students to create authentic products or services, addressing real-world problems in the demonstration of their learning.
  3. Chinese Integration – Chinese language and culture learning is an important part of ISB’s learning philosophy. Its Chinese-language program is enriched by opportunities to experience the host country’s culture.
  4. Tech Infusion- The educators at ISB broaden students’ skills base by integrating technology into their learning activities. Students are introduced to a school’s one-to-one laptop and/or iPad program right from the Kindergarten stages.

The school’s educational framework has very efficiently been demarcated at Elementary School, Middle School and High School levels for ensuring the suitability of adopted methodologies as per students’ age-groups. These levels are further supplemented with dedicatedly designed programs viz. ISB Dual Language Program, ISB Futures Academy and IB Program respectively.

From the leader’s desk

Patrick Hurworth serves as the Head of School at International School of Beijing. In his second year at this position, he has continued to strengthen the sense of community within the school. While talking about the school, he states, “ISB is an extraordinary school; made so by a tradition of educational excellence spanning more than 37 years. Establishing, nurturing, and growing such an exceptional learning community has been and remains intentional; the virtues of our school are our aspirational Mission, Vision, and Core Values. These are fulfilled by passionate, highly experienced, and qualified teachers and leaders, sharing a common commitment: we all want the very best for your child and for your family”.

He further elaborates, “ISB is dedicated to making sure we implement and sustain programs proven to be most effective for student learning and well-being. ISB is an adaptive school, willing to innovate and transform in response to the changing needs of our students. A differentiating characteristic of our appeal is our strong sense of community and vibrant campus, where learning is engaging for all our students. ISB enjoys a proven track record of excellent learning outcomes, with students attending colleges which are right for them. Our commitment to realizing students’ potential is built around providing a balanced education which addresses their academic and, crucially, their social-emotional and physical well-being”.

Mr. Hurworth considers that at ISB, skills of communication and collaboration are instilled in students throughout their education, with a significant proportion of their learning taking place outside the classroom. ISB engages each student in a variety of learning opportunities, enabling them to discover innate abilities, learn teamwork, exercise initiative and, ultimately, find a productive place within the ISB community and wider world.

Campus Liveliness

The student community at ISB has a diversified variety, as it comprises of students from PreK to Grade 12. Despite that, a school campus is a happy place for all. Even between the dedicated and focused learning atmosphere directed towards preparing foundations for extraordinary careers ahead, the school has created multiple opportunities at the campus, where the students can learn, express and grow beyond the class-rooms. The campus is kept abuzz by the means of various talk-events, cultural events, art-events, and several others, all through the year.

The Annual events at the school speak more about the ISB Community. School’s active PTA and Booster Club represent the soul of the ISB community. These two voluntary organizations seek to further enhance the sense of community at ISB and foster the school spirit in the campus. Every year, events like International Day, Spring Fair and Chinese New Year celebrations are coordinated by these organizations.

Educational Augmentation

The after-school sports program is integral to the curriculum of ISB, and hence very rightly known to be the ‘co-curricular’ activities. Not only the program enhances students’ leadership and sportsmanship spirits, but also, serves as an opportunity to explore their passions and interests. This further ensures learning about and learning from a wide range of sports.

ISB’s after-school sports program serves students at all grade levels, with elementary school, middle school and high school teams taking part in most events within ISAC (Beijing/Tianjin international school league). Additionally, its high school teams compete in the ACAMIS, China Cup, and APAC organizations, with travel opportunities for various competitions within Asia. Elementary school students too have many exciting intramural sports events, sports-related ASA’s as well as the now famous Jedi Juggler and Dribbling Dragons programs. These are complemented by additional opportunities for competition in invitational tournaments within the ISAC organization.

Moreover, ISB also has a dedicated ‘Performing Arts Department’ which is well complemented by the co-curricular programs which offer technical skill development and valuable opportunity to perform in groups.

Nurturing of Talents

ISB’s graduates live and work efficiently in a rapidly changing world. The credit goes to its impeccable programs which equip them to be productive, healthy, and fulfilled young adults.

The graduates from ISB go on to achieve extraordinary feats in their lives. The school has a rich alumni network to be proud of. After the school, the graduates mostly move-on to acquire education from various reputed universities across the globe. There are plenty of examples where the educational foundation provided by ISB proved to be a landmark achievement in the career of its students. Students from ISB never get limited to a certain path of career. Due to the variety and diversity of education being provided at the school, students find themselves surrounded by a plethora of education and career opportunities after graduating from ISB. The evidence of this can be found in the enrollments of various post-graduate courses in multiple streams of reputed universities around the world; where the traces of ISB background can very easily be located.

Gauging the immaculate teaching methodology that ISB practices resulting into splendid results on and off the campus, one can very rightly ascertain that ISB’s reputation of being one of the Best International Schools in China is not only well earned but well deserved also. It is a place where transformational learning is continuously taking place, every single day.

The value of this institution is quite beautifully summed up in the words of ISB’s head of the school, which states “ISB is not just a school, and it’s a way of Life”.

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