Dulwich College Beijing (DCB): key questions answered

Dulwich answers questions about teaching, fees, air quality and more

As part of our feature International schools in Beijing: key questions answered, we put key questions from parents and students to Dulwich College Beijing (DCB). For other international schools, see list at the bottom of this feature.

Questions from parents

Teaching: What is the standout feature of your school’s teaching?

We focus on the individual, encourage creativity and experiential learning and emphasise knowledge and skills. Students have plenty of opportunities to develop their ‘soft skills’, such as leadership, public-speaking, real-world problem-solving and emotional intelligence. The key to our teaching is a safe, secure environment in the classroom where everyone can take risks, because the students know that their teachers care for them – not simply as students engaged in their subject, but as people. All subjects are valued and our options systems reflect that.

Management: Who owns and manages the school, and who sets the budgets?

We are a privately-owned school, with a family of schools managed by Dulwich College International. Our other schools are based in Shanghai, Suzhou, Zhuhai, Seoul and Singapore. Profits are channelled back to the school community. Day-to-day operational decisions are made by the DCB College Leadership Team.

Fees: What do the fees cover, and will there be additional fees later in the year?

Fees cover education, books, stationery, compulsory school trips, extra-curricular activities and external examination fees such as IGCSE and IBDP examinations.

Nationalities: Do you have a policy on the mix of nationalities?

We strive to have a balanced nationality mix. We don’t have a specific quota on nationality, but we limit students needing English as Additional Language (EAL) support.

Teaching assistants: If you have teaching assistants in the classroom, what are their responsibilities?

In Art, Design & Technology and Science, the Teaching Assistants support the department ‘behind-the-scenes’ with technical assistance, such as maintaining stock, curating exhibitions, setting up and clearing away experiments, handling chemicals. In Music and PE, they may often assist with specialist aspects of certain lessons, such as specialist instrumental or sporting expertise or to ensure student safety such as life-saving in the swimming pool.

After-school activities: Are there fees for joining the ASA programme and who runs it?

The DCB Extra-curricular Activity (ECA) programme is extensive, and in the Senior school alone there are 105 activities on offer. To successfully complete the Dulwich ECA Challenge, each student must complete a specified Outdoor Adventure, carry out a specific Community Service activity, pass a personally set fitness test, and participate in a certain number of House events.

There are no extra charges for activities. Our ECAs are all run by teachers with some additional expertise from other external coaches such as tennis, swimming and basketball. However, many are set up and indeed led by our students themselves – 19 out of around 105 in the last block. We fully support this innovation and responsible leadership.

Languages: What languages are compulsory to learn, and what are by choice?

All students take First Language English and Chinese up to Year 9. German First Language is also available instead of Chinese. In the Senior School, students select a third language at Foreign Language Level from Spanish, French and German (or Chinese if they do German First Language), unless they require English as Additional Language (EAL) support in which case they have EAL classes instead of a third language.

Lunch: Is school lunch compulsory and how much does it cost? What is on the menu?

Students may bring their own lunches or buy lunch at the school canteen.The catering provision at our school is superb. We have a newly refurbished and expanded dining hall facility with many outlets, so students are spoilt for choice. There is a wide variety of food options including a salad bar, sandwiches, Western and Asian hot meals. The café also offers special menu from time to time such as on Mexican Day or Thanksgiving.

Air quality: What air quality controls do you have in place? What is your AQI cut-off for outdoor play?

As well as stand-alone air purifiers in every classroom, we have teamed with Pure Global and installed a customised, in-line Primary Air Filtration system throughout the main buildings. The system has been specifically designed to meet US standard PM2.5 guidelines for air quality, and treats for the kinds of particles, gases and pollutants found in Beijing’s air. The outcome is that 100 percent of the air entering DCB is treated to create an indoor environment that is a minimum of 98 percent pollution free. In addition, the second dome and pavilion (3,000 sqm) will be ready in March.

Early Years children are only allowed out if the PM2.5 measures below 200. If it is over 150, they are not allowed out for more than 20 minutes at any one time. In the Senior and Junior Schools, 250 is the benchmark, but between 200-250 students will be allowed out for 20 minutes.

Assessment: How often do parents receive reports or have parents’ evenings?

We have an open door policy, and parents are free to communicate with teachers by email and arrange meetings with teachers whenever needed. This is in addition to the formal reporting cycle described below.

In Years 7, 8 and 9 there are three reports per year, two Form Tutor led ‘Raising Achievement’ meetings, one evening of student/parent/subject teacher meetings and a parents’ information evening.

In Years 10 and 12 there are four reports per year, two Form Tutor led ‘Raising Achievement’ meetings, one evening of student/parent/subject teacher meetings and a parents’ information evening.

In Years 11 and 13 there are two internal reports per year plus the final external grade report, one Form Tutor led ‘Raising Achievement’ meetings, two evenings of student/parent/subject teacher meetings and a parents’ information evening. Year 11 will have an additional evening in Term 2 about selecting their options for Year 12.

Questions from students

Atmosphere: What’s the general atmosphere like at the school?

Dulwich has a system of 18 values, which each student is encouraged to embody in all that they do. When you first set foot in our school, evidence of community, collaboration and respect are all around. Dulwich Beijing prides itself on its close-knit community, including students, all staff and parents.

Communication: How open is the communication between the students and the administration?

There are many systems in place to ensure a steady communication between teachers and students. Student Council and the Prefect team are the main channels through which we communicate.

The Student Council consists of three leaders – the secretary, chairperson and the treasurer. There are weekly meetings which an elected representative from each class attend and bring any concerns or ideas forward to the Student Council Leaders; the leaders will in turn pass it on to the appropriate staff member.

The Prefect team is made up of the Head Boy, Head Girl, Deputy Head Boy, Deputy Head Girl and 16 prefects. This team has a close working relationship with the IB Coordinators and the Head of Senior School. This gives them an opportunity to put forward ideas, projects and initiatives that they think will benefit the Dulwich Community.

There are also Music Prefects and Sports Prefect who liaise and assist in those departments.

Initiatives: Can students suggest or launch new initatives such as extra-curricular clubs?

Students are encouraged to take a leadership role in either a previously established club, or start up their own. There are many projects that have begun in this way, some of which have ended up running for years. For example, The Guards Project was started three years ago, with many year 12 and 13 students giving up their free time to teach the school guards English. Younger students have also launched projects. A few years ago, some year 8 students introduced the concept of 24-hour sport tournaments to raise money for charity. There is a variety of different clubs, such as the Chess Club, Dulwich Radio and even a Quidditch Club.

Uniform: Does the school require a uniform, and how strict is the dress code?

We have a strict uniform policy. Early years, Junior School, Senior School and IB all have separate uniforms. In an effort to promote school spirit and identity, the uniform policy is enforced throughout all year groups, including years 12 and 13 where smart business wear is the appropriate attire.

New students: What initiatives are in place to help new students settle in?

Every year a selection of students volunteer to be a ‘buddy’. At the start of the new academic year, these buddies will be assigned to a new student to help them settle in. The Buddy System helps give new students a sense of security and assurance as they get their bearings in a new school as well as a providing a friendly face. New students are also given the opportunity to contact someone in the year they will be entering, and exchange any questions they may have via email before they arrive.

Traditions: What are some of the school’s unique or interesting traditions?

We have two senior school drama performances a year, as well as a wide variety of sports tournaments, music festivals and academic challenges. This year, we will host the first ever Dulwich Olympiad – an immense sports tournament where athletes from all the Dulwich schools around the world will come to Beijing and participate in basketball, swimming, athletics, football and table tennis. There will also be an opening night concert showcasing the talented musicians from all Dulwich schools. This event will only take place every four years and the next Olympiad will be hosted by our founding school, Dulwich College London.

Furthermore, our school has a very exciting and fun house system. Students participate throughout the year in a range of competitions winning points for their house. These include Fancy Dress Cross-country, House Maths and Tug-of-War.

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