International School of Beijing (ISB): key questions answered

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

Image: courtesy of International School of Beijing
As part of our feature International schools in Beijing: key questions answered, we put key questions from parents and students to International School of Beijing (ISB). 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 have developed Learning21@ISB, an international standards-based curriculum that draws from best practices around the world. The curriculum is tailored to meet the challenges of 21st-century learning, and emphasises project-based learning and experiential learning as means of a well-rounded education. As an international school in China’s capital, it is important that ISB students are provided the opportunity to acquire Chinese language skills and develop a deep cultural connection to their host country. Unique to ISB, our Chinese Integration department ensures that Chinese language and culture is infused throughout the curriculum through experiential learning opportunities.

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

We are a non-profit school governed by a 12-member Board of Trustees. These 12 volunteers are responsible for setting and approving school policy, overseeing ISB’s financial status, recruiting, supporting and evaluating the Head of School and guiding strategic direction of the school.

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

Tuition fees cover all expenses related to day-to-day operations and educational programmes. Typical additional fees include lunch and bus transportation.

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


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

We provide teacher assistants (TA) in our Elementary School. In our Upper Elementary School, each classroom has a TA to help teachers with material preparation, recess duties and after-school activities. In the Lower Elementary School, TAs take a more hands-on role with students. They work with groups of students on a daily basis in all areas of the curriculum. ISB also has TAs who provide support in educational technology, our libraries and our art rooms.

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

The majority of our ASAs are offered free of charge to our students, with a few exceptions for programmes headed by external specialists. Programmes are run by both teachers from ISB and external specialists.

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

English is the academic language of instruction and learning at ISB. Chinese is offered from PreK3 to Grade 12 as a second language. French is also available from Grades 3 to 12, and Spanish is available Grades 9 to 12 as second languages.

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

Our school food service provider Chartwells offers hot lunches as well as sandwich options, with Western, Chinese, and vegetarian cuisines available. Lunch is optional and is not included in our tuition fees. Lunch is around 17 to 30RMB per day. Students can also bring their own lunch.

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

Throughout our 51,000-square-metre main school building, the highest standards of air quality are provided by state-of-the-art filtration and air-handling equipment air-handling units. In January 2013, ISB opened two sport and recreation domes that cover a combined area of 8,500 square metres. The domes are temperature-controlled and have purified air of the same level as the main school building. ISB monitors indoor air quality by taking readings at 26 internal locations multiple times a day. We also monitor the outside air quality regularly and modify outdoor activities accordingly. Elementary School students are to remain indoors if the pollutions levels are AQI 150 or higher, while Middle School and High School students remain indoors or do modified activity if AQI readings are 200 or higher.

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

We use multiple avenues that ensure open communication with parents, including our Back-to-School Night and New Parents Orientation early in the school year. There are four reporting periods, two quarterly informal reports and one formal report each semester. In addition, parents are encouraged to interact with teachers and administrators as needed to ensure there is open communication within our community. There are parent-teacher conferences twice a year and a student-led conference in the Elementary School each spring. Our PTA speaker series and Head of School and Principal Coffees are also held regularly throughout the year to ensure our strong school-home partnership.

Questions from students

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

We aim to create a welcoming and engaging atmosphere at the school. Being a collaborative, inclusive and innovative environment, ISB challenges and provides opportunities for students to use acquired knowledge and skills in real-world situations. Project-based learning and experiential learning are key components in the ISB curriculum.

Throughout the academic year, students are engaged in real-world learning inside and outside of the classroom, including working with guest experts in various fields. One of these included our Artist in Residence Danny Gregory, an American author and illustrator who spent two weeks last September working with students of various grades on sketching everyday things around them. In November, ISB welcomed Composer in Residence James Humberstone, who shared his expertise with a high school film class on creating compelling soundtracks using computer software.

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

Communication between students and our administration is always welcome. Organised groups that support this include the Student Council, with three groups providing student leadership at the Elementary School, Middle School and High School levels. Students are also encouraged to communicate with administrators personally, with students’ opinions highly valued at ISB. Finally, students are encouraged to be involved in events and activities in collaboration with administrators, including committee work supporting the evaluation of our strategic plan process, advisory committees on the selection of division principals and feedback in the development of school policies.


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

Yes. Students are encouraged and supported to propose individual and group learning or co-curricular opportunities through our Activities and Experiential Learning offices. Some examples are service-learning requests, which are presented to a student leadership group to support a student’s passion or interest through the Activities Office. Environmental projects, such as composting and other green initiatives at the school, are also popular. These are presented to the Experiential Learning office for ISB support and collaboration.

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

Our students do not wear school uniforms, but the school has a dress code that students are required to observe.

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

At the beginning of each semester, our admissions team hosts an orientation day for new students and parents to help familiarise themselves with the campus, departments and services. In the Elementary School, students are welcomed by the Student Council and are paired with ‘classroom buddies’ who show them around. In the Middle School and High School, counsellors facilitate new students’ orientation, and students are set up with a ‘homeroom buddy’ or Peer Helpers before the start of each semester. These students are available to answer any questions they have via e-mail or in person, and help new students in the first few weeks of the school.

In addition, educational technology facilitators meet with students to support distribution of laptops (ISB has a one-to-one laptop programme) and to share information on the expectations for the technology use at ISB. Furthermore, ISB has an extensive section on our website to support the transition of new families to ISB and Beijing.

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

We have a strong community in which students, parents, teachers, support staff, administrators, and the Board engage and collaborate in celebrating our diversity and bringing our community together. Some examples of these traditions include International Day, which celebrates and engages our community in the different nationalities in our community, Chinese New Year parade, which ushers in a school-wide celebration of Chinese culture, and the Spring Fair, which celebrates the end of the school year and offers a fond farewell to those leaving our community.

See more information about ISB

Other Beijing international schools

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