Beijing, China Report of what it's like to live there - 11/08/22
Personal Experiences from Beijing, China
Western Academy of Beijing - WAB
1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?
I am the parent of two children attending the Western Academy of Beijing.
2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?
My children attended from 2020- to present. Our son started in 1st Grade (SG1) and our daughter began in ECC (prek3).
3. What years did you live here?
We came to Beijing in 2019 and despite the difficulty of Covid restrictions in Beijing, we will stay on another few years. Our only reason for doing so is that our children are so deeply happy at WAB.
4. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?
Universal Studios Beijing.
5. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?
My son actually started at ISB and it was not the international experience we were looking for. We changed our children to WAB because it encompasses the global mindset and international values we were looking for. “WAB” magic is truly felt by all. Our children are well loved and respected for who they are as a person and learner. As a Developmental Psychologist, my children’s emotional well-being was a paramount concern in the midst of the pandemic. WAB has supported our children in a wholistic manner that has benefited their development in all areas.
Admissions & Welcome:
1. Are the admissions and placement procedures clearly stated to prospective families, either on the school website or through other means of communication?
Admissions and placement procedures are clearly stated and the admissions process was clear and straightforward. However, they will not push you as other schools will. If you need more hand-holding, it’s best to communicate this, as they do not like to pressure or chase after prospective families.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
Incredible! I feel the transition to WAB was extremely smooth and this was in the midst of the pandemic. I feel this was because of the culture of WAB that is deeply built on inclusion and SEL in the early years. I felt all teachers involved with my children know them on a deep level and know not just academic achievements, but their emotional and personal achievements as well.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
Great! There are regular parent-teacher conferences and communication folders that come home each day. In addition the ES utilized Toodle as a communication tool in order to share daily activities, assignments, and pictures. Teachers are also easily accessible via email and always happy to meet in person.
2. Aside from school fees, are there required expenses such as uniforms, laptops/tablets, musical instruments, or field trips that parents are expected to cover? What are the approximate costs?
No WAB is different from other international schools in this area. All bus fees and after-school activity fees are integrated into the school fees paid at the beginning of the year. We have not paid for any additional items or fees for the last three years, aside from optional WAB clothes and merchandise.
Academics & Resources:
1. What personal or academic counseling resources are available at this school? Is there a dedicated college counselor at the school? Is he/she familiar with universities worldwide?
Yes! There are counselors at the ES, MS, and HS. They are always available and also help to integrate a social-emotional curriculum into the everyday curriculum. HS counseling is an integrated approach to college counseling, recognizing a wholistic approach to guiding teens in making these big decisions.
2. Is there before and/or after-school daycare available? What are the costs?
There is no before or after-school daycare but there are plenty of available after-school activities which are included in the tuition. Transportation is also provided after all ASAs.
3. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
The school has wonderful libraries in the ES, MS, and HS. All of them are well stocked, designed in an innovative way, and also accessible to parents.
4. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
Yes the children can access technology at any time they need access through the use of iPads, laptops, classroom computers, and computers in the libraries.
5. What are the technology requirements for students? Do they need their own laptops/ipads? How is technology integrated into the classroom and homework?
iPads are provided in elementary school and MacBooks from middle school up. Technology is integrated into their learning in healthy doses with typing classes beginning in 3rd grade. However this digital media is balanced with plenty of outside time on the amazing playgrounds and lake.
6. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
There is a gym for each division of the school. This includes a swimming pool, soccer fields, tennis courts, a large dome for sporting activities, dance studios, and a large weight room.
7. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
The approximate ratio for the ES is 7:1, including all support staff / teachers.
8. Are Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses available in upper grades? If this is an IB school, is the full diploma required of all students?
Yes the Full IB is available but not mandated for all HS students. There is also a Capstone option for those interested in this path or a HS diploma option. AP classes are also available.
9. Are students generally challenged appropriately by the curriculum? Please describe any particular strengths or weaknesses in this area. Do you have any thoughts how the curriculum is applied and implemented at this school?
WAB creates a deep love for learning that I know my children will carry with them wherever they go. In the ES they are essentially learning how to learn, building their passion for learning, and deeply understanding fundamental concepts. As they bridge into MS and HS the content becomes increasingly important and students are able to expand on their interests.
10. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
There is very minimal homework in the ES. There are always home learning options but this is based on each students need and self agency.
11. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
There are a multitude of options in this regard. Students are WAB are always encouraged to pursue all of their passionate endeavors, therefore there are many options provide both before and after school. This ranges from sports, swimming, dance, performing arts, all musical instruments, STEM activities, robotics etc.
12. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
100% all teachers at WAB speak English fluently.
13. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
In the ES students are assessed and grouped based on their abilities. This means that those excelling in a particular area will be provided with the challenges they need, and those growing in a particular area are provided with additional support.
14. What services are available for students with learning disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
As mentioned above… all students are assessed individually and learning is catered to their needs. In the ES there is a learning support lead and each grade has a learning support teacher that works with students needing additional support, in addition counselors provide additional emotional / behavioral support as needed. The school is an inclusive environment, meaning that children with special needs are not taught a separate curriculum to their peers.
15. What services are available for students with physical disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
WAB is able to accommodate most physical disabilities, everything is wheelchair accessible and there are students with 1:1 direct support.
16. What services are provided for speakers of English as a second language at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
ESL is integrated into the learning at WAB. This is especially true for the early years. However all classes are always taught in English and those that need the additional support and services are supported.
17. What extra-curricular activities (including sports) are available at this school? Have your children participated in these activities? What activities do you feel are missing at the school?
There are a multitude of options in this regard. Students are WAB are always encouraged to pursue all of their passionate endeavors, therefore there are many options provided both before and after school. This ranges from sports such as football, cross country, swimming, tennis etc. I previously thought that baseball was missing, however it was just added as an ASA this year.
Social & Emotional Well-Being:
1. What is the climate for children with special needs? Is there a general attitude of inclusion for children with special needs?
There is definitely a general attitude of inclusion within the community and this certainly includes those with disabilities.
2. What is the climate for LGBT+ kids at this school? Are there resources they can draw upon? Does there appear to be any exclusionary behavior?
WABs strategic focus for the coming years is to focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. This is something that the school has always been very passionate about and one of the reasons we chose the school. We chose the expat life in hopes that our children will embrace all difference, including difference of culture, gender, sexuality, race, and disability…
3. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?
Absolutely! This is one of the things that we love so much about WAB. It is a truly international and diverse community with all cultures and communities overlapping and connecting with one another.
4. Are there are any problems with exclusionary behavior, cliques, or bullying at this school? Please describe any problems your children may have experienced in this area.
WAB has zero tolerance for bullying and are proactive in educating the community and parents on this topic. Any conflicts between children are worked on and seen as a learning opportunity.
5. What is the climate for students who identify as ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious minorities at this school? Are there resources they can draw upon? Have your children had any experiences in this area?
Again WAB is such a diverse environment that most seem to feel a strong sense of inclusion. In my son’s words “when everyone is different no one is different” ??
6. What can you say about diversity among the faculty and staff at the school and their experience in supporting minority students?
Part of WABs focus on DEIJ is focused on maintaining a diverse (not just student body) but also staff. Teachers have extensive experience in international education.
1. What letter grade (ranging from A, excellent, to F, fail) would you assign to this school based on your overall experience? Would you choose it again?
A - WAB is by far the best decision we have made here in Beijing.
2. Please describe some of your child's/children's highlights and challenges during their time at this school.
I feel at WAB our children are encouraged to grow in the direction of their choosing. They are embraced for being unique third culture kids and are encouraged to strengthen their love for learning. The biggest down side to WAB is that I’m not sure how any other school will measure up to their experience here.
3. Please tell us anything else you think prospective parents and students should know about this school. Thanks for your contribution!
WAB truly has a magic about it that is difficult to capture in words. Visiting the school is the best way to experience it for yourself.