Beijing, China Report of what it's like to live there - 12/19/22
Personal Experiences from Beijing, China
1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?
Parent of 3 kids at WAB.
2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?
Grades 5-11 thus far - starting fall of 2021.
3. What years did you live here?
Since summer of 2021.
4. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?
5. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?
Yes, there are at least 10 international schools. We lived in China previously and found the academic pressure (and hours and hours of homework) of our previous school to be too intense/overwhelming for our children. We were looking for a truly international school with a whole child approach, and that is exactly what we found from our first interactions with WAB. They center social/emotional learning using the latest research on global education to inform everything from the school design to the way the design the calendar and curriculum. My kids have different educational needs - some need more challenging curriculum, and some need more support. All of these needs have thus far been met at WAB. I also love that WAB is truly international - my children's teachers and classmates are truly diverse.
WAB is the reason our family has chosen to extend our tour, despite some of the zero-covid challenges.
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?
Yes, and the admissions staff member was quite helpful via email and met with us virtually to answer questions and tell us about the school.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
Very supportive. My high schooler has attended 7 schools and said the staff and kids welcomed her from the first day. All of my kids were assigned a buddy on their first day and all found the staff and students helpful and kind in welcoming them.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
We have been very pleased with communication. Each grade has a grade representative and a wechat group where parents can resource and share information. There is a weekly update email/newsletter with updates. As the Chinese government has changed policies around covid - sometimes over night - the school has been very quick to send out updates.
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?
There are very few fees. Middle and high school students must purchase their own MacBook. Sports uniforms require a deposit. Otherwise, fees are very minimal.
All school supplies (besides Macbook) are provided.
Field trips are free and for grades 5 and up (my only experience) have been amazing overnight experiences to learn both about the culture (trips to the wall and villages with their Chinese cultural teachers) and fun/team building -WAB has land up north that is sort of a camp with ropes courses, hiking, water sports, mountain climbing that middle schoolers go to for at least 2 nights with their class for team building, confidence building, fun experiences.
The care they take on the trips has also been amazing. My daughter broke her arm just before a trip and was assigned a teacher's assistant to stay with and ensure her needs were met throughout the entire trip including walking on the great wall.
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?
My child that has extra learning needs has felt incredibly supported by the counselors and with a dedicated learning support teacher.
The counseling experience for high schoolers has truly been amazing. There is a dedicated curriculum for students - with a component for parents - to prepare students to apply to college. They walk through everything from understand their skills/interests, to understanding the application process in different countries, to developing their essays, preparing to interview if needed, and preparing the actual applications. I feel like they are holding our hands throughout the entire process, with quarterly meetings with the counselor for the parents/student to ensure we are on track.
Families also use Maia learning to identify and learn about schools in their desired region/field of interest, and track the application process.
2. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
The libraries are just amazing. In the high school, the whole second floor is a library - with books on display throughout to entice the students' interests, and a dedicated area with fun seating/reading tables, benches, and lofts. There are plenty of comfortable places to read throughout. I was pleased to walk through and see the variety of books available.
The middle school library is also an enticing place that is integrated lofts/nooks along with the usual tables throughout. It is bright with big windows and an impressive collection of books.
3. What are the technology requirements for students? Do they need their own laptops/ipads? How is technology integrated into the classroom and homework?
Middle and High School students need to purchase their own MacBook laptop. Teachers are very big on Microsoft OneNote and Teams with a tremendous amount of resources available, class notes, extra practice, videos in the classroom online notebooks. Students use Teams to message one another and their teachers outside of the classroom. Assignments are often turned in through the online platforms.
4. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
There are many places for physical education at WAB. There is a pool and swimming has been part of each of my kids' (grades 5-10) PE curriculum. There are many gyms and outdoor spaces for just about every sport. There are tennis courts, basketball, soccer/football pitches. There are also play areas throughout the campus including middle school where kids can climb and play.
5. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
12- 18 kids in middle and high school.
6. 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?
WAB is an IB school, though the full IB diploma is optional.
7. 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?
I have been incredibly happy with WAB here. My child who needs extra support is in a math class that was designed for this type of student in mind. There is a small class size and a learning support teacher present and this child has thrived. My child who needs to be challenged in math has also been challenged. The way math is taught in middle schools allows for a range of needs to be met and for students to learn at their own pace within each until.
8. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
Definitely. My elementary age child had almost no homework unless she had unfinished work from the day. Middle school added a bit more homework, but no more than an hour or two per day (at the most). My older middle schooler is able to accomplish most of his school work during the day. My high schooler is able to use free/study blocks at school to get most of her work done.
WAB has something they call "Day 9" - which is the ninth day in their block scheduled week that allows options to learn for fun (everything from language learning to chess to sports to knitting) or extra help in a particular class. IB diploma students may have one or two high level classes on these days, but most have a bit of a break. It is a great time for kids to catch up on work, spend an extra block in a class where they need tutoring, or just learn/do something for fun. Students sign up for blocks so their time is accounted for. My kids have really appreciated having these breaks every other week to either have a bit of a break or to work on bigger projects, catch up.
9. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
Kids usually have 2 arts related periods in middle/high school. Design is a part of school starting in elementary and includes everything from building in one of the wood-working shops to designing in one of the schools kitchen classrooms. This is part of the curriculum and blows my mind when I see what my kids are being exposed to. My middle schooler built a bluetooth speaker - designed it first in the classroom, built the wood box exterior, and then built the electronic components to go inside.
In addition to design this year seems to include a visual art and a performance art. My kids have studied strings, band, and drama, have painted, sculpted, etc in art. These things are also available as clubs/after school activities.
10. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
Yes, they all speak English.
11. 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?
Four times a year, kids can sign up for extra curricular activities of every kind - arts, music, sports, educational. Kids are encouraged to try new sports no matter their experience level. There are varsity teams and club teams and they make it a point to encourage students to try new sports.
Social & Emotional Well-Being:
1. 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?
WAB supportive of kids in the LGBT+ community. There is a student led, teacher supported club in the high school for LGBT+ kids and allies as well as a pride week at school. Last year the club handed out rainbow masks that teachers and students could wear to show their support.
2. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?
Yes, the students are very well integrated.
3. 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 makes social and emotional learning such a strong part of their curriculum to prevent some of these things. They learn to allow for many perspectives, to deal with conflict, and to support one anther. It seems to be a very inclusive school, with a majority of kids being expats who are used to moving around and accepting new kids quickly. The few instances of bullying I've been aware of have been taken very seriously and addressed by the counseling and administration.
4. 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?
It is hard to think about minorities at WAB since the student body is so incredibly diverse. There isn't a majority of any one group. My kids are sometimes the only American, but their classmates are from Asia, Europe, Africa.
5. What can you say about diversity among the faculty and staff at the school and their experience in supporting minority students?
The faculty are incredibly diverse and from around the globe.
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?
In hard times this year through the covid-zero experience, we have stayed and committed to staying longer because of WAB. It is that good. We would definitely choose it again.
2. Please describe some of your child's/children's highlights and challenges during their time at this school.
Highlights - high schooler trying a sport for the first time and feeling pride and acceptance playing on the school team. My son having a big role in the school play and on the soccer team. My 6th grader confidently showing me around her school, surrounded by friendly faces and knowing she is challenged and accepted by her classmates and teachers. Touring the school (having had a USA public school education) and being impressed again and again with the design of every space.
3. Please tell us anything else you think prospective parents and students should know about this school. Thanks for your contribution!
At WAB, I know I have a partner in imparting the most important lessons on my children - the lessons I know will give them more grit and make them kind, courageous, and creative in everything they do in their lives. They know about the world we are living in, they are being taught to think critically, and they are getting the experiences and exposure one needs to succeed. I also love the diversity and strong connections in their friend groups.