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IB Programmes: Bringing the Lessons of the World and Life to Students

June, 2006
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Schools in China describe the road to adopting the international baccalaureate (IB) educational model

Western Academy of Beijing (WAB) became an IB school with the Primary Years Programme (PYP) and Middle Years Programme (MYP) in June 2004. Shortly after that, WAB was authorized to offer the Diploma Programme and became a full IB school.


Julian Edwards, assistant elementary principal: WAB-Sarah-Julian

The important thing about IB to understand is it is three programs working closely together as one whole programme directly from education for 3 years of age up to 18 years of age. But the programmes change as children change. So, the Primary years Programme fits children from aged 3 to 12, and the Diploma Programme fits children who are preparing to go to university.

  The IB programme really gives you a chance, wherever you are in Australia, or UK or Beijing, to have an education that is truly international. It has a lot of experience dealing with people in international settings and in creating an international curriculum… with Middle Years Programme and Primary Years’ Programme (PYP)… it trusts teachers and the teachers can make good decisions when they work together and discuss what is good learning. At the same time, it gives you the framework that is based on very contemporary research… Secondly, it allows the school to have some input as well. That means you can, for example, put the British National Curriculum into the framework of PYP Programme.
There is also a misunderstanding about IB that it really has a heavy content… But what the IB understands is: to be an expert in physics at the age of 18, you don’t have to start learning physics at the age of 4. What you have to learn at the age of 4 is to learn how to think, understand how to learn properly and how to work with other people. It recognizes that primary education is about developing children who are thinkers and learners. Middle school education is about starting to apply that thinking and learning to specific subjects. And it recognizes that high school education is really about getting rigorous studying subjects in depth.

  The three IB programmes aren’t just about preparing children for university, but also preparing children for life. When you ask university professors what kind of students they want, they want students who can solve problems independently and think by themselves. When you ask employers what they want, they want the same things. The Diploma Programme is really a good example of preparing children for universities…

  The best IB schools are the ones where everyone is internationally minded. Teachers tend to look at the knowledge very critically: Are we teaching the knowledge from the point of view of Europeans or are we giving the students the ability to understand the different point of views about it?… It is important not to take one side or the other but to give students the ability to look at history or issues from more different points of views.


Sarah Harris, PYP co-ordinator:

It is a responsibility for every IB school to train the teachers for the programmes… There are many different types of training. It is like going away to workshops, coming back to the school and working with your team and developing new parts of the programme. The programme makes everybody a learner… The programmes are growing and developing continually, so we are constantly looking at the training people need.

  Should every international school apply for the IB programmes? Probably not… I think that is the healthiest way for a city to have varied types of international models. Don’t necessarily think IB works well for all parents, because sometimes parents are comfortable with what they know best, probably their national system… I think international schools are beautiful as they are so different.

Yew Chung International School (YCIS-BJ) of Beijing just became an IB school recently. It will carry out the IB Diploma Programme this coming September.

IB Ycis-BJ-1 The reason why IB is becoming more and more popular is that an IB diploma allows students the opportunity to apply to universities all over the world… Our sister schools in Hong Kong and Shanghai both have the IB Diploma Programmes. So, it is a natural progression for YCIS-BJ to get it as well. It took us a lot of work. We put together an application like an encyclopedia. And we have sent out 15 teachers for special training in the Asia-Pacific regions, Europe, Australia and the United States…

  The philosophy of IB is similar to the philosophy of Yew Chung, such as the expectations of internationalism, to getting students to be bilingual, to giving them broad education. But students may find it becomes a little bit more academic… IB makes both the learning process and teaching process more flexible. It gives teachers an overview on what things should be covered, at the same time a lot of latitude for the teachers to take the students in different directions and to explore. IB aims to get students to explore ideas, to investigate and to come up with ideas themselves.

  IB also gives the students more opportunities to experience and learn the areas they are interested in…

  I don’t think it is a problem for the students to adapt to the IB Diploma Programme in the final years. What we are looking at is teaching the lower years some of the skills, putting more emphasis on their research skills and on self-exploration into areas they are interested in.


Beijing BISS International School became an IB school in 2000, the second in Beijing to implement the IB Diploma Programme. Then it became the first international school to have all three IB programmes authorized and implemented.

BISS-Iain Sterling Iain Stirling, BISS principal:

Given we have students from around 50 countries, the highly accepted K-12 courses provided by International Baccalaureate Organization would be a good choice. And the Diploma courses are very good introduction to university life.

  We chose to do the Diploma Programme first because at that time we were going to have our first G11 and G12. The general feeling from the community was that it is possible to create a best all-round education for students using the IB Diploma Programme and develop a whole person. And the Diploma Program is also transferable, and understood by universities in many countries.

  Next, we took the Primary Years Programme to allow students to move successfully and easily from the school to other PYP schools or schools with inquiry-based programmes.

  We looked at the Middle Years Program at last because it came in order actually. And MYP covers five years of a time when students are developing in all sorts of ways, from the age of 12 to 16. They are growing up, more aware of themselves and the society and more concerned about their friendships. But given PYP and Diploma, the best joining focus would be to implement the MYP.

  It is not difficult for the school to apply for the IB programmes. Basically, it is an authorization and evaluation process that keeps the school within the standard set by IBO. If the school is interested in the programmes, contact the IBO regional office in Singapore. The process is relatively straightforward. But the school does have work to do to fulfill the needs and to maintain the quality…

  IB is not the only good academic programme… Under IB programmes, students learn to be responsible for themselves. All the courses are aimed to be interactive and the students, teachers as well as the parents are involved in different levels.

  And development goes on all the time as IBO helps the school to be better…

  I haven’t met a perfect system yet. I think that is a realistic way of looking at learning. We are always learning.

The IB World Schools Since IB Programs

Beijing BISS International School, since May 1999, IB Primary Years Programme, IB Middle Years Programme and IB Diploma Programme.

Beijing Huijia Private School, since October 1997, IB Diploma Programme.

Beijing No. 55 Middle School, since October 1995, IB Middle Years Programme.

Beijing Shuren Private School, since June 1999, IB Middle Years Programme.

Beijing World Youth Academy, since January 1995, IB Diploma Programme.

International School of Beijing, since May 1991, IB Diploma Programme.

International School of Tianjin, since July 2002, IB Primary Years Programme, IB Middle Years Programme and IB Diploma Programme.

Western Academy of Beijing, since June 2004, IB Primary Years Programme, IB Middle Years Programme and IB Diploma Programme.

Yew Chung International School of Beijing, since March 2006, IB Diploma Programme.


By Xing Yangjian

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