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Q+A: Yew Chung International School of Beijing

Q+A: Yew Chung International School of Beijing

Yew Chung International School of Beijing provides an international education for expatriate children aged 2 to 18 years. Here the school answers our questions and takes us on a virtual tour...

 What curriculum do you follow?

In the Early Childhood Education (ECE) School (ages 2 to 4 years), children learn in a supportive environment. Playing, exploring, active engagement, creating and thinking critically are of high importance in our play-based curriculum. Play experiences contribute to skill and knowledge across all developmental areas, and provide a solid foundation for future learning.

In Primary School (Years 1 to 5), our international curriculum is based on the framework of the National Curriculum for England, with the added benefit of an extensive Chinese Language and Culture Programme.

In both ECE and Primary schools, two teachers are present in all classrooms, one Western and one Chinese, who implement a bilingual teaching and learning environment, planning lessons together and sharing equal authority in the classroom.

In Lower Secondary School (Years 6 to 8), a learning community approach reframes education in a manner that encourages students to be more active learners, who take greater responsibility for their learning. This model also creates greater opportunities for students and teachers to work together within a class structure as well as across year levels. 

In order to increase the breadth and depth of learning in Years 9 to 11, Year 9 is included in YCIS Beijing’s IGCSE structure. Completing this certification over three years creates more flexibility and grants the time and space to provide students with a more engaging and focused learning experience.

The new G100 option within the timetable supports students in completing the IGCSE Global Perspective requirements, while also enhancing each student’s 'soft skills' through learning they themselves choose.

Like Years 6 to 8, greater alignment of content is achieved through the increased time teachers spend discussing content and assessment together within each Learning Community. Each year focuses on IGCSE requirements with the express aim of maximising learning and achievement for the Year 11 IGCSE exams.

Our consistent achievement of results that are above the world average and our 100% pass rate is testament to the manner in which we prepare students for the challenging realities of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) in Years 12 to 13. Inquiry-based learning experiences support students to achieve the best possible outcomes over this two-year programme. Preparation for the Extended Essay begins earlier in school so that our IBDP students can enjoy success with this demanding requirement.

How have you adapted the curriculum to suit your location/country?

YCIS Beijing has offered Chinese learning for expats since our school was established in 1995. As a visionary-led international school, we strive to unite the best elements of Eastern and Western traditions and practices. 

Students learn to read, write and speak fluent Mandarin Chinese through curricula tailored for both native and non-native speakers. The Chinese Language and Culture Programme runs from Kindergarten all the way through to graduation, and helps students attain a strong command of the Chinese language after two to three years.

Students are also involved in the Chinese Studies programme. The learning topics integrate subjects from history and geography to visual arts, performing arts and music. The programme has a strong focus both on today's China and China's cultural heritage, emphasising student participation and hands-on experiences. It includes cultural field trips, Chinese culture workshops and traditional festival celebrations and events for the students.

What is the background of your teaching staff?

In ECE and Primary School, all Western teachers are recruited from native English-speaking countries. Our staff represents a diverse array of nationalities from a dozen different countries.

How have you adapted your facilities to keep up with evolving education trends?

YCIS Beijing has remodelled and adapted its facilities to become Learning Communities in purpose-designed and -built facilities, providing for flexible groupings and flexible learning spaces.

The key concept behind the learning community is in its name: community. The focus of the space is creating a community for learners and teachers that allows them to come together. It is implemented with two primary attributes in mind: flexibility and variety. The spaces within our Learning Community are flexible enough to allow for different modes of learning to take place simultaneously, while the variety of spaces facilitate different teaching styles.

The flexibility of the spaces, along with YCIS Beijing’s groundbreaking teaching techniques and technology integration, accommodates each child’s different learning style and helps students achieve better academic results.

Through our Learning Communities, we aim to stretch all learners to achieve their potential, to enable them to influence the approaches to learning that work best for them. Through our emphasis on both teacher and student collaboration, we deliver holistic programmes that respond to the social and emotional needs of the students, their individual differences, their innate curiosity and their need to belong.

What role does technology play in your students’ academic and extra-curricular experience?

YCIS Beijing’s motto is 'Align with Technology'. In Primary school classrooms, teachers use interactive whiteboards to engage student learning, allowing for both electronic and physical writing.

Additionally, Apple TVs are present in every classroom section and open area of our Learning Communities, allowing for spontaneous assessment and celebration of student work via direct links with any of the numerous iPads available. Students use this feature to share completed assignments not just with classmates but with parents as well.

Students are encouraged to take photos of their work and upload them to the shared server by scanning any of the QR codes on display around our Learning Communities. Besides providing an effective learning tool, this bridge between home and school encourages parents to take an active role in their children’s education.

How have your pupils performed in examinations in recent years?

The IGCSE and IBDP are both recognised worldwide as two of the most academically rigorous secondary school programmes available, and our students regularly obtain excellent results, ranking above worldwide averages.

In our most recent round of IGCSE examinations, 25% of our students passed with Distinction, the highest possible conferral, while an additional 61% received Merit recognition.

In last year’s round of IBDP, besides maintaining an annual 100% pass rate, 94% of our students scored above the world average, with the class as a whole scoring five points above this average.

Additionally, the number of our graduates who receive bilingual diplomas is testament to the effectiveness of our education model, with an average 50% of graduates receiving bilingual diplomas each year.

How do you support pupils who are struggling, and how do you challenge the more able?

One of the Student Support Services department’s most essential functions is ensuring students receive the learning support they need, either in additional learning resources or with added challenges.

Working with subject teachers, the Student Support Services team carefully reviews, analyses and identifies each pupil’s strengths and challenges to ensure a positive and successful learning experience for the pupils with different learning needs. The team also facilitates solution-focused meetings with parents and teachers to address areas of need and model strategies for use in classrooms. 

For our most capable students, Student Support Services works closely with subject teachers to deepen learning experiences through differentiated classroom activities and assignments. Students are offered opportunities to participate in challenges such as ACAMIS Maths Tournaments and UKMT Junior Competitions. They are also encouraged to explore areas of talent and interest in small groups and as individuals.

How are pupils with English as an additional language requirements supported?

At Primary level, the English as an Additional Language (EAL) Programme provides students with the opportunity to improve their English-language proficiency through small-group classes and support in the mainstream classrooms. Specialist language teachers at each year level work in close partnership with classroom teachers to identify a student’s needs, and to achieve attainable goals appropriate to the student’s current language ability. The length of support time is determined by the progress of the student's language development.

Our Middle School English sections are divided into three levels: EIP (English Intensive Programme), EAL (English as an Additional Language), and ELL (English Language and Literacy). Those levels translate into beginner, intermediate and advanced respectively. EIP changes according to the needs of students and has a higher stress on vocabulary and grammar. It is meant for students with truly almost no background in English.  EAL uses the same curriculum as ELL, but the resources, pace and depth of analysis may be modified due to a lack of language skills.

Both the IGCSE and IBDP offer EAL and ELL programmes, with the IGCSE adding an EIP programme this year.

What extra-curricular activities do you offer?

YCIS Beijing offers a full range of extra-curricular activities in a variety of disciplines, including but not limited to sports (football, basketball, volleyball, swimming, cross-country running, tag rugby, cycling, kickboxing and martial arts), Robotics Club, Model United Nations, STEM Club, senior orchestra, jazz band, Math Club, Jewellery-making Club, Knitting Club, Baking Club, musicals, library, aerobics, art studio, Japanese Club, French Club, Chinese Club, Korean Literature Society and Tai Chi.

What performing arts opportunities do students have?

At YCIS Beijing, we believe that music and performing arts are critical to every child’s learning journey. From the moment they enter our Early Childhood Education Programme and all the way through to Secondary School, a child is offered a myriad of opportunities, ranging from orchestra or violin programmes to school musicals, drama festivals and school band performances.

The YCIS Primary School violin programme is a unique aspect of our curriculum and an important part of our commitment to holistic education. All students from Years 1 to 3 learn how to play the violin. Based on the Suzuki and Kodaly methods of music education, this programme is delivered by experienced violin teachers and teaches students to both play the violin and read music. Each year, our students showcase the learning and the progress they have made in a violin recital for the whole school.

Our School Orchestra gives students the opportunity to play together in an ensemble and to experience music from different times and cultures. This diverse cast of musicians, and selection of instruments, showcases the vast musical talents of our students.

Our Primary School Performing Arts Programme is for all students in Years 4 to 6, where they learn drama and dance to build their confidence and help them to develop important skills that are transferable to all other areas of their schooling.

In Upper Secondary School, students can choose to take IGCSE Music and Drama or IB Music or Theatre. These programmes allow for a deeper engagement in the performing arts by offering students a pathway to pursue their passion for either subject if they wish to engage with the performing arts on a professional level.

Throughout Secondary School, students enjoy numerous opportunities to take part in music, drama and dance classes as well as yearly large-scale performances. Drama in our Lower Secondary School Programme focuses on the three competencies of the Drama Curriculum of England: Performing, Devising and Understanding. In this way, all Lower Secondary students not only learn about drama skills and drama as an art form but also improve their presentation skills, benefitting them in any future profession.

What musical instruments can children learn at your school?

Beyond traditional instruments that children can pursue through school orchestra, jazz band and other ensembles, YCIS Beijing offers the In-school Individual Instrumental Programme (IIIP), where select music teachers provide instruction on a wide range of instruments.

Do you offer parent workshops?

At YCIS Beijing we offer 'Active Parenting' courses, which are a popular and pioneering parenting-education programme open to the public. These courses, which run for six weeks for two hours each session, utilise discussion, video scenarios and interactive activities to help parents improve their parenting skills. We offer two types of courses in Active Parenting: 'Active Parenting Now', for parents with children ages 5 to 12 years old, and 'Active Parenting of Teens', for parents of 13 to 18 year-olds.

Additionally, we present a variety of one-time workshops on topics such as parenting styles, communication, effective discipline, third-culture kids, cultural transitions, international moves and more. We frequently partner with international hospitals, clinics, health professionals and other groups to provide expert opinions on specific issues. 

Do you offer field trips?

YCIS Beijing offers a wide range of field trips across all year levels in and around Beijing. Some trips will be in support of China Study topics related to Chinese culture, while others will be in support of the Topic Inquiry unit the children are studying at the time.

Visits to cultural sites and centres, museums and other places of interest all take place throughout the year at no additional cost. Residential trips are also provided – for example, Year 5 and 6 students recently went on a three-day camping trip to the Northern Hills to complement their leadership and outdoor-activity skills.

Secondary students also have a wealth of opportunities to experience the world outside the classroom. The school’s 'Experiencing China' programme is an exciting opportunity for Secondary students to gain insights into Chinese culture and history by visiting various regions throughout China. These trips help to broaden students' understanding of their host country and lead to increased cultural respect, while also helping them develop a sense of purpose and perspective in their own lives. These real language and cultural experiences are essential in helping students apply and reinforce their well-rounded education and the Chinese-language lessons they attend every day.

The 'World Classroom' programme is an extension of the experiential, project-based learning at the core of the YCIS Beijing educational model. This programme allows students to experience major cultures of the world, including European, African, Middle Eastern, Pacific and Anglo-American. Through first-hand cross-cultural experiences, the programme increases students’ awareness and understanding of other cultures, promotes critical thinking, and helps them develop an appreciation of other viewpoints.

The programme ultimately helps prepare our students for an evolving modern world by nurturing their cross-cultural knowledge and skills, international-mindedness and attitudes on their path to becoming true global citizens, with a commitment to serving family, the community and society.

How can you ensure continuity if my child moves between countries?

YCIS Beijing offers a truly international curriculum. As a school licenced to enrol foreign nationals, we are free to develop our own programmes and to ensure that they fit appropriately with our bi-lingual framework.  

The British National Curriculum is used as a guide up to and including Year 8, and has been adapted to meet our own goals and standards. In Years 9 to 11, students undertake a programme which guides them to achieve IGCSE certification, an internationally recognised qualification, highly regarded throughout the world.

During their final two years at YCIS Beijing, our Year 12 and 13 students complete the IBDP and are thus extremely well prepared for tertiary study throughout the world, as evidenced by the fact that our students gain access to universities in the USA, Britain, Canada, Hong Kong, Korea, Australia and many other countries.

Parents can be confident that we understand, and often draw from a variety of international curricula. Our students are appropriately prepared for movement from school to school as is often required for those spending a limited number of years living and working in Beijing.

What is your approach to languages in the school?

Within each Kindergarten and Primary-school classroom, two fully qualified Co-Teachers, one Western and one Chinese, plan and work together to help students develop English and Chinese communication skills in a bicultural and fully immersive bilingual environment.

Students learn to read, write and speak fluent Mandarin Chinese through curricula tailored for both native and non-native speakers. The Chinese Language and Culture Programme runs from Kindergarten all the way through to graduation, helping students to attain a strong command of the Chinese language after two to three years.

While Mandarin-English bilingual acquisition is the primary focus at YCIS Beijing, students may also elect to pursue other language studies as extra-curricular clubs or activities.

How are your students involved in the community?

YCIS Beijing students are encouraged to take part in a wide range of charity and social-service programmes as they learn to become committed global citizens.

The school has established close ties with local charities in Beijing that support less-privileged rural children or those that live with disasters or sicknesses. The school community, including staff and parents, join hands in raising funds and taking part in event co-ordination. The school also makes frequent visits to migrant schools, hospitals, concerned communities and other locales that require charity work.

As part of the IB curriculum, all students in the Secondary Section participate in the Creativity, Action, and Service (CAS) programme which is designed to raise students' awareness of the needs of their local and global communities.

Student charity initiatives are enacted through the Seeds of Hope Foundation. Originally founded as an initiative to create Hope Schools in impoverished areas throughout China, aimed at providing disenfranchised students with greater educational opportunity, the Seeds of Hope is the charitable umbrella through which YCIS Beijing, and indeed all Yew Chung International Schools across the world, pursue their philanthropic endeavours. The Seeds of Hope also works closely with local Beijing charities, including the New Day Foster Home and Roundabout, to supplement the fundraising efforts of the greater YCIS Beijing community.

Do you have a ‘House’ system?

YCIS Beijing has a House System running across the whole school from Primary through to Secondary. Students are split evenly between the five Houses: Phoenix, Dragons, Tigers, Monkeys and Mustangs. House points are collected for academic achievement and effort, as well as for services or participation in competitive events. For instance, in Secondary School, House points are awarded to winning individuals and/or teams in events such as the Chinese Vocabulary competition, the inter-House Tug-of-War competition, the LipSync Battle and for participation in the Film Festival.

There is a student House Leader in charge of each House who works with the Student Council to instil a competitive House spirit into all events. The House System imbues a sense of camaraderie between members of the same House.

All images courtesy of YCIS Beijing. 

To view the Winter's profile for YCIS Beijing, please go to this link.

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