Western Academy of Beijing (WAB): key questions answered

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

Image: courtesy of Western Academy of Beijing
As part of our feature International schools in Beijing: key questions answered, we put key questions from parents and students to Western Academy of Beijing (WAB). 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 are a fully accredited International Baccalaureate World School, offering the IB, Primary Years and Middle Years Programmes from Nursery through Grade 12. We also offer a WAB High School Diploma. WAB has a strong mission and philosophy to encourage our students to connect, challenge, inspire and make a difference in their local communities, as well as globally. We offer a unique variety of options for students seeking an IB Diploma, including dance, film, arts and environmental studies. WAB has a cutting edge IT programme and is recognised as an Apple Distinguished School. We offer a one-to-one laptop programme for students in Elementary through High School and have technology specialists in each school section, dedicated to teaching students how to integrate various technological resources into their education and work.


The WAB Curriculum is supported by unique and outstanding programs, including China Context, Education Technology, Mother Tongue Language Programs, WAB Wild Outdoor Education, Global Citizenship and Service Activities, as well as WABX Athletics and Activities. We seek to develop our students into contributing, engaged citizens in an increasingly global community.


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

We are an independent non-profit international school belonging to the WAB Foundation (under establishment) and overseen by an all-volunteer Board of Trustees made up of parents and Founder Michael Crook. The Board of Trustees is comprised of members appointed by the WAB Foundation, the WAB Board itself and elected by the school's parent association, Parent Link. WAB is managed by the school’s Director, Courtney Lowe. The Director, Director of Finance and Finance Manager create the annual school budget, which is approved by the Board of Trustees.


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

Our tuition includes bus transportation, after-school activities, PE kits, and all required textbooks and school supplies, including in-school use of computers, iPads and other technological learning tools. Tuition also covers a number of off-campus school activities, such as trips to outdoor education campuses and field trips. Elementary School students are provided with laptops. Middle School and High School students must purchase their own laptops and calculators. Students can purchase food and drinks throughout the campus, using their SmartCard.


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

We are proud of our diverse community - with students, faculty and staff coming from more than 50 countries all over the world. No more than 20 percent of any given nationality is represented in the student population. Our faculty is made up of teachers and administrators from more than 20 countries, with the majority coming from Canada, the UK, the USA and Australia. WAB seeks to offer educational opportunities to all eligible students who identify with the school’s mission, and to maintain a co-educational school with a diverse student population representing a range of nationalities, languages, economic and cultural background and abilities.


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

Our school stands out among international schools in terms of the number of teaching assistants supporting the learning experience. We have a 1:8 teacher to student ratio school-wide. All classrooms in the Elementary schools have teaching assistants. In the Middle and High Schools, departments have a teaching aide who specialises in the subject. We also have specialist teachers that assist students with English support, learning support and an enrichment programme on a one-on-one basis as well as in small, specialised groups.


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

WABX is a department dedicated exclusively and entirely to athletics, activities and arts at WAB. They engage with students on an extracurricular level, and support learning outside the classroom. Individual students bring different qualities to the school, and for this reason, the activities programmes on offer are always evolving. Activities are offered as a series of programs and events– before school, lunchtime, after school, evenings, weekends and vacations. In any given year, WABX offers more than 300 club, language and service options, over 100 sporting options, and also helps to organise trips abroad. After-school activities are covered in the tuition fees with the exception of private music lessons. Our after school activities are taught by both our teachers and external teachers.


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

English is the language of instruction. As part of WAB’s dedication to engaging its students in our host country, Chinese is introduced in the Early Years programme and is offered throughout all grade levels. Students have the option to study French, Spanish or Chinese. In the Elementary School, Dutch language is also offered as curricula option. We have an After-School Language Program for students who desire to continue their studies at lunch or after class. We also partner with our community to offer Mother Tongue Language Programs in French, German, Danish, Finnish and Dutch on weekdays and weekends. Specialised instruction is also available for students who wish to pursue their study individually.


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

Aramark is our food provider, and students have the option of buying lunches or bringing their own. Lunch costs 20-30 RMB. WAB Food Services provide a wide range of healthy and tasty international cuisine from various outlets within the school. Menus can be viewed online at http://education.aramark.cn/


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

Air quality is an important issue for our community, and WAB supports its own on-campus air-quality meter that is the same as the one used at the US Embassy. We publish our updated reading every 15 minutes online. We have large air-filtration systems installed in all school sections and air purifiers in all classrooms. WAB recently constructed the Tiger L’Air dome, as a highly functional alternative place for students to play, practice and compete. Activities for Elementary and Middle School students are moved inside when levels reach about 250. The limit for outdoor activities for High School students is 300.


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

There are two end-of-semester reports and two mid-semester reports, for a total of four. Parents can access reports online via PowerSchool, our student information system. We also hold Parent-Student-Teacher Conferences twice a year, where students lead conversations between teachers and parents about their own progress. Each school section also hosts regular Coffee Mornings, where parents are invited to learn about topics related to curriculum, technology and student activities.



Questions from students


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

The three words we would use to describe WAB are: Inclusive – WAB students are well-known for supporting each other in activities, competitions and performances during and after school hours. Student groups make deliberate efforts to include and welcome new members. Warm – People often smile at each other and it is not uncommon to see students welcoming prospective families and students during the visits. The campus is colourful and comfortable, which brings a livelihood and excitement to the student environment. Passionate – WAB students exude a constant vibe of dedication, creativity and hard work in their day-to-day lives at school. That momentum carries over to after-school and out-of-school activities and becomes a defining characteristic of all so-called 'WABbies'.


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

Teachers strive to connect with their students and provide assistance in any way possible. Faculty and admin staff members are extremely supportive of the students and student councils in each school section, helping with individual projects, as well as facilitating the execution of impactful student-led initiatives. Counsellors make themselves available to students at all times and for any reason, whether academic, social or emotional.


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

Students have the opportunity to pursue any initiative they please, with the support of faculty. Student-created initiatives, such as the group 60-Plus, have received national awards for its service to the elderly in just a few years since its conception. WAB students also earned scholarship money from China’s top universities after a self-started water cleanup project earned the support of well-known Chinese academics and local officials. WAB has dozens if not hundreds of opportunities for students to participate in clubs, most of which are organised and directed by students.


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

Students are not required to wear a uniform and are encouraged to express themselves in the way that they dress. There is a school dress code, which students are expected to follow.


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

We have a Student Ambassador Program in both the Middle School and High School who welcome new students and help with the transition. In the Elementary School, students have a buddy system, so that they can start school with a friend. Since we are an international and diverse student body, we often ask the help of our students who come from a certain country or type of curriculum.


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

We are well known for its full calendar of fun, welcoming and diverse events each year. Friends and neighbours of WAB are invited to the annual WAB Community Picnic, the weekend-long student music festival WAB Rocks, the popular and engaging Winter Charity Bazaar, and the informative and inspiring Distinguished Speaker Series. Students in the high school enjoy the Global Issues Conference, where students explore current challenges facing the globe and discuss solutions with industry experts. At the Career Fair, dozens of working professionals come to talk to students about their career choices. WABX to the MAX is held twice annually, and is part of a much larger number of sports tournaments and arts festivals hosted on campus.


In Elementary School, the Olympic Dream Series is a fun way for students to stay healthy, get fit, earn rewards and discover new passions as they practise and compete in a variety of sports during lunch times. WAB offers abundant opportunities for ES students to participate in music, dance, drama and other arts traditions throughout the school year. Students of all ages enjoy their WAB Wild trips to our outdoor education centres, where they learn team building, leadership and survival skills in the outdoors.


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