Program Overview

Figure 1: IBPYP Curriculum Model

International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme

Due to its philosophy and pedagogy, the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (IB PYP) is an excellent vehicle for putting WAB’s mission, philosophy, and core values into practice.

Like WAB, the PYP places learning at the center. Our emphasis is on helping students develop physically, intellectually, emotionally, and ethically. Preparing students for success in school, as well as in the world beyond school, empowers them to become independent, life-long learners. 


Life-long learners need to be knowledgeable, and the PYP helps students connect to concepts and knowledge that have global significance through the six transdisciplinary themes. These themes guide teachers in the design of Units of Inquiry that will help students understand:

• Who we are
• Where we are in place and time
• How we express ourselves
• How the world works
• How we organize ourselves 
• Sharing the planet
The use of the transdisciplinary themes to organize curriculum means that the connections that learners naturally make between and within subjects are emphasized. Students in the Early Childhood Center (ECC) and Junior Grade 1 study Units of Inquiry in four of these six themes each year, while students from Senior Grade 1 to Grade 5 study one unit of inquiry under each of these themes. The fact that students revisit these themes each year allows them to make connections between their learning from one year to the next.
Units of Inquiry are developed by teaching teams to be engaging, relevant, challenging, and significant. The school identifies the core knowledge, concepts, approaches to learning, and learner profile attributes that will be developed throughout the unit, as well as anticipating actions that the students may take. Although the learning goals for each unit do not vary from class to class, the teachers connect to students’ interests to guide them in how best to reach these goals with their group of students. Students truly have agency and are partners in the learning, as this is what makes the units relevant and engaging.  


All Units of Inquiry are designed to be:

  • Engaging (of interest to the students and involving them actively in their learning).
  • Relevant (linked to the students’ experience and circumstances, as well as having relevance in the world beyond school).
  •  Challenging (extending prior knowledge and experiences to increase understanding).
  •  Significant (contributing to an understanding of the commonality of human experiences). 

It is our hope that through creating units that meet these criteria, students will be inspired to learn and extend their learning beyond school.


The PYP is highly regarded, as it requires that students are literate in the traditional sense and also in the languages of mathematics and the arts. These literacies prepare students to rise to the challenge of participating in the critical thinking that the program demands. The subject areas therefore retain an important place at WAB.

All Units of Inquiry are supported and balanced by the six PYP subject areas. Science and social studies content (as well as many outcomes from the other subject areas) are covered through the transdisciplinary Units of Inquiry. 


At the same time, students may also be engaged in disciplinary Units of Inquiry, or inquiries into the big ideas of languages, mathematics, the arts, and physical education.

All Elementary School students at WAB study all six PYP subject areas: Language; Mathematics; Personal, Social and Physical Education; the Arts (Visual and Performing); Science, and Social Studies.

The Western Academy of Beijing is committed to offering a challenging curriculum with a clearly articulated progression of understanding, knowledge, and skills that will empower students to transition seamlessly from one grade to the next and one school section to the next. As such, we have developed Standards and Benchmarks in all of the subject areas that outline our intended learning from Early Years to Grade 12. These Standards and Benchmarks documents connect all three IB Programmes together and can be referenced and downloaded through


The language of instruction at WAB is English. Language, as the vehicle for thinking, is fundamental to all learning. By acquiring language, as well as learning about and through language, we nurture an appreciation of the richness of language and a love of literature. There are four strands of the language curriculum: 

  • Engaging (of interest to the students and involving them actively in their learning).
  • Relevant (linked to the students’ experience and circumstances, as well as having relevance in the world beyond school).
  •  Challenging (extending prior knowledge and experiences to increase understanding).
  •  Significant (contributing to an understanding of the commonality of human experiences). 

The Elementary School Chinese language program is dedicated to improving students’ ability to communicate in Chinese. Early Years students are exposed to Chinese language and culture through integrations with their units of study. Students in Junior Grade 1 through Grade 5 receive 200 minutes of Chinese instruction per week and are grouped according to their proficiency level. Classes are differentiated to ensure that everyone is given the challenge necessary to further their learning. As much as possible, the learning in Chinese classes supports the learning in the homerooms’ Unit of Inquiry.


Mathematics is viewed as a way of thinking and a language for understanding the world. To study mathematics is to inquire into this language and to learn to think in this way. There are five strands in the mathematics curriculum which are interwoven through Units of Inquiry, and stand-alone units of work.

  • Number
  • Measurement
  • Data handling
  • Shape and space
  • Pattern and function

Personal, Social and Physical Education (PSPE)

The PSPE curriculum incorporates both physical education (PE), addressed mainly by our specialist PE teachers, and Personal and Social Education (PSE) addressed by all teachers in all subject areas. This subject area includes three strands:

  • Active living
  • Interactions
  • Identity

Physical Education 

Through Physical Education (PE), students learn the ‘language’ of physical movement and explore the skills associated with different strands of PE. They learn to understand what they can and cannot do physically and become aware of their own strengths and weaknesses in this regard. Physical activity is an essential aspect of a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle and learning through PSPE helps to build self-esteem, confidence, cooperation, and fitness. Learning in PE will include:

  • Individual pursuits
  • Movement
  • composition 
  • Games
  • Adventure challenges
  • Health-related fitness

Personal and Social Education 

Personal and Social Education (PSE) provides the models, processes, and values for handling social and personal issues and ensuring health and well-being. Through PSE, students will develop their self-identity, use appropriate social skills when interacting with others in a range of situations, and learn to communicate and manage their feelings, emotions, and opinions. Students develop aspects of PSE continually, through all subjects and at their own pace. PSE is also fostered through our morning meetings and via our dedicated social-emotional learning coach who works across all Elementary School teams.

The Arts: Visual Arts & Performing Arts

The Arts include the development of creative skills, verbal and non-verbal expression, an awareness of the perspectives of others and aesthetic appreciation. The Arts enable students to develop and communicate their understandings in powerful ways that go beyond their spoken language ability. 

The strands in the Arts curriculum are:

  • Creating
  • Responding


Science provides opportunities for students to engage in scientific investigations by making accurate observations, handling tools, recording and comparing data, and formulating explanations using their own scientific experiences and those of others. Students gain experience in testing their own assumptions and thinking critically about the perspectives of others in order to further develop their own ideas. 

There are four strands in the Science curriculum that are explored through the Units of Inquiry:

  • Living things
  • Earth and space
  • Materials and matter 
  • Forces and energy

Humanities (Social Studies)

Humanities provides opportunities for students to look at and think about human behavior realistically, objectively, and with sensitivity. It aims to guide students toward a deeper understanding of themselves and others, and of their place in an increasingly global society.

There are five strands in our Humanities curriculum that are explored through the Units of Inquiry:

  • Human systems and economic activities
  • Social organization and culture
  • Continuity and change through time
  • Human and natural environments
  • Resources and the environment

Make A Difference: Student Action, Service, and Leadership

At WAB, we promote the education of the whole person, emphasizing intellectual, personal, emotional, and social growth through all domains of knowledge.  

Through our International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (IB PYP), we believe that education must extend beyond the intellectual to include not only socially responsible attitudes but also thoughtful and appropriate action initiated by students. This self-initiated action can also involve service or lead to service. In helping to educate our students to take responsibility for shaping a better world, we recognize that skills in both leadership and teamwork are vital.

WAB’s challenging, holistic education fosters academic achievement, student-initiated action, service to others, and the development of leadership and team-building skills.

Action, service, and leadership development are significant parts of what we do at WAB.


At the heart of the PYP philosophy is a commitment to structured inquiry as the leading vehicle for learning.

Successful inquiry may lead to action initiated by the student as a result of the learning process. This action may extend the student’s own learning, the learning of others, or it may have a wider social impact.

Effective action begins at the most immediate and basic level: with the self; within the family; within the classroom, the hallways and the playground. Even very young children can have strong feelings about fairness and justice, and teachers can facilitate positive expressions of these opinions. Effective action can be a demonstration of a sense of responsibility and respect for self, others, and the environment. 

At WAB, it is intended that the student taking action will grow from the experience, and that the process of taking action, or not, will contribute to each student establishing a set of values. 

Some examples of student self-initiated action at WAB include:

  • Designing and creating MBots in our ES Makerspace
  • Developing and producing a cafe for parents, students, and teachers
  • Coding and constructing games via applications such as Scratch
  • Creating organic essential oils for sale with proceeds supporting endangered animals
  • Developing recipes for lavender soap production to be included in WAB’s Tiger Den shop
  • Raising money for hurricane relief funds 

Through taking action within the curriculum, students begin to develop the awareness that inspires them to take part in some type of service to others or the environment. Students’ self-initiated actions can be preparation for service, and action is an essential element of service.


Service is an action, but action does not have to be a service. The action component of the PYP can involve service in the widest sense of the word: service to fellow students, and to the larger community, both inside and outside the school. Through such service, students are able to grow both personally and socially, developing skills such as cooperation, problem solving, conflict resolution, and creative and critical thinking. Moreover, these service actions are ways in which the students demonstrate the attributes of the Learner Profile and the attitudes that we seek to engender within the PYP classroom. Service can create a community of thinkers. 

Some examples of service at WAB include:

  • Partnering and volunteering with local pet shops to take care of animals
  • Organizing daily recycling program for a local food vendor
  • Grade 4 Sports Day mentoring programs with Early Years
  • Planting trees in the local community 
  • Hosting After-school Activities (ASA) for younger students


In helping to educate our students to be individuals who are willing to take responsibility for making a difference in the world, we recognize that skills in both leadership and teamwork are vital. From the youngest students to the oldest, every child has age-appropriate opportunities to explore and develop these skills.

The Elementary School’s student leadership mission is:

“Empowering our students by providing opportunities for them to contribute to the school and our community.”

The purpose of student leadership in our school is to provide opportunities for Elementary students to contribute to the WAB community, and to be active stakeholders in their school. This goal is achieved through a variety of programs and activities including:

  • Student Council: Students are elected to represent their class on the Student Council. Student Council provides a student voice on issues raised by students and also serves as an organizational body where students plan and organize a range of activities and events. There is a United Student Council that meets as an ASA.
  • Classes meet regularly to discuss both class and wider issues. It is from and through these meetings that information is communicated between the student body and staff via the Student Council.
  • ASA Leaders and Helpers: ASA Leaders and Helpers provides an opportunity for students withparticularskillsin an area of interest to share their talents as an organizer or supporter of an After-school Activity. ASA leaders have a teacher mentor to assist with organization and supervision.

Assessment and Reporting

The prime objective of assessing student learning and performance is to make a difference to subsequent learning. Assessment at WAB is designed to give feedback to:
  • Students: to encourage the start of life-long learning.
  • Teachers: to support their reflection on what to teach and how to teach it.
  • Parents: to highlight their child’s learning and development.

Teachers assess students by selecting or designing methods of assessment appropriate to the learning outcomes they intend to capture. Teachers also take into account the diverse, complicated, and sophisticated ways that individual students use to develop and demonstrate their understanding.

Continuous assessment provides insights into students’ understanding, knowledge, skills, and attitudes. It is also a means of exploring the learning styles and individual differences of the students in order to differentiate instruction. Feedback from assessment allows for the improvement of the overall program.

Teachers employ a range of assessment strategies and tools when they are assessing students. Some strategies include observations, performance tasks, tests, and open-ended tasks. When they are employing these strategies, they use anecdotal records, rubrics, checklists, and continuums to record their findings. These tools may be used during formative and summative assessments, self-assessments, and peer assessments.

Reporting Cycle

WAB believes that for effective learning to occur, students should be partners in the assessment and evaluation of their progress. 

Reporting on student progress takes place continually as part of the teaching and learning process. Teachers work with students, as an integrated part of their teaching, to evaluate successes and plan new goals. 

In addition to providing regular, valuable feedback to students, the schedule of reports as follows ensures that parents remain informed about student progress and achievement. Teachers also contact parents by email or phone to report on student achievement or to inform parents of concerns or changes in student progress. 

The Elementary School encourages discussions about learning to occur with the teacher, student, and parent together. However, parents are welcome to make an appointment to discuss their child’s learning with the teacher at any time during the year. Parents are asked to make a prior arrangement to meet with a teacher in order to allow teachers to focus on teaching and planning during the school day. In addition to individual meetings requested by parents and teachers, the following are scheduled reporting times held during the year: 

October: Parent-Teacher Conferences for students in Early Years-G2; Parent-Student-Teacher Conferences (PSTCs) for students in Grades 3-5 

These conferences give the parent and teacher an opportunity to reflect on how the student has begun the academic year. A review of the academic, social, emotional, and behavioral progress will be discussed. 

January: Student Progress Report
In January, the Student Progress Report includes a description of the learning covered during that part of the year in each subject, a summary of overall achievement against the school curriculum, and individual comments.

February: Parent-Student-Teacher Conferences
These conference sessions allow for the opportunity for parents, teachers, and students to jointly discuss the academic, social, emotional, and behavioral progress of students during the first semester of school.

April/May: Student-led Conference Day (SLC)
A Student-led Conference (SLC) is recognized as a powerful learning event that highlights the essential partnership between students, parents, and teachers. Students explain and share what they have learned, how they learned it, and what they need to learn next. As a student, this requires a high level of knowledge, skill, and understanding about their own learning. 

On Student-led Conference Day, students guide their parents through examples of their learning in all subject areas. Student-led Conference Day allows parents to see a slice of the everyday program at WAB in a way that written communication alone cannot. Feedback from parents who have attended SLC Days has been very positive, and the school highly recommends that parents make themselves available for a full day. On Student-led Conference Day, parents and students arrive together at the scheduled time, participate in activities, and depart together. 

June: Student Progress Report
The Student Progress Report issued in June follows the same format as the January Student Progress Report. 

Each year, students in the Elementary School will each have a digital student portfolio of their work. The collection of work samples in a digital portfolio shows a student’s understanding and application of the curriculum, including their development of the skills of learning and the attributes of the IB Learner Profile. Throughout the process of digital portfolio compilation, students are encouraged to focus and reflect on their learning, recognize the progress they have made, and set achievable goals. The portfolios are also used during Student-led Conference Day where parents are invited to celebrate, appreciate, and understand their child’s learning and the learning processes their child uses.

Information and Digital Literacy

All teaching and learning in the PYP is underpinned by inquiry. To enhance both teaching and learning, WAB provides multimedia resources, technology tools, and services. WAB provides excellent opportunities for students to explore digital literacy skills and digital tools using a transdisciplinary curriculum framework. From the crafting of words into a work of art using word processing skills to filming problem-solving skills in a physical education class, technology used for the right purpose enhances learning and achievement. The transdisciplinary approach of the PYP challenges students and teachers to go beyond the obvious appeal of technology to actively exploring and developing digital literacy skills and tools for high-level thinking, research, communication, socialization, and self-management. 

In an age where managing information and knowledge is as crucial as acquiring them, WAB is committed to developing in students the essential information and digital literacy skills that will allow them to be effective life-long learners in the digital age. 

To support this vision, WAB has strategically created a wealth of technology services, resources, and tools. All students have access to classroom, grade-level, and public resources including computers, ipads, digital cameras, video equipment, scanners, and copier/print services and current software applications. 

Educational Technology facilitators support the flexibility of this model by attending the homeroom and providing in-class sessions or opportunities within a specialist classroom setting. Based on the learning needs and tasks, small or large group teaching options are used.

Library Services

The Sabina Brady Library supports the information and recreational reading needs of the Elementary School community.

The six guiding principles of the library are:

  • Information Literacy: to develop students’ skills in finding and using information independently.
  • Reading: to develop confidence and enjoyment of literature.
  • Access: to access information within and beyond the school.
  • Service: to ensure that library users are supported and welcome.
  • Information Resources: to provide a wide variety of information resources including extensive use of digital media.
  • Environment: to offer a stimulating and comfortable environment to be shared by the WAB community.

The Sabina Brady Library, one of three libraries school-wide, offers an extensive collection of more than 80,000 resources: digital equipment, books, posters, DVDs, audio books, e-books, magazines, and online databases. In keeping with WAB’s belief that the library is central to the development of information literacy, our library boasts a team of dedicated staff committed to helping enrich the teaching and learning opportunities. 

Mother Tongue Collection

The Chinese collection has books for children and adults and continues to grow. There are small mother tongue collections in French, Spanish, Korean, Finnish, Dutch, German, Italian, Japanese, Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish in varying stages of development. These are managed by parents from the various mother tongues.

Library Hours

Monday to Friday 8:00am – 5:00pm


Parents are welcome to join the library and borrow up to 10 items. Library staff will help you sign up as a patron. A parent paperback ‘swap’ collection is available, and donations are always appreciated. You are free to take any of these novels for your recreational reading. Parents also have access to a ‘parenting’ section – where relevant resources on a huge variety of parenting and child development issues are available for borrowing.


Thousands of books are borrowed and returned each week. Please help your child be a responsible borrower, encouraging him/her to keep books in a set place at home and return them on time.  

An automated ‘overdue’ email is sent weekly to all patrons. Parents from EY-Grade 2 will receive these emails so you know which books your child has. Grade 3–5 students will receive personal emails. Please contact library staff to discuss matters arising from overdue notices, rather than continually receiving the reminder. Should a resource become lost, a replacement cost will be charged. If the resource is found, money will be refunded. At the end of the school year all borrowed items must be returned for stock-taking purposes.

Length of loan = 14 days

  • Early Years and JG1: 2 books
  • Grades SG1–3: 3 books
  • Grades 4–5: 4 books
  • Parents: 10 books

Library Bags

Only new students in Early Years-Grade 1 will receive a red library bag. Continuing students are asked to reuse their red library bag from the previous year. Children are asked to use this bag to protect and store their books. They will bring their bag to the library each week during the borrowing period. Should a library bag become lost, replacements are available for purchase in the Parent Link shop in the Elementary School.

Parent Link Friends of the Library

Helping students learn to read and love reading is a team effort. Library staff and the Teacher-librarian welcome contact from parents and are keen to support reading needs and extensive use of the library by the WAB community. Parents are also encouraged to become active supporters of the Friends of Library’s initiatives throughout the year. Information about this is also available on the library blog.

Online Access

Borrowers can access the school library catalogue and resources by going to the Sabrina Brady Library page at the WAB Learns website. A large range of online databases for magazines, research, and current information is also available.

China Engagement

As part of WAB’s core value of China-Global Coherence, the school is committed to providing opportunities for students to engage with their host country, China, in an authentic and meaningful way.

Interactions with members of the Chinese community within WAB, in the neighborhood, and in Beijing form an integral part of the Elementary School curriculum. They provide genuine opportunities for students to develop and use Chinese language for real purposes while learning more about Chinese culture and society. All students learn more about Chinese traditional festivals through a variety of activities. China is considered a key platform for learning, as developing understandings in this particular context enables students to deepen understandings of globally significant themes. Real-life investigations and experiences that cannot be replicated in the classroom are integral to our China Engagement.

Field trips and in-school visits are woven through transdisciplinary and single-subject Units of Inquiry with an emphasis on students developing connections to people and issues in a richer and more meaningful way than they might do as tourists. This may take the form of service where the focus is on genuine service developed through collaboration with local groups and individuals. These opportunities are planned to be developmentally appropriate and also to be responsive to the needs identified through students’ inquiries. As such they will change from year to year.

In additional to day trips around Beijing and on-campus China Engagement workshops to support authentic experiential teaching and learning at WAB ES, our Grade 5 students have their annual China Studies Residential Field Trips in Guandi Village at the foot of the Great Wall in Huairou, Beijing. The main aims of the trip are to broaden the students’ experience of China and to improve the students’ understanding and awareness of Chinese culture, geography, and history; and to enhance the school curriculum, in particular our Units of Inquiry, by providing opportunities to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a real situation.

As part of their studies, students inquire into the school’s local neighborhood. Through their inquiries students identify ways in which they can work with local Chinese communities and organizations to deal with the real-life issues affecting them. In collaboration with these local groups, the students form teams and plan positive action that strengthen the community. In doing so, students’ connections to the community, of which they are a part, are strengthened.