Nurturing Lifelong Learners: ISB's Holistic Approach to Education


At the International School of Beijing (ISB), our education merges traditional best practices with modern research findings, fostering a holistic approach to learning that prepares students for a rapidly evolving world. It is through this unique, research-driven, and intentional approach to learning and teaching that we shape the minds and futures of our students.


ISB's Educational Philosophy

ISB’s curriculum, informed by a blend of various global standards, epitomizes the best of holistic education, longstanding educational practices backed up by clear evidence, and the newest and most relevant advances in teaching and learning. By not limiting ourselves to one set standard of curriculum, our students receive an adaptable education that delivers a solid foundational knowledge base and essential lifelong learning skills they will carry with them throughout their lives.

“We align our curriculum with many different standards and make sure our education is based on solid standards from around the world, but not so in lockstep that it dictates everything we do. We do this so that if our students are moving around the world we can ensure that they're going to have a strong foundation to land on, so that when and if they move on from ISB they'll be able to tap into and transition in other systems smoothly,” says Carolyn Michael, Director of Learning at ISB. 

By starting with the end goal in mind, backwards mapping from the desired knowledge and experiences to create a learning journey that is impactful, deep, and adaptable, this approach ensures that students receive an education that is relevant, future-focused, and deeply rooted in essential knowledge and skills. It’s this blend of flexibility and standardization that prepares students for diverse future paths. 

“We truly believe having a solid academic foundation is the best way to be prepared for the challenges of the future. We're trying to make sure that across all of the amazing learning experiences kids are doing, they're not just walking away with the critical thinking skills. Those are hugely important, but also with this really solid base of both a set of knowledge and a set of skills, and then also the ability to learn new things and the desire to learn new things,” adds Carolyn. 

Research-Driven to Deliver World-Class Results

At the core of ISB’s educational strategy is our commitment to educational research, which shapes our evolving curriculum and teaching practices. The alignment of instructional practices, learning experiences, and assessments brings clarity to learning goals, ensuring a comprehensive educational journey. This method ensures that students are not only meeting high academic standards but are also engaging in learning that is meaningful and relevant to the real world.

By paying attention to new research, ISB adopts relevant methodologies to ensure our students' experiences are not simply following the newest trend or fads, but are research-driven and backed up by evidence. 

“A lot of the research that we're using in our curriculum and pedagogy are things we’ve known as educators for the last 20 years, but they're becoming much more known in educational circles. We keep our eye on the research that's standing the test of time, and also what researchers are learning now that can help us do better for our students,” says Carolyn.

“We look to cognitive science and literacy researchers and research into culture in the classroom to understand what researchers are telling us and how we can use it in practice. We're trying to make sure that the things we do build on that science.” 


Community-Centered Learning Environment

At ISB, the concept of a student-centered learning environment is evolving. Moving beyond the traditional idea of personalized learning, ISB instead focuses on building a community of learners where collaboration and collective experiences are valued alongside individual learning paths. This approach ensures that students engage in meaningful learning experiences, fostering both independence and a strong sense of community from a group that consists of students from all over the world with varying life experiences. 

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“We’re all about building a community of learners where everyone's getting what they need and students are doing that deep thinking both independently and together. Coming together as a community of learners really matters,” says Carolyn. 

This approach cultivates a supportive and inclusive atmosphere where students learn to value and respect diverse perspectives. While ISB tailors learning experiences to meet individual student needs, we simultaneously emphasize the collective experiences that unite our students. 

The community-centered approach at ISB has a profound impact on students’ development. It not only nurtures academic skills but also enhances social and emotional learning. Students learn to collaborate, communicate effectively, and develop empathy and understanding for others. This prepares them not just academically, but as well-rounded individuals ready to contribute positively to society.


Challenging and Joyful Learning

ISB believes that learning is most impactful when it is both challenging and joyful. This philosophy is ingrained in every aspect of the school's educational approach, from classroom discussions to extracurricular activities. ISB's holistic approach to learning sees challenge as an integral part of joy in education, supporting students as they engage with complex ideas and explore their passions.

“Being challenged is in itself a really joyful experience, especially when you're being supported to take on that challenge. Our hope is that students are having a great time laughing and doing things that are silly or fun or just socially enjoyable in their classes, but that also part of the joy is coming from the work and from their learning experiences,” says Carolyn. 

The philosophy of challenging and joyful learning is central to ISB’s approach, ensuring learning experiences are balanced between academically rigorous but also enriching and enjoyable, fostering a lifelong love of learning. 

Find Your Dragon Spirit at ISB

Explore ISB's approach to education that makes learning both challenging and joyful. Join us and discover your child’s Dragon Spirit within.

ISB is an extraordinary school, made so by a tradition of educational excellence spanning 40 years. Establishing, nurturing, and growing such an exceptional learning community has been and remains intentional; we work hard to build strong relationships so our learning is at its best.

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