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Why is a diverse student body so important?

How our international school responds to the diverse learning styles and needs of students

“We will take your children with typical development, intellectual, and cognitive abilities, but not your child with a significant disability.”

This is the heart-breaking sentiment heard by too many families when searching for an international school in which to enroll all of their children. Want to learn about the characteristics of an international school? Click here.

With our student support services, we intend to mend what our Director of Student Support Services, Danette Sack, calls perpetual school trauma.

Here at ISB, we are committed to maintaining an inclusive school environment where diversity in students enriches and strengthens our whole school community.

Our campus is diverse and inclusive in many ways and what Ms. Sack wants to reinforce is what we mean when we describe ourselves as such.

“Inclusion isn’t just about disability," Ms. Sack says. "We want to discuss inclusion in a way that includes everybody. It includes our gifted children, our children who are learning English, our LGBTQ+ population, our Chinese population, our American population, our females, our males, our introverts, our extroverts, etc. We’re looking at it in a broader sense rather than just disability.”

>> Learn more about our diverse and inclusive campus <<

Before we explore further how ISB discusses and reinforces inclusion on campus, first let’s explore the benefits that come with a diverse student body.


What are the benefits of a diverse student body?


“ISB believes in developing an inclusive school, where all of our students feel accepted as full members of the community,” says Ms. Sack.

An inclusive school, according to Ms. Sack, mirrors the world outside of our school and prepares all students to work, socialize, and live with people who are both different and the same.

When it comes to the specific benefits of a diverse student body, they are seen in every aspect of our community.


The benefits of a diverse student body for teachers


Having a diverse student body helps increase our teachers’ ability to teach.

Benefits, according to Ms. Sack, include:

  • Becoming more skilled in instructional methodology that provides access to content for all learners.
  • Having a greater focus on social-emotional learning and ensuring students have friends and feel a sense of belonging.
  • Becoming more empathetic.


The benefits of a diverse student body for parents


“They know their child is accepted and cared for,” says Ms. Sack.

Especially in cases where one child might have a significant learning disability, an inclusive school with an in-depth support services program provides a home for all children in the family, rather than only those deemed ‘capable’ of learning the curriculum.


The benefits of a diverse student body for students


For students without learning challenges, they learn that not all children learn the same way. Through diversity, they understand everyone learns at different paces and at different levels of proficiency.

“Students without learning challenges become allies, advocating for and supporting students with learning challenges,” says Ms. Sack.


The benefits of a diverse student body for students with learning challenges


One of the most important benefits for students with learning challenges attending a school with support programs is that they feel included.

Students learn the same cognitively complex curriculum as students without learning disabilities, and thanks to this they inherently come to believe in themselves.

“The whole school community becomes kinder and more compassionate,” says Ms. Sack.


Student support services at ISB


Student support services are designed to promote academic, language, and social-emotional development.

The department currently meets the unique learning needs of a wide range of student learning profiles including:

  • Specific Learning Disabilities
  • Communication Disorders
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • ADHD
  • Other learning challenges

We also provide extensive language and content support for English language learners where we emphasize English language acquisition in content areas.

One of the most important aspects of the department – and supporting diverse learning needs in general – is maintaining the same beneficial, academic standards required in an IB World School in the entire student population.

“Just because a child has a disability doesn’t mean we lower academic standards or lessen the challenge, but we provide appropriate access and support,” says Ms. Sack. “We encourage them and make sure they know, ‘You can do it, you have support, we believe in you, and you can be as successful as you want, you can define that success how you want’.”

Ms. Sack also debunked a myth many parents have that an international school can’t have a challenging program and services for students with special needs.

“From my experience in previous schools, the years we had the most inclusivity, were also the years we had the highest IB and AP scores. Though one did not cause the other, I can definitively say being inclusive of children with disabilities did not lower our IB or AP scores.”


The impact of positively responding to diverse student profiles


When asked what sort of impact services such as the Student Support Department at ISB have on families, Ms. Sack emotionally recalled her experiences where being an inclusive school, changed a family’s life.

“We give families an opportunity to keep their children together in the same school, it’s really powerful.”

One story in particular was a family in a previous international school who had a child with Down syndrome and hadn’t been able to find a school that would accept all their sons.

“They actually thought they were going to have to give up this lucrative job offer and return home for school,” says Ms. Sack. “They came to our school for a tour and we told them about our student support services and how we could enroll their son in our special program and educate him until graduation, should they stay that long. The dad started crying and said, ‘I thought we were going to have to move home.’”


A look into the future of ISB’s approach to diverse learning profiles


Individualized Curriculum

Beginning in August 2020, we will offer a highly individualized curriculum for students identified as having an intellectual/cognitive disability, such as:

  • Global developmental delay
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Down syndrome
  • Fragile X syndrome
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Other developmental disabilities

This individualized curriculum will help students who require long-term specialized support in multiple areas.

One of the largest elements of this curriculum is inclusion to the highest degree with same age peers without disabilities, according to Ms. Sack.

“This integration enhances communication, social, and academic skills.”

Students with disabilities need a different curriculum at different times in their school lives. “As students grow older, their curriculum focuses more on daily living skills that foster greater levels of independence and preparation for adulthood (i.e. functional math, reading, writing, community access, vocational skills, and other adaptive skills),” says Ms. Sack.

When a campus is rich with a diverse student body, everyone benefits. Learn more about how ISB defines diversity here.

“We believe inclusion is the right thing to do, with both our Mission and Vision referencing compassion, challenging learning, and learning together,” says Ms. Sack. “This is the backbone of our daily work with children and colleagues.”


Discover why families choose the International School of Beijing

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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High School Diversity