At our private school in Beirut, we run the English-language, International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (IB-PYP). In addition to English language instruction, we are also the first in Lebanon to implement this world-renown curriculum in the French language. More on our French elementary school can be read here.
The Primary Years Program begins in the Nursery (age 3), and continues onward until Grade 5. Afterwards, our students seamlessly transition to our American middle school and high school programs – all at one campus. You can read more about our programming for later years here.
For the younger ages, we further incorporate the well-respected Reggio Emilia approach to pedagogy into our curriculum. This is known as our ‘early years program’ (synonymous with what you may know as a nursery and elementary school).
In addition to an already-world-class curriculum, our young students are brought up to learn how to code from the time they are in Kindergarten – not as an elective, but as part of their core studies. Everyone gets an iPad, and teachers use modern school learning apps in the classroom.
We believe the above factors alone would rank us among the best schools in Lebanon for the early years of life. But our curriculum is only one of the reasons you’d want to attend our Beirut elementary school. There are many more!
Below, we’ll explain more about our private school in Beirut. Particularly, we’ll explain how we set ourselves apart with both an outstanding curriculum, and caring school culture.
Be part of a ‘family’ when you join our primary school in Beirut
One of the outstanding characteristics you’ll notice when you enter our school grounds is the sense of community, familiarity and ‘closeness.’ The proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child” definitely rings true for our entire school culture. We believe we are not only educating children; we are raising them. They spend most of their waking hours at school. So, as teachers, why wouldn’t we do anything other than provide them with the most guidance, care and attention we can?
You’ll often hear us say, time and again, that we are focused on the ‘whole child.’ We also say that we take a ‘holistic’ approach to education. This philosophy ‘fits like a glove’ with our chosen elementary school curricula, the IB-PYP; it’s an international teaching system that can only be offered by schools who meet stringent standards.
At the end of the day, kids who know facts aren’t necessarily kids who will grow into functioning, contributing members of society. We aim to do both; that is, we instill knowledge, and emotional skills. So, the PYP curriculum emphasizes acceptance, open-mindedness, international-mindedness and compassion – among many others. These “learner attributes” are meant to give students the best chance possible at becoming persons of character and achievement.
What is the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (IB-PYP)?
Eastwood International School is officially an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (IB-PYP) candidate school (scheduled to be fully authorized in April, 2019). The International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme is designed for students between the ages of 3 to 12 years. Like its high school counterpart, the IB Diploma Program, it also aims to bring educational standards into the 21st Century.
What do we mean by a “21st Century education”?
There is a strong realization among modern educators that society today is increasingly interconnected through globalization and technology. Current generations are approaching world problems collaboratively between countries, and across cultures. And, issues affecting humanity are not what they were 50 years go – not even 20 years ago. Nor are the tools and technologies used to solve them and understand them.
And so, our teaching methods need to adapt for that change. Our curriculums must prepare children to enter the ‘real world’ seamlessly. That is, instead of being ‘stuck’ in a system that, may otherwise, not give them the skills needed to thrive in tomorrow’s economy.
It may sound cliché, but the IB-PYP recognizes that, if future generations are to accomplish ‘world peace,’ they need to be brought up with the mindset, skill and awareness to do so. This starts at the individual level, and with personal relationships. From there, these ‘rivers and streams’ of social skills lead to ‘oceans’ of acceptance, curiosity and responsibility. By filling in the rest with up-to-date knowledge, we get innovation and creative solutions – the kind that can only be accomplished by working together.
And so, back to our focus on the whole child (as we always say), the IB-PYP curriculum does more than teach facts, or enforce memorization.
For years educators and citizens alike have noted that the traditional method of teaching needs a transformation. Our kids are not going to be assembly-line workers; they are entering ‘think tank’ economies, with surmounting problems to face.
You’ve probably heard ‘older and wiser’ people complain about their past education, saying things like, “I never applied what I learned in school at my job.” The IB-PYP curriculum aims to change that. And we believe all learning should be relevant – from the ‘micro’ standpoint of a child’s personal development, to the ‘macro’ view of forming a collective, world community composed of skilled individuals.
How do children learn differently with the IB-PYP at our school in Beirut?
Our primary work is to teach children how to teach themselves; to teach them how to learn and think and do without us; how to reflect on themselves as learners, as individuals, and as members of multiple, interconnected communities. And so, at our Beirut elementary school, learning is very practical, applicable and enjoyable.
The PYP engages the student in the following ways, which are considered modern in thought, practice and focus when compared to traditional teaching goals:Expand to read more
The IB-PYP encourages self-directed learning, based on student interests, in collaboration with the teacher.
We recognize that each child comes with a unique set of hopes, dreams, passions, backgrounds, talents, needs, knowledge, and experiences. Their entire makeup can contribute to their individual advancements, without having to wait for others to catch up to them, or visa versa. In other words, the child is seen as competent and capable of investigation and problem solving, as long as they are driven and motivated to do so.
In our curriculum, students are thus often the creators of their own projects, and not the executors on a task that is given to them. Teachers and students construct their studies together, then reflect on the process and direction of their learning along the way. This fosters independence, and a sense of taking responsibility for their own work.
The PYP is also is heavily focused on transdisciplinary studies, where the lines between subject areas are dissolved, just as they are in the real world. For example, students may be exploring the concept of businesses being human ventures that can bring profit or loss. In this overall scheme, the following disciplines are taught:
- Math and coding: students learn how data is handled, and how money is transacted.
- Language Arts: students practice their writing by articulating business plans.
- Social Studies: students learn about the economical activities of businesses, the types of businesses, and the concepts of supply and demand in economics.
- Science: students learn about the use of natural resources in making products.
- Performing Arts: students may look into the movie production industry as a business.
- French and Arabic: students learn the importance of acquiring the knowledge of customers and suppliers.
- Physical Education: students learn about sports-related businesses, such as how sports equipment is bought and sold.
Real-world, hands-on learning
In order to mimic the ‘real world’ as much as possible, students at our elementary school in Beirut are involved in their community for much of their learning. Their learning experiences draw on all disciplines to address, investigate, or solve actual issues in the school, or in their local or global community.
Their “community,” at this age, can be the school, their neighbourhood, their group of friends, their extracurricular organizations or other places where their own actions make an impact on others. We believe our children are not citizens-in-waiting. They can use their learning – today – to participate in meaningful action within these communities.
To that end, students in our elementary school program regularly go ‘out into the field’ to study ideas or topics as they truly are. For example, they go to fossil quarries, museums, ancient ruins, airfields, mountains, rivers, and government buildings; anywhere that will further their understanding of a unit we are exploring. We aim to provide for the acquisition of meaningful, applicable knowledge.
Students also meet with professionals in various fields. These can be pilots, water treatment experts, mountain climbing teams, architects, authors, firefighters or government officials. We engage with these professionals so that students can conduct interviews, or seek advice on how to take action on a particular issue.
There are no limits on the number of field trips our students take each year. However, on average, we take one trip per unit, which can be at least six field outings per year.
The PYP Exhibition
As with all IB Primary Years Program schools around the world, our students participate in a yearly, 9 week, “unit of inquiry.” This culminates in what is called the “PYP Exhibition.”
The “unit of inquiry” is a learning experience where children decide on a research project they will do as a team, and with their teachers acting as mentors. The children are encouraged to inquire into real-life matters in local and international communities. They design their approach, the concepts they will explore, the central ideas of the unit, and the action they will take as a result of their research.
This approach and these explorations, quite naturally, are transdisciplinary in nature. Through powerful integration and an emphasis on inquiry, the boundaries between subject areas become bridged again. Children use knowledge beyond, and between, those boundaries to solve problems. They answer the questions they themselves have developed – the very questions that drove their inquiry.
At the end of it all, the children then present their projects to parents, and the school community, in a celebratory event.
Why take the IB-PYP at our private school, and not another?
It is true that every Primary Years Program candidate school must meet certain criteria, and show their efforts at becoming a fully-fledged, IB-PYP authorized elementary school. Under oversight of an IB-appointed consultant, this can include teacher training, as well as a change in operational mindset with school staff. And of course, there are curriculum changes, too.
Before implementing the IB program for our high school students (our first phase in becoming a full, IB school), Eastwood already embodied many of the values, concepts and ‘ways’ of the IB approach to education. This was noted in our week-long appraisal process, in which we received excellent commendations for our efforts and existing framework.
However, each organization – and even an individual teacher – is able to apply the core principles of this elementary school curriculum in their own way.
With that said, below are some of the ways in which we stand out as a school in Beirut:Expand to read more
Continuous teacher training and development
It goes without saying that the professional training of a school’s teachers, as well as its leadership and culture, can undoubtedly have an impact on students’ experiences.
Our own faculty receive up to 110 hours of professional development a year. They also participate in a ‘flat’ hierarchical management structure. This allows for idea-sharing and collaboration, which is also greatly encouraged. That is, teachers in the classroom have a ‘seat at the table’ when deciding on school policies.
Innovative school-wide teaching methods, and a ‘think tank’ approach to education
Eastwood International School has not only always been progressive in its ideology towards educational standards. It has also actively sought ways to bring its classrooms up-to-speed with the rest of the world. We do this beyond the requirements set forth by the International Baccalaureate organization.
As an organization, we are not afraid of change. Yes, frequent change can disrupt the ‘norm.’ But without experimentation, and constant curiosity on the part of leadership, where would any school be today, or in the future? How can we remain effective when teaching our young children for tomorrow? We always keep the following thought in mind: we will be ‘releasing’ students into a world we’ll barely recognize 10 years from now. So, we have to stay ahead.
What are some of the ways we stay ahead? In addition to becoming the first school to implement the IB Diploma Program in Lebanon, and the first in the country to implement the IB-PYP in French, we have achieved the following:
In 2011, we became accredited by the AdvancEDTM organization. The process thoroughly overhauled our form of governance. It changed our organization through many other facets, too. As a result, we scored in the top 1% out of 33,000 globally accredited institutions.
In 2014, we implemented a school-wide iPad program, using iTunes U as a learning platform. This came along with a flipped classroom model of teaching. At the time, this was rarely heard of in classrooms around the world, let alone in Lebanon. Our director, Michel Khoury, became an Apple Distinguished Educator as a result.
In 2017, we incorporated physical computing and coding instruction in all grades, as part of our core curriculum. Most schools in Lebanon offer this subject as an elective only. However, we see it as a necessity these days, and not an optional skill.
That same year, we began using Google Classroom in addition to iTunes U, to give teachers more functionality options.
We also saw the importance of psychological health in a child’s upbringing. So, today, we carry on mindfulness sessions for all our school grades.
We continue to be early adopters of technologies and methods in the educational sphere.
Up-to-date standards expected of any private school in Lebanon
As would be expected of any Lebanese school of our calibre, we also include:
- The Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) standardized exam (provided by the NorthWest Evaluation Association).
- Extracurricular activities for our kids during after-school hours, and on weekends.
- Updated playgrounds and gym facilities.
- Fine art, music and drama education.
- Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs) for those with mild learning difficulties.
Who can take the IB Primary Years Program at Eastwood International School?
Everyone! The IB-PYP is the only program we use at our elementary school. It covers our early learning center in Beirut, as well as all elementary grades up to Grade 5. Anyone who is accepted and enrolled at Eastwood International School is automatically placed into the program.
What is the schedule like at our private school in Beirut?
The scheduling of our elementary school program gives attention to different “units of inquiry,” or themes of study across the year. The most important subjects are given their weight with more time allocation, while still allowing for transdisciplinary instruction, as mentioned above. While there can be fluidity in scheduling with PYP-style learning, students still get exposure to the ‘normal’ subjects that would be expected of any elementary school program. And surely, our school takes into account the need for elementary school students to transition into middle school and high school.
More on this is explained below.
Our weekly school timetable for elementary school students:Expand to read more
- 7, 40-minute class periods per day.
- 2 breaks per day.
Students may not leave the school grounds during the day while enrolled in the IB-PYP program, even though the IB high school program does allow for this.
Below is a run-down of a typical weekly schedule for our IB-PYP elementary school students:
- 8.75 periods of English (350 minutes / week)
- 3 periods of French (120 minutes / week)
- 8 periods of Arabic (320 minutes / week)
- 8.5 periods of Math (340 minutes / week)
- 7 periods of Science (280 minutes / week)
- 4.5 periods of Social Studies (180 minutes / week)
- 2 periods of Performing Arts (80 minutes / week)
- 1.75 periods of Visual Arts (70 minutes / week)
- 2 periods of Physical Education (P.E.) (80 minutes / week)
- 1.25 periods of Coding (50 minutes / week)
In addition, students spend 1 period (40 minutes) doing yogi-guided mindfulness exercises every week.
Teachers are given autonomy to structure their class schedules differently, and in coordination with other teachers. Every year, the schedule may be revisited to allow for improvements, or new ways of teaching various ‘cross over’ subjects. However, the allocation of time towards each subject remains the same.
Please note: our early years program uses a different schedule, but similar subjects. These years cover the Nursery, and two years of Kindergarten (KG1 and KG2). You can read more about our early years program here.
Our elementary school’s yearly calendar:Expand to read more
Trimester 1: Start of school in the fall to Christmas break
Trimester 2: January to Easter break (April)
Trimester 3: After Easter to Summer (June)
Every semester ends with an exam period.
All classes run throughout the year. We do not have semester ‘block’ courses at Eastwood.
Students are off school from late June to early September. However, some may be required to take summer classes, if needed.
Other frequently asked questions about our primary school in Lebanon:
As a PYP curriculum executor, we operate with a lead coordinator, who ensures our teaching team is acting in unison with regards to lesson planning, learning progression and consistent assessments. We meet to discuss how the learning outcomes of our program can be acquired by the students. This includes a conversation on the balance of subjects being taught, which fall under a central theme we are exploring. We assess and reflect on the effectiveness of our methods. We will revise if we feel there is a need to ‘switch gears,’ or to put more emphasis on a certain subject.
During grade-level planning meetings, the teachers also plan collective field trips and discuss possible guest speakers we can invite to our school.
So, in addition to keeping a good balance of learning subjects, we know what the other classrooms and teachers are doing. And, we’re aware of what may be taught in future grades that children will enter into. This allows us to act as a school, and not as individuals. With this collaborative system, we are able to provide feedback to each other about what we’re teaching, and how.
Yes! We do out-of-school activities, such as a yearly camping trip, starting in Grade 4 and until Grade 6.
We also have in-school activities organized by the P.E. department (such as gymnastics and football). These are in addition to the P.E. learning objectives taught in the regular school schedule.
Our after-school activities are designed for what the students want. We do our best to respond to their needs in this regard.