“What’s the deal with Beijing No. 55?” This is a question that several parents have asked before in our forum, without a definitive answer…until now! Tucked away in a hutong between Dongzhimen Waidajie and Gongti Beilu, this bilingual Chinese/English middle school and high school has caught the attention of many expat families. Yesterday morning, I joined beijingkids Brand Manager and Beijing No. 55 mom Theresa Ahdieh on a tour of the campus. Here’s what we learned.
- No. 55 is a local middle school and high school with an International Students Section tailored specifically for foreigners.
- The school uses a dual educational system composed of the IB Middle Years Programme (Grades 7-10) and Diploma Programme (Grades 11-12), as well as the Chinese national curriculum.
- Chinese is the main teaching language in middle school. In high school, students can decide whether to continue in English or Chinese. Students who plan to attend university in China generally follow the Chinese pre-university program, while students who plan to attend university overseas tend to take IB’s English-language Diploma Programme.
- No. 55 recently opened a new building for its foreign students. Starting from next semester, they’ll be taking most of their classes there.
- The school year at No. 55 runs from September 1 to July 10.
Facts and Figures
- The school was founded in 1954, began accepting foreign students in 1975, opened the International Students Section in 1989, and became an IB World School in 1994.
- No. 55 has a total of around 1,900 students; more than 600 are foreign students.
- The school has two teaching buildings (one old and one new) for international students, two laboratory buildings, several gymnasiums, and two auditoriums.
- Middle school classes have 15-17 students, while high school classes have 17-20 students.
- Over 2,000 foreign students have studied at No. 55 over the years, and several hundred have gone on to top universities like Tsinghua University and Peking University.
- One of No. 55’s biggest draws is undoubtedly the low price tag. Middle school tuition fees cost roughly RMB 19,000 per semester and high school tuition fees are around RMB 22,000 per semester.
- The school is conveniently located in Dongzhimen, close to the Embassy Area. Many students live right around school, but school buses also go to Wangjing, the Olympic Village, the CBD, and Shunyi.
- No. 55 is a great place to foster Mandarin learning. All middle school students are taught in Chinese, and those who decide to attend a local university can continue their schooling in Chinese. Even if the student switches to the IB English program for high school, s/he will have a solid foundation in Mandarin.
- As an IB World School, No. 55 offers the IB high school diploma, which is recognized by universities around the world. Graduates of No. 55 have gone on to universities in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, and more.
- No. 55 hosts a dizzying array of cultural activities. The hallways were filled with framed pictures and mementos from past events, field trips, and exchange programs with high schools in other countries.
- No. 55 doesn’t have as many extracurricular activities or facilities as some of the bigger international schools. For now, the only after-school sports are boys’ basketball and badminton. The school is currently polling students to figure out which other sports to add.
- No. 55 doesn’t really offer much opportunity for interaction with Chinese students. Though much of the school’s curriculum is in Chinese, the foreign students are in a different building than the local students.
- If you don’t speak any Chinese, it can be difficult to communicate with the administration staff. Likewise, most of the teachers are Chinese and have limited English ability. However, No. 55 has an English website with admissions information, pictures of past events, a news bulletin, bus routes, and more.