Promoting Mental and Physical Wellbeing in IB Education for Students' Lifelong Success

Education | 28 Jan 2021

Every year more cases of anxiety and depression are reported in children and teens. One in three young Hong Kongers suffers from stress, anxiety or depression, a survey by Hong Kong Playground Association shows. “If students are healthy, not only physically but more importantly emotionally, without stress and anxiety, they produce better academic results. This is also consistent with the 'holistic' ethos of an International Baccalaureate (IB) education, so it is critically important that we actually build a strong 360 Wellness Programme.” says Mr. Christopher Coates, Secondary School Principal at Victoria Shanghai Academy (VSA). The VSA 360 Wellness Programme extends beyond the unique wellness classes taught in the classroom; it provides extensive extracurricular opportunities, professional counselling and mentoring services and a comprehensive physical health monitoring programme. 

Mental Wellness in the Curriculum 

In the Primary School (Years 1-5), students are in mixed-ability homeroom classes that are taught by two homeroom teachers and a team of specialists. This creates an environment where students feel part of a class community and are connected and supported. As part of their learning, students explore concepts such as self-awareness, relationships, choices, cause and effect, reflection, conflict resolution, and intercultural understanding. This allows students to develop an understanding of themselves and others, ultimately fostering empathy and respect.  Students also have dedicated wellness lessons focused on understanding their brains, and practise mindful breathing together a few times daily to foster a sense of gratitude and mindfulness. Mr. Ross Dawson, Primary School Principal, shares: “As a bilingual school, VSA values Chinese culture greatly. All our students study the Di Zhi Gui which emphasise the basic requisites for being a good person and guidelines for living in harmony with others. It is our goal for our students to have an understanding and awareness of their own mental and physical wellbeing, develop skills and tools that help them deal with life's ups and downs, and build strong relationships with others.” 

As they seamlessly transition into the Secondary school life (Year 6-12), all Secondary School students partake in a daily 40-minute FLEX period. “The daily FLEX lessons are used to deliver VSA’s Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) programme which addresses teens’ physical, social, emotional and mental wellbeing.” shares Mr. Coates. “To provide further support to our young adults on adolescent issues, we also have an extensive Student Support Services department that provides support to the students through a team of caring and highly qualified professionals. This includes counsellors, social workers, and learning support teachers. They provide professional assistance and support to students, either individually or in small groups, during times of transition, or heightened stress.”

Support on Student’s Mental and Emotional Wellbeing During Remote Learning

Due to the disruptions caused by COVID-10 and the resulting period of remote learning, the need to focus on students’ mental and physical health has never been more important. School administrators have adapted quickly to develop online programmes to support the students’ needs. The Primary Senior Leadership Team has been delivering online Wellness lessons which include mindfulness and self care lessons. The Student Support Services team, the VSA teaching team, and VSA pastoral leaders have all delivered online workshops and well-being sessions to help students reduce anxiety, encourage healthy habits and sleep, and reduce stress. In addition, they have also introduced a ‘Feel Good Factor’ Google Classroom which is used to promote positive thoughts and discussions, hold small group chat sessions and other virtual community building activities, which helps encourage positivity and connection among the school community.

Promoting Physical Wellbeing

Students’ physical wellbeing and mental wellbeing are symbiotic, as such VSA places strong emphasis in Physical & Health Education to help students develop an appreciation and fundamental understanding of physical activity as a lifetime pursuit, and the importance that it has in maintaining a balanced state of body and mind. Students have the opportunity and are encouraged to participate in a range of co-curricular activities including clubs and sports as well as the CAS (Creativity Activity Service) programme, which is mandatory for all IB Diploma students. Some examples of these new activities that students take part in are rock climbing, squash, cricket, horse riding, Chinese dance and more. With a wide range of co-curricular activities, VSA provides a balanced and holistic learning environment that encourages students to find their passions and talents.

The benefits of an IB education is that students can develop into active, compassionate and lifelong learners who lead a balanced life.  In order to accomplish this, it is important for students to have an understanding and awareness of their own wellbeing in different aspects and develop skills and tools that help them deal with life's ups and downs. Dr. Maggie Koong, VSA’s Head of Academy says, “We are proud to see the graduates of our IB programmes develop into successful individuals. This is in great part due to the holistic education they have received, from a young age, that emphasizes the importance of mental and physical wellbeing. This is delivered by our staff of over 180 teaching professionals from around the world, 20 of which are certified counsellors, social workers and learning support staff. Together, we strive to fulfill our mission to develop passionate, healthy and accomplished bilingual learners who are globally engaged.”

Victoria Shanghai Academy (VSA) is an IB World School located in Sham Wan, Aberdeen. The School provides over 1,800 students with quality bilingual IB education through three programmes: Primary Years Programme (PYP), Middle Years Programme (MYP) and Diploma Programme (DP).

To learn more about Victoria Shanghai Academy, its scholarship programme and introductory sessions, please visit:


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