Curriculum and Academic Programme

Riverside Campus Handbook 2019-20

This handbook provides you with information that will help you become acquainted with the aims and objectives of the school, a brief overview of the curriculum as well as practical day-to-day information.

Curriculum and Academic Programme

At Grades 9 and 10 our students follow the Middle Years Programme (MYP) of the International Baccalaureate, which was founded upon the belief in the importance of a holistic approach to education.

Within Grades 11 and 12 ISZL is one of the few schools in the world offering a choice of the IB Diploma Programme (DP), the College Board Advanced Placement (AP) courses alongside ISZL and BTEC courses. This choice allows students to ensure that they follow a programme that is best suited to their learning style and future academic goals and objectives.

For more specific details and requirements of the programmes we offer, please see the High School Academic Course Guide.

International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (MYP)

The Middle Years Programme (MYP) is the curriculum framework used in Grade 6 - 10. It prepares students for future education irrespective of which pathway may be chosen after Grade 10. Students study between eight and nine subjects (including at least two languages), providing a depth and breadth of knowledge, skills, understandings and an opportunity to recognise and develop strengths. In the MYP, students connect their learning to the world beyond school in order to understand the importance of the knowledge and skills they are acquiring. In addition, students explore and develop their awareness of globally significant ideas and issues allowing them to appreciate the values and traditions of people from their own and other cultures. In the MYP, students learn through the exploration of concepts which means that they learn for understanding rather than solely the acquisition of knowledge and facts.

Through acquiring and practising approaches to learning skills, students develop their communication, collaboration, self-management, research and thinking skills. These skills are important for future academic courses and professions equipping students to be active lifelong learners.

Students engage in at least one service learning project of their choice each year, providing them with an opportunity to become active and caring participants in local or global communities and to develop various aspects of the IB learner profile.

The MYP encourages students to develop awareness of their strengths and areas for growth, make conceptual connections, undertake new challenges and develop the skills they will need for a rich and fulfilling life.

In the final year of the MYP (Grade 10), students undertake a Personal Project. This project could be an independent essay, an artistic production, a personal challenge or a service project through which students will extend their knowledge and skills. The topic is chosen in consultation with a faculty member who guides the student through the process. The project must incorporate one of the global contexts mentioned above.

International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP)

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) is a curriculum that transcended borders and national systems and gives our students access to study in universities in numerous countries.

The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) seeks to ensure that the programme embodies the organisation’s educational aims in its structure and content. The Diploma curriculum is represented in the form of a hexagon with six academic areas surrounding the core; students take one from the groups 1 through 5, plus an elective as a sixth course which may be another language, science, humanities or arts subject language, science, humanities or arts subject. In exceptional circumstances the IBO gives dispensation for a student to take all three sciences.

Students follow courses over a two-year period and maintain a balance of studies in their learning between the humanities and the sciences. At least three of these subjects and not more than four, are taken at the Higher Level (HL) and the others at the Standard Level (SL). HL courses represent at least 240 teaching hours and SL courses cover at least 150 hours; the different levels also reflect time commitment and ability levels. Altering a subject once starting the IB diploma programme becomes increasingly di cult as the year continues though it does sometimes occur a after a few months that a student may need to shift from HL to SL in the same subject and conversely SL to HL in another.

Students are strongly advised to opt for HL in their strongest subjects. The opportunity to explore some subjects in depth (HL) and others more broadly (SL) is a deliberate compromise between the early specialization preferred in some national systems and the breadth found in others. Distribution requirements ensure that the science-oriented student is challenged to learn a foreign language and the natural linguist becomes familiar with laboratory procedures. While overall balance is maintained, flexibility in choosing HL subjects allows the student to pursue areas of personal interest and to meet special requirements for university entrance.

Additionally, pursuing the full IB Diploma also entails taking the Theory of Knowledge course, completing the CAS (Creativity, Action and Service) requirement and writing a 4,000 word extended research essay. The student, who then works in consultation with a faculty supervisor, designs the subject and topic for the essay.

Students who successfully complete the IB Diploma automatically meet ISZL graduation requirements. Since not all students take IB exams these fees are not included in general school fees and parents receive an invoice from ISZL’s Business Office for the cost of the exams.

International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme (IBCP)

The Career-related Programme offers a focused, personalised and innovative learning experience for students with an interest in the world of work.

Students combine practical, career-related studies with three academic subjects from the IBDP, ISZL or AP courses. The career study in the programme is the BTEC Diploma in Business. Students achieve the IB Career-related Programme (IBCP) qualification if the BTEC in Business is combined with two or three IB subjects and the IBCP core. The students receive an ISZL Career-related High School Diploma if the BTEC is combined with a mixture of IBDP (fewer than two), ISZL or AP courses.

What sets the Career-related Programme apart is the authentic, practical business experience and skills development the programme has at its core. Through extensive research and consultation with business, we have identified the ten essential assets to thrive in the modern workplace. These will be developed through five themes in the Personal and Professional Skills course and in work experience with our business partners. Also, at the core of the IBCP is a research project on an ethical dilemma in business and a language development project to gain multicultural fluency.

Students will graduate with in-depth specialist knowledge in business, the understanding from rigorous IBDP and AP courses and a well-developed, essential skill-set for the world of work. The result is confident, motivated and well-qualified students who are ready to thrive at university and in the workplace.

ISZL High School Programme

The ISZL High School Programme allows students to choose a variety of course types to suit their passions and interests. Guided by the holistic approach promoted by the high school graduation requirements, students receive the ISZL High School Diploma, a credential recognised by many universities. Students can choose between five or six courses per year from the Advanced Placement (AP) courses, IB Diploma (IBDP) courses, ISZL courses or a BTEC in Creative Media.

IB Diploma courses take two years of study and are externally assessed by the IB via varying combinations of coursework and final examinations. Popular courses for students taking the ISZL High School Programme include Languages, Mathematical Studies and Sports, Exercise and Health Science.

Some ISZL courses are focused on preparing students to take an AP in the following year. For example, students are strongly recommended to take Biology before AP Biology or Chemistry before AP Chemistry. Alternatively, optional preparation courses may be available for students if they are not yet academically secure with the prerequisite knowledge, understandings and skills. An example of this would be taking Pre-Calculus as preparation for AP Calculus AB.

Other ISZL courses are focused around experiential, project-based alternatives to ISZL’s external exam-based courses. Each student aims to leave these courses with a university or career-ready portfolio of innovative individual or team-based projects. There are three courses of this nature: Humanities: Global Innovations, Science: Innovation in Action and English: Innovations in Communication.

All students must take courses that fulfil the graduation requirements and should consult closely with their college counsellors to check for the specific requirements for specific countries.

AP courses are challenging college level courses designed to push students academically and allow them to develop their academic interests. They are completed in one year and externally assessed by a single final exam.

The College Board, a part of the Educational Testing Service (ETS) of Princeton, New Jersey, established the Advanced Placement exams. As there is no national education system in the United States, the ETS developed exams for high school students that are recognised by universities across the US and the world. It provides for a series of exams in various subjects that equate to a first-year university curriculum at US universities.

Students with passing marks on AP examinations may be awarded credit for courses at some American universities, be granted advanced standing in fulfilling the university’s requirements or simply increase their chances of acceptance at universities as they are a highly regarded credential. They are excepted as credentials in universities around the world. Nearly 2.7 million students take AP exams each year. As a point of comparison, about 160,000 students take IB examinations each year.

Over thirty AP exams exist and any student may take one or many. Our school designs courses using the AP syllabus so that our students perform well at these exams.

Students enrolled in Advanced Placement courses sit for the exams in May of the same academic year of the course. Because they are taught at the equivalent of a first-year university course, they require a great deal of time and commitment. If a student does not sit for the official AP exam, the student will still be expected to do all the work as other students.

The AP Coordinator will notify students when to register for AP exams. The cost is per exam and includes the actual cost of the exam and the costs to the school, as it must hire supervisors to invigilate the exams and pay for the shipping, handling and postage of the exams.

Though ISZL offers over twenty AP courses, students may decide to take AP exams in courses we do not offer – for example, Italian or Statistics. Students will not have these courses indicated on their school transcript but can use the results of these exams as part of their university applications.

Since not all students take AP exams, these exam fees are not included in general school fees. Once a student has registered for the exams, their parents will receive an invoice from the Business Office. If a registered student then decides not to take the exam, only a partial refund will be awarded as the testing agency still charges our school for unused exams we return.

Service Projects for High School Programme Students

ISZL aims to develop a culture of service amongst all members of its community. To this end, all students undertake at least one service project in each and every school year. The service projects help bring together all elements of the Personal Development Programme: Community Education, Service, Action and Leadership, Personal, Social and Health Education and the Personal Development Week. 

In the planning process for any service project, the following areas should be identified, discussed with a project supervisor and/or Experiential Learning Coordinator as well as recorded appropriately on the school’s curriculum platform, Managebac, or in a separate document that can be uploaded. These areas must also be clearly linked to a particular global issue:

  • An authentic need – what does the community or organisation need the most and why?
  • Possible impacts and consequences of actions – how will the action you take benefit the community and/or organisation?
  • How will you ensure continued communication with the community and/ or organisation?
  • How will you continue to educate yourself further about the issues involved?
  • How will you take action in the global, local or school communities about the community and/or organisation?
Stages of Service:

All of the aspects above correspond with the following five stages for each service project:

  1. Investigation: Identification of interests, skills and talents to be used in considering opportunities for service projects, as well as areas for personal growth and development. Investigation of these areas and determination of the purpose of project, whilst identifying an authentic need.
  2. Preparation: Clarification of roles and responsibilities, development of a plan of actions to be taken, identification of specified resources and timelines and acquisition of any skills as needed to engage in the service project.
  3. Action: Implementation of idea or plan. This often requires decision-making and problem solving. This work may be done individually, with partners, or in groups.
  4. Reflection: Description of what happened, expression of feelings, generation of ideas and the raising of questions. Reflection can occur at any time during the project to further understanding, to assist with revising plans, to learn from the experience and to make explicit connections between their growth, accomplishments and the learning outcomes for personal awareness. Reflection may lead to new action.
  5. Demonstration: Explicit explanation of what and how learning occurred and what has been accomplished, for example, sharing experiences through a portfolio or with others in an informal or formal manner. Demonstration and communication solidifies understanding and evokes response from others.

Course Selection for Grades 9 and 10

All students at Grade 9 and 10 (unless there is a specific need identified by the Learning Support department) are required to take the full Middle Years Programme (MYP) of the International Baccalaureate (IB) organization and will attend classes in the following subjects: Arts, English, Language Acquisition, Individuals and Societies, Mathematics, Physical Education, Science and Design. Within Language Acquisition students are strongly encouraged to take German as the host country language alongside Spanish, French or their first language. In the Arts, students in Grades 9 and 10 will study one subject from drama, visual arts or music.

Advanced Placement (AP) in Grades 9 or 10

Under some circumstances, it is possible that students might be recommended to take an AP Language course (e.g. German, French or Spanish) in Grade 10. Generally, students who are fluent in a language, both orally and in their written work, find it easy to obtain a high grade (5 being the top grade out of 5 and 3 being a passing grade out of 5) in the AP exams. Students who choose to take the AP Language Exam will be prepared for the style and format of the exam outside of class time, either after school or on a Saturday. The total preparation time will equal 3 hours. This will take place outside of curriculum time and will incur a small administration fee for each student (CHF 50). Only in exceptional cases can Grade 9 students be considered for an AP Language exam and these will be considered by the Assistant Principal (Academic), in consultation with the AP Coordinator.

Course Selection for Grades 11 and 12

In Grades 11 and 12, student course loads are generally reduced as individual subject work becomes increasingly demanding. Students in Grade 11 or 12 will take between five to seven courses. These courses vary according to academic abilities and university application intentions.

Students should view their Grade 11 and 12 years as part of a two-year plan with specific goals in specific subject areas. Considering the last two years in combination causes Grade 11 students to be aware of the courses they are aiming for in their last year. The following answers to frequently asked questions are intended to provide an overview of the course selection and scheduling process. It is not designed to answer particular questions about what your teenager should or should not take in a school year. Decisions about course selection are a personal process involving the student, counsellor and parents and depend on the interests, strengths and future plans of the individual.

Q: When do high school students choose their courses for the following year?

A: The course selection process starts with a series of presentations to both students and parents. After the winter break, the course selection begins in earnest with personalised meetings between the school counsellors and each family in Grade 10 and Grade 11 (non-IB students only).

Q: How can students learn more about course requirements, course descriptions, curriculum philosophies and university recognition?

A: Information is shared via presentations to parents and students. In addition, departments provide an overview of the available courses to their students during Grade 10 class time. The curriculum coordinators and school counsellors are also available to discuss these matters upon request.

Q: How is the high school schedule made in high school?

A:  Once we collect the final course choices from the students we begin to run these firm, final choices through our schedule builder in order to produce the final draft of our high school schedule. This might require 100s of different adjustments, while juggling over a 1000 individual moving pieces. After about 90 percent effectiveness, measured by the number of course requests successfully fulfilled, we look carefully at all the requests that could not be honoured, making determinations about whether viable alternatives exist or whether we need (and are able) to make further changes to the schedule.

The guiding principle throughout this process is to maximise the greatest good for the greatest number, though priority is given to certain non-negotiable factors. For example, Grade 12s must have access to the second year of IB courses. Over time, based on a multitude of data and considerations, the administration and counselling team must make decisions about which courses will be offered, the number of sections that should be offered and which courses cannot be offered. Decisions such as these are not made lightly and we will never please everybody. Eventually, we produce a schedule which meets the needs and desires of an overwhelming majority of students.

Q: What if the student is unsure if they will return the following year?

A: It is recommended that students go through the course selection process even if there is a good chance they will not return. It is easier to remove student selections later, rather than not being included in the original schedule. It can also be useful for students that end up leaving to have already considered their courses at the new school.

Course Changes

The scheduling process is very complicated, so the goal is to build the schedule based on requests. If students change their mind later, it is quite likely that the course is no longer available or there is a scheduling conflict. Counsellors encourage students to think very carefully about their selections ahead of time because the process to change often involves significant compromise. However, students are able to request a quick change to their course up until the end of the second week of the school year with approval from their college counsellor. Further changes are still possible, until the end of the final week in September, but only if the Assistant Principal, Counsellor, Curriculum Coordinator and teacher approve it. After this point, the add/drop period closes and students are no longer able to make changes other than in exceptional circumstances or at the school's request. Changes between standard and higher level IB courses is one exception and can, in most cases, be accommodated later in the year, assuming the teacher, student and curriculum coordinator are in agreement.

Once the term starts, course changes are very rare at ISZL due to the impact they have on a student’s learning, the learning of others and a student’s transcript. Only in rare circumstances will Grade 11 or Grade 12 students be allowed to drop a course and this is only after consultation with the teacher, the Head the Department, College Counsellor, Homeroom Teacher, Assistant Principal (Academic) and parents. In addition, course changes cannot be guaranteed and may lead to other switches in a student’s schedule.

For a student wishing to make a course switch, a student must complete either the stage 1 (first two weeks of term) or the stage 2 Google Form (September) found on Schoology. The Assistant Principal (Academic) will then follow up on the information provided and contact the student once a decision has been reached or if more discussion is necessary.

Students may not begin attending a new class or stop attending a scheduled class until this process has been completed. The student is responsible for catching up with all course work until the change occurs. Indeed, to obtain any credit for the course, they will be held responsible for all assignments in the previous class until this process is completed.

Graduation Requirements

In order to graduate from ISZL, students must satisfactorily complete the In Middle Years Programme and, subsequently, the IB Diploma Programme or IB Career-related Programme or ISZL High School Programme, including a minimum:

  • Ten courses over Grades 11 and 12
  • Six courses in both Grades 9 and 10
  • Four years: Service project(s)
  • Three years: English and humanities and science and mathematics (at least
  • one year in Grade 11 or 12).
  • Two years: Language acquisition
  • Two years: Arts or design or physical and health education

Students may not take more than one online course in a year.

In order to take account of possible programme differences for each student, the High School Head of Campus may make minor concessions, for example, for students transferring from another school in their final two years and students in the learning support programme.

Language Acquisition Placements

Students whose developing level of English might make it difficult for them to access the Grade level curriculum will be placed in English as an Additional Language (EAL) in order to assist with their language learning. Placement in the Language Acquisition classes is according to the student’s level of proficiency. Students are encouraged to continue to study the languages that they have chosen in the Middle School in order to ensure that they reach an adequate level to sit for International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP) examinations. Classes for additional languages are sometimes offered on a private basis outside of school.

Physical Education (PE)

The Physical Education (PE) programme is designed to encourage maximum participation during class times as well as improve fitness and develop motor, social and personal skills. Classes take place both indoors and outdoors. Although there is not a formal PE uniform, students are expected to come to lessons appropriately dressed in a sports shirt, shorts and clean athletic shoes.

English as an Additional Language (EAL)

When applying to the High School, non-native speakers of English are requested to state their level of English proficiency. If required, the student will be tested in the four skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening. If it is deemed that the student requires additional support in the academic language skills required to succeed in the mainstream classes, they will be placed in the EAL programme. Within this programme, each student’s specific needs are assessed and assistance will be provided to accelerate English language development, as well as support for other subjects.

Teacher’s Assistants

Teacher assistants are Grade 11 and 12 students who choose to help a teacher with delivery of a course and can be a very valuable asset. The teacher’s assistant must have an expressed interest in the subject area, be strong enough to know the material of the course in order to assist efficiently.

There are a number of additional expectations that a student will need to discuss with the teacher in question before being nominated. This is a position that requires dedication and responsibility. The position is noted in any counsellor recommendation letter and contributes to a student’s graduation service requirements.

Course Outlines

Each teacher designs a course outline that includes an overview for the course, its content, concepts, essential questions, the types of assessment involved and details of necessities and supplies. These are distributed during the first week of school and are also available on the school’s website.

Class and Field Trips

During the school year, a teacher may design a day trip that relates to the course curriculum. These trips may be to museums, galleries, theatres as well as industrial and geographic sites. Such trips are an integral part of the subject curriculum and generally covered by school fees, except for meals. All students are expected to attend as part of the required academic programme.

Home Learning

ISZL believes that student progress is positively affected by the regular setting of quality home learning assignments; teachers are therefore expected to give a reasonable and regular amount. Teachers will be relatively flexible for students who have been ill or who have missed classes due to school-sponsored activities. Nevertheless, the students are responsible for making up the missed work over a period of time after their return. It is also a good idea to have a “buddy,” a dependable fellow classmate who can discuss the classes missed.

Home learning might also be assigned to allow students to research areas of interest and read additional related material. As a general rule, the older the student, the more home learning he or she will be likely to receive, though Grade 11 and 12 students will have some study periods built into their schedules to accommodate the need for extra time to spend on AP or IB preparation.

Students are expected to dedicate time and effort to home learning and parents are asked to provide a suitable environment.

Students in Grades 9 and 10 should expect no more than 60 to 90 minutes per subject per week. It would be reasonable to expect that students will spend between 90 and 120 minutes completing home learning each evening. We recommend that they should not be completing home learning after 21:00.

Grade 11 and 12 students are issued home learning as and when it is required to help ensure the successful completion of the IB Diploma or AP courses. However, as a guide Grade 11 and 12 students can expect between 120 and 180 minutes of home learning per subject per week. As well as specific subject requirements IB Diploma students will also be required to complete a number of long term research projects, such as the extended essay. Completion of such assignments alongside the subject specific home learning will require a great deal of organisation and commitment.

However, no matter what the grade level of the student we recommend that they should not be completing home learning after 22:00. Educational research shows that adequate sleep is an essential component of effective learning and if our students do not get enough sleep then it will impact their ability to learn.

We do strive to encourage students to meet deadlines and if necessary to submit assignments that are incomplete rather than requesting extensions to deadlines. Such extensions, if granted, often add to the burden of the students as yet more assignments pile up. If assignments do have to be submitted incomplete then this gives a more realistic picture of the difficulties that individual students are facing and will allow us to be proactive in ascertaining whether it is an issue of too much home learning, poor organisation on the part of the student, or quite simply a lack of understanding of the task. Whatever the reason, it will allow us to give assistance accordingly.

If students are encountering difficulties with organisation this may be hidden from the teachers by them staying up extremely late in order to finish home learning assignments. Parents should be aware that it is not the expectation of the school that students should do so.

For students not taking the AP or IB Diploma, we try to keep home learning to a minimum during vacations.

Home Learning Guidelines for Parents

The following are guidelines that may help to establish a suitable structure for the completion of school assignments at home:

  • Ensure that your child has an appropriate environment for attending to home learning i.e. enough space, quiet, time, light
  • Limit potential distractions such as texting and messaging that will lead to deterioration in focus and quality
  • Where possible support and guide your child in completing home learning, while allowing them to demonstrate their ability to do the task on their own
  • Establish times when home learning is to be done
  • Ensure that your child gets proper rest to help with his/her studies
  • If you have any concerns about the demands of home learning or how your child is coping with this, you should contact the subject teacher in order to determine how the school can provide support.

Guidelines for Accepting Late Assessment Tasks

  • Students should always consider the importance of meeting deadlines when completing assignments. Students should bear in mind the following guidelines regarding requesting extensions to these deadlines.
  • Students are strictly required to meet deadlines for completing summative assessment tasks in order to avoid assignments piling up.
  • All deadlines for tasks that are to be assessed are entered in Schoology prior to the assessment being set.
  • An extension should be received prior to the deadline for completion of the assessment task. Acceptance of such a request is at the discretion of the staff member and should be dependent on a valid reason for requiring such an extension. The extension will be as short as possible.
  • If the assessment task has not been handed in by the due date, the student may be placed in after school assignment completion (hosted in the library) or a mutually convenient time found to complete the work under teacher supervision.
  • If a student is placed in assignment completion, parents will be notified by phone or e-mail and students will be expected to attend. Attendance takes priority over extra curricular activities.
  • If students fail to attend assignment completion when requested, they will placed in an after school detention

Online Courses

Online courses allow students to take courses that we cannot directly support within our High School. They are rarely used at ISZL.

IB Diploma courses are provided by Pamoja Education ( and AP courses are provided by the Virtual High School ( IB Diploma courses commonly taken include Psychology SL or HL and Film SL. Mandarin ab initio SL has also been taken in the past. AP courses commonly taken include Psychology and Statistics.

These courses provide an intense online learning experience. Some students enjoy the independence to take charge of their own learning, pace themselves through a week and have a slightly anonymised voice. Other students can find the distance from a direct student-teacher relationship challenging and sometimes they feel there is a lack of clarity in the instructions and assessments. All students find that due to the shorter terms and the nature of an online course, workloads are higher than an ISZL taught course.

In order to be successful, students need to be motivated, independent, organised and technologically literate. Students are monitored by an ISZL teacher and meet once per week to check progress.

In order to support this subject flexibility, the registration costs for the online courses are paid by the families. Pamoja courses cost approximately 1000 CHF per year for two years. VHS courses are one year in length and cost around 1000-1400 CHF.

Anyone interested in taking an online course will need to meet with IBDP coordinator (IBDP) or the academic assistant principal (AP) before the end of the school year in order to discuss the details involved and their suitability for the course.


Q: How many online courses can I take each year?

A: One.

Q: Who is best suited to take online courses?

A: Highly motivated and independent learners.

Q: What online courses do students at ISZL commonly choose?

A: Small numbers of students choose Psychology (AP and IBDP), Statistics (AP only) and Film (IBDP only).

Q: How long can I expect to spend on my course?

A: AP VHS courses require a significant amount of independent study time. Students often report committing over 15 hours of independent work a week on this course alone. The IB Pamoja courses also require many additional hours per week.

Course Offerings

For further information on our course offerings, please see the High School Academic Course Guide.