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Curriculum structure

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The UWCSEA curriculum shares a common structure across all elements, consisting of Standards, Strands, Conceptual Understandings and Benchmarks. This is not only for the Academic element of our programme, but also for Outdoor Education, Personal Social Education and Service. In this regard, we are the first educational institution in the world to have a concept-based Learning Programme in all learning areas. Rationales are written for all five of our programme elements, outlining the purpose for its inclusion in the UWCSEA learning programme

Here is a sample of our Visual Arts curriculum with an explanation of our curriculum design:

A sample of UWCSEA's Concept-based Curriculum design, using a Visual Arts curriculum example.


Standards reflect the broadest conceptual understandings of a discipline or learning area and are shared K1-G12. Standards are informed by the UWCSEA mission, educational goal, values, the needs of our student body and research-based best practice. These apply to all grade-levels from K1-G12, ensuring these concepts are revisited in developmentally appropriate ways as students transition from grade to grade.


Strands are used to organise the learning under each K1-G12 Standard. In many cases, these represent the K1-G12 Standard in shorthand. 

Conceptual Understanding

Conceptual Understandings are statements of conceptual relationship. They show how two or more concepts connect and are transferable across contexts. Within the UWCSEA Curriculum, Conceptual Understandings are written to be appropriate at a developmental stage and build towards the K1-12 Standard. Conceptual Understandings support learning in the thinking classroom, where students construct and express their understandings.


Benchmarks are developmentally appropriate statements that identify the knowledge and skills required for the development of an understanding. They are attached to each concaptual understanding in each grade. A Benchmarksdescribes what a student should know or be able to do at each stage in their learning.

Skills and Qualities

Where a meaningful connection is made, intentional development of a specific aspect of the UWCSEA learner profile has been explicitly linked to the associated benchmark to indicate the profile skill or quality that is being developed. These are visible as icons in our curriculum system. We use these icons in our external communication to teachers, students and parents.

Curious to learn more?

Gain a greater understanding of how our curriculum works in our Academic programme using a Science example, as well as in our Outdoor Education programme. using Foundation Skills as a model.