Better Me, Better World: Beyond Boundaries at Beijing Academy
All Saints’ College Principal, Belinda Provis, and Esther Hill, the College’s Director of Djoowak: the Beyond Boundaries Institute, were pleased to travel to China recently to establish a sister school agreement with pre-eminent Beijing school, Beijing Academy.
Far from being a bastion of an industrial-era education system, Beijing Academy (BA) sits at the forefront of global educational and pedagogical change. Selected by the Chinese Education Authority to pilot a model of teaching and learning, BA’s Principal, Director Xia, is leading change in collaboration with global educational leaders.
Now in its fourth year and operating over two campuses, this innovative start-up is being scaled to include a purpose-built third campus for 3 000 students in 3 years’ time.
Beijing Academy combines tradition with innovation, with the following key principles:
- Honouring and understanding Chinese cultural roots and heritage;
- Developing students’ and teachers’ ability to think innovatively;
- Putting ideas into practice through experiential learning;
- Ensuring a sense of responsibility.
Director Xia is at the forefront of global trends toward ensuring that students are not focused on short-term educational goals- passing tests and achieving in University Entrance exams, but set their sights on achieving long-term educational goals- developing the skills and capacities that will see them flourish in an uncertain world.
Evident as soon as you enter the buildings at Beijing Academy is the sense of belonging and focus on wellbeing. Students are welcomed with photos of themselves and it is keenly obvious that this school places students at the centre. Director Xia articulates the importance of wellbeing so that students can be happy and stretch themselves. For that students need a fit body; to feel relaxed and trusting; and to learn to coexist, study together and work in teams. With many children coming from single child families, the school plays an important role in providing the opportunity to develop these capabilities.
Pedagogies and Practices
Guided by education thought leaders such as ASC Academic in Residence, Professor Yong Zhao and Harvard’s Richard Elmore and influenced by High Tech High, a partner school for teachers and students alike, Beijing Academy is exploring and experimenting with pedagogies and practices that place students at the centre of learning experiences. With the aim for students to develop autonomy and independence, students are provided with opportunities for flexibility, choice and self-direction. With innovative changes to the timetable structures, project, problem and product-based learning, inter-disciplinary studies and off-site student directed learning projects.
With Principals from schools all over China visiting Beijing Academy to learn from their experiences, structures and innovative pedagogies, All Saints’ College staff and students will benefit greatly from a partnership that will see co-designed teaching and learning programs, collaboration around innovation and entrepreneurship programs and teacher and student exchanges.
Beijing Academy’s motto, ‘Better Me, Better World’ clearly aligns with ASC’s motto, ‘Making a positive difference in our world’; each emphasising that students empower themselves to use their world-class education to ensure they take responsibility for driving positive change and growth.