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YueCheng Pilots a New Kind of Education for China

By Nick Bowley

05/22/2020

YueCheng Pilots a New Kind of Education for China
The YueCheng Kindergarten Approach features intergenerational learning with senior citizens from the local community, translanguaging in Chinese and English, and other novel programs (photo: YueCheng).
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In 2005, a successful Chinese businessman opened a school in Beijing. There may seem nothing unusual about that, but indeed there was. For this was a Chinese school that invited national and international students to sit together in the same classrooms, studying the same curriculum. At the time this approach was not only unusual in Beijing, it may have been unique. The school was Beijing City International School (BCIS).

Founded as an IB school, BCIS initially followed the conventional route to success, establishing successful PYP, MYP. and DP programs and seeing its graduates matriculate to outstanding universities and colleges around the world. But although successful by most international standards, the school was unsure of its true identity other than being an “IB World School.”

Over the years, its identity crystallized around the core concepts of inspiring and empowering children, blending the best of China and the world, and promoting global sustainability. Today BCIS is widely respected as an internationally minded Chinese school with progressive learning programs and a strong social conscience.

More recently, YueCheng Education (YCE), the foundation behind BCIS, began wondering how it could extend its remit beyond the boundary of BCIS in order to reach a wider population. It decided to open two institutes that focus on particular areas of concern for many Beijing families.

In 2017, the YCE Learning Frontier launched, employing specialist therapists to support children with learning and behavioral challenges from throughout the city. One year later, the Reading Frontier opened its doors to families wanting their children to experience the joy of reading for pleasure. Children from BCIS and many other schools come together after school and on weekends to benefit from these community-based opportunities.

YCE has always recognized the importance of nurturing a passion for learning in the very young. For this reason, a decision was made to open a kindergarten this year. In preparation for the new school, the YCE team combed the world for their ideal of a child-centered, holistic curriculum but couldn’t find exactly what they wanted.

They therefore determined to create their own. YueCheng Kindergarten Approach features a curriculum that embraces diverse aspects of life and learning on which young minds and bodies thrive, but which schools rarely provide. Like many kindergartens, the YueCheng Courtyard Kindergarten has adopted investigative play as its essential learning model, but there is much more besides.

Less commonplace components of the curriculum include translanguaging in Chinese and English, intergenerational learning with senior citizens from the local community, and a “books everywhere” approach to reading resources. Together with family-style, multi-age groupings, these features combine to create a stimulating social and learning environment for children and adults.

Visitors to the Courtyard Kindergarten are entranced by the beauty of the building, in which a sweeping learning space envelops a Qing Dynasty courtyard palace that lends the kindergarten its name. Those who stay longer come to appreciate that the school’s true beauty lies in the unusual quality of the children’s learning. The teachers are realistic; they know the task of perfecting this new kind of education for China will continue for years to come. Nevertheless, the Courtyard Kindergarten has made an auspicious start, and further YueCheng Kindergartens are sure to follow.

Nick Bowley has served in national and international schools since 1969 and is now Superintendent of YueCheng Education in Beijing.




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