Five years ago, a new international school arose in a downtown neighborhood that was previously known to most expats only as a place to venture to when you needed to shop at Carrefour.
Now, a half-decade later, The Beijing City International School (BCIS) is in the center of the thriving downtown neighborhood of Shuangjing. With the Line 10 subway station, modern real estate developments and other diverse community assets such as a coming-to-life art district, Shuangjing has become a conveniently-located, livable neighborhood that offers families almost all they need in a compact environment.
With its 631 students and 160 faculty and staff, BCIS is one of only four schools in Beijing offering the International Baccalaureate degree, and the only one of the four that is Chinese-owned. This Chinese/foreign structure percolates into the very core mission of the school, which is to take the best from both Chinese and Western educational systems. Whereas some schools focus on being "international," BCIS has a slightly different take.
"We prefer to call ourselves cosmopolitan rather than international," said Nick Bowley, the Head of School with experience across 11 schools in eight countries. Bowley is all about learning and sharing from the unique environment of Beijing. "Education is not a competitive process. If there is something we can share, we are happy to share it." To that end, BCIS is on the forefront of educational reform in China, serving as the headquarters of the Yuecheng Educational Innovation Center. The center’s mission, funded by BCIS’s parent company, is to bring differentiation, creativity and innovation to the Chinese educational system, while learning from the best the Chinese educational system has to offer. Teachers and staff of BCIS frequently visit with local schools, both to share their teaching techniques as well as to learn from local educators.
A key challenge for a new school anywhere is to establish a reputation for itself, and that only comes with time. With five years under its belt, BCIS has accomplished the goals it set out for itself during its formative years. Foremost among them was achieving formal accreditation from both the Council for International Schools and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. However, BCIS Board Executive An Wei says there’s still a long way to go. "We’ve spent the first five years finding out who we really are and establishing a group of people that can work together." Let’s see what the next five years bring.