When it comes to choosing a school, nothing is more important than finding the right fit for your child. With so many schools in Beijing, having a good understanding of a school’s curriculum can help parents narrow down their choices. In this feature, we outline nine different types of curricula and chatted with Beijing parents and students about the strengths of each. From IB to homeschooling, we invite you to sit down and study up.
In Beijing, some schools have based their curriculum on a “hybrid” model of education. A hybrid curriculum typically combines the best practices of Chinese and Western education, sometimes integrating elements of IB, the English National Curriculum, or American Common Core standards. To be clear, schools with hybrid programs don’t exclusively offer one or multiple types of curricula, but merge them to form a cohesive learning model. The ideal program incorporates different education practices, drawing on what works well from each model to develop a unique curriculum for that particular school. Often, schools with hybrid programs can be distinguished by their greater emphasis on bilingualism and Chinese culture.
Who does it target?
Schools with hybrid curricula in Beijing vary widely in the age ranges they cater to. For example, Beijing International Bilingual Academy (BIBA) currently accepts students up to Grade 11 but will eventually offer full K-12 programs. Keystone Academy accepts students up to Grade 9 and will offer Foundation through Grade 10 in Fall 2015. In Beijing at least, a hybrid curriculum is generally better-suited to parents who want their child to have a solid grounding in Chinese language and culture without sacrificing English. Thus, it may be a model to consider for parents who would rather not send their kids to a local school.
How is it applied?
A hybrid education model will look dramatically different from school to school. In any case, collaboration between teachers and curriculum coordinators is essential to ensure high standards. A good hybrid program should have the following traits:
Teachers working closely together at each grade level and discipline
Ongoing professional development training for teachers
Flexible framework adaptable to the changing needs of the students
Principles that adhere to the core values of the school
Threads of Chinese culture and identity integrated into unit and lesson planning
Why should parents consider it?
Students studying under a hybrid model can benefit from a deeper cultural understanding of China as well as fluency in Mandarin and English – a standout point when applying to university. Furthermore, a hybrid curriculum provides students with a one-of-a-kind education.
That being said, parents must consider whether a hybrid curriculum is right for their child. For example, families planning to stay in Beijing for a relatively short period may find it less challenging to stick with a curriculum that is more in line with that of their home country.
How well does this education system prepare students for the real world?
In today’s world, it’s more important than ever for future generations to be able to participate in a multicultural, multilingual, and fast-changing global environment. A hybrid curriculum with an emphasis on bilingualism, innovative learning approaches, and bridging cultural differences equips students with the skills they need for success in a globalized world.
Spotlight: Keystone Academy
Nancy Li (China) is a student at the newly-opened Keystone Academy, a "new world school" as stated in its literature. The Grade 9 student shares her views on Keystone’s own unique model of education.
What do you like about this curriculum?
Our curriculum helps students [whose]English is not their native language to learn almost everything step-by-step. We also learn about Chinese culture and language through different subjects. The best part is that I am learning a lot about my country’s culture and language while still advancing my English.
What are the challenges?
I always have to remind myself not to speak Chinese. Though I know I should speak English, sometimes I am not strict with myself and allow myself to use Chinese to discuss issues with my classmates. At the beginning of the semester, I did not realize how much that would hinder my improvement in English. However, my classmates were aware of it and suggested that we only speak English to each other. Now if I use Chinese in class, I have my classmates to remind me not to. The best part about tackling this challenge is that my classmates and I help each other, and are overcoming it as one group. I love the feeling that we are helping each other and improving together at Keystone.
Highlight the most interesting project you’ve worked on this year.
It was a design class project where had to create an “organizer” for ourselves. Our design teacher, George Baxter, recommended we use the website Pinterest for design ideas. After a little research, I began to design an organizer, choosing the coolest one from my ideas. With the materials Mr. Baxter gave us, I began to turn the 2D figure into 3D. Each organizer is so unique to each of us. I learned so much from this project and it was also of immediate practical use to me. There are so many other projects like this that we have done at Keystone, but I love this project the most.