Among the throngs of families examining booths at the seventh Beijing International School Expo (BISE), Shelly and Richie Fung came in prepared with a list of guidelines for selecting the best school for their young girl, Scully. For the Fung family, 2017 BISE was the perfect setting as there were more than 60 major international schools and kindergartens in Beijing, as well as over 20 after-school institutions in the capital and from outside China that had gathered at the expo.
When beijingkids and JingKids approached the Fungs, the parents explained they were looking for a new high school for their 16-year-old daughter. “We asked her to choose which career she wants to take in the future. At first, we clarified her purpose and then we went here to choose a high school in Beijing,” Sherry said.
Sifting through a lot of choices was indeed a tiring task for the Fungs, but the young girl was positive that her family could find the right fit for her at BISE. “I prefer a school that has better teachers, of course they are the most important [factor]. Also, I’m looking for a school that offers more social activities,” said Scully.
“It’s difficult to find a new high school,” Sherry said, adding that they want to stay with their girl until before she gets into university. “Being together as a family is important,” she added.
The Fungs were just one of more than 4,000 families that gathered at the 2017 BISE on February 18 and 19 at Crowne Plaza Hotel in Chaoyang District. Though each of the families had different stories, they were united in their search for the best school for their children.
We also met Mr Zhang, an 80-year-old retired teacher from Beijing. He was looking after his 3-year-old grandson at Ivy Education Group’s Science play area while her one and only daughter was busy checking out kindergartens. Old Zhang held his grandson’s stroller that was full of bags and other school materials.
Cheery and accommodating, Mr Zhang shared that he used to do scientific research at a Chinese university. However, he said he got so focused on his career that he married late at 40. His daughter, now half his age, also married late.
“We are living in a world of information and we should focus on international education,” grandpa Zhang said. After that, he started to cry. “I hope that sending my grandson at an international kindergarten would help him have an easier life. We don’t want him to start late and be like us.”
Understanding the value of education
Besides school hunting, many parents also attended free lectures regarding educational issues and strategies implemented by various schools. On Day 1, the topics ranged from the difference between Chinese and British examinations, to various curricula being employed at Chinese schools, and then to the learning journey for both children and parents.
Jasper Pan, Executive Director of HD Schools, shared insights into his prior conversations with parents who were choosing the best route for their children’s overseas study plans. He emphasized two distinct ideas to help parents decide: considering the issues of primary years and curriculum. He said he hopes the discussion provided enough information so that parents can set up appropriate expectations and make informed decisions when selecting the best school among the wealth of school options both locally and abroad.
At another lecture on opportunities for inter-school collaboration, Dr. Tarek Razik, Head of School at the International School of Beijing and President of the Association of China and Mongolia International Schools (ACAMIS), highlighted the role English language training has in linking students and supporting the professional development of educators.
On Day 2, speakers from Chinese schools highlighted the value of traditional education while the English Panel featured six distinguished academic professionals from major International schools in Beijing who weighed in on issues surrounding the dynamic nature and relationship of parent-teacher communication. Evelyn Lucero, K-12 Curriculum Coordinator at Beijing International Bilingual Academy said parents and teacher work together as “one team and one family” to find solutions to issues concerning children’s educational growth.
Jumpstarting Children’s Education
For the first time in its seven-year history, BISE introduced the Starter Scholarships, a drawing competition (for younger kids) and an essay-writing competition (for older students). More than RMB 30,000 in cash had been up for grabs to help offset school costs.
This year’s expo also featured seven play areas where children stayed while their parents shopped around for schools. Beanstalk entertained the small ones with a Lego area, while Huijia Private School prepared two model horses from its horse riding club and UTMost Squash Club set the kids burning off their energy with a squash game. Ivy Education Group brought the scientists out of the children at the Science area, while creative boys and girls enjoyed painting at Club Med’s paint corner, built paper airplanes with Shanglearning, and did calligraphy with the help of Pinmo Art.
Moving in the Same Direction
Different school exhibitors and organizations offering after-school activities and camps commented that the majority of student visitors at the expo were younger than expected but that the expo still provided many valid registrations. Both Keystone Academy, Etonkids International Bilingual Kindergartens, and Springboard International Bilingual School noted the enthusiastic reception to this year’s event and that they all received hundreds of qualified leads.
Beijing International Bilingual Academy said they achieved their goals in this year’s expo and added that the large amount of families in attendance showed an increased interest toward international school education. Elke van Dongen, Admissions Officer at Association Swiss School Beijing explained that BISE “thrusts the opportunity” to let people know about the school as well as other exhibitors.
Meanwhile, representatives from Innova Academy said some of their visitors were pregnant mothers, most of whom told the school they were planning before the birth of their children. Scott Michael Swan, Head of Admission of Limai Chinese American School said that the expo helped disseminate awareness about schools. “For this type of , it is mainly to get people know and understand what we are doing and what we offer … [and while]we can’t expect they will all turn back to sign up, it is still important to work with the right people who share the same direction.”