With international schools in China long considered to be a privilege mainly for expatriate children, a new institute in Beijing expects to offer natives an equal opportunity to get a Western style education through a hybrid approach.
Months before its official opening in the fall, Yew Wah International Education Schools Beijing has already reached its admission targets for kindergarten and primary students. Secondary levels are planned for coming years.
The integration of Western and Chinese educational approaches, which starts with a team of two principals - one foreign, one native - appeals to China's ambitious parents nowadays, said Monica Meng Xiuli, the Chinese co-principal at YWIES Beijing.
"Our school is equipped for Chinese students with international vision," she said. "We offer bilingual and multicultural study pathways for children who plan to pursue international education."
Richard Woods, the school's Western co-principal, added that the educational philosophy from overseas only works on condition that it understands and fuses with the local system.
"The most important thing is that we support the children in their own language. If they are going to become international people, then they have to know where they come from and what it means to be Chinese in the 21 Century," said Woods, who has worked in the education sector in six different countries.
Based on China's National Curriculum, which is mandatory in ordinary public schools across China, the school has developed its own diverse teaching style, including hands-on approaches from the active Western approach through presentations, debates and field trips.
"Chinese are quite strong in classroom teaching, which is more teacher-centered," said Meng, who has 25 years teaching and managing experience in public and international schools in Beijing. "We also brought in research and teamwork sessions from the international style, which we should incorporate in a Chinese way."
Core subjects in the national curriculum, such as Chinese language and math, will also be taught diligently to ensure that students can face the academic rigor, Meng said.
Woods put it this way: "What we are doing is using the Chinese system in order to ensure that our children learn effectively."
Located in Yizhuang, southeast of Beijing's downtown business district, the new school, whose 119,000-square-meter campus is nearing completion, will be able to handle about 3,000 students.