From Jordan to New Hampshire: local curriculum or international curriculum?

Dear Faculty,

This is my last post on my travels this year.  I have ended up my observations this year with a visit to a large (1000 students) K-12 school in Amman, Jordan.  Travelling the cradle of civilization brought up the debate between global curriculums and local curriculums that is being debated back in New Hampshire.  Interestingly, as I was in Jordan the debate of global versus local was occurring in the Middle East and in New Hampshire.

The Amman Baccalaureate School was founded by a member of the Jordanian royal family to provide an international education for Jordanian students.  The school provides a wonderful, rigorous education; and sends many students to top colleges around the world.  When I got to meet with the Board, they told me the story of when the school wanted to implement the IB curriculum.  Jordan’s Ministry of Education had to approve the program, and reportedly there was a lot of resistance to the change.  Some people in the ministry favored a more traditional, more Jordanian, more religious education.   “Of course,” I thought, the IB is a secular education and a western-style education focused on global (not Jordanian) citizenship.

On one hand, I could see the concerns of the Ministry.  The program is primarily English-based and most graduates go to colleges in the United States and Great Britain.  In addition, a program on a specific religion does not fit into the IB credits.  Ultimately, the program was approved and ABS is justifiably proud of opening that educational door in Jordan as other schools in Jordan also use the IB program.

The debate of how to weave an international education within the context of Jordanian culture and community is still an unresolved topic at ABS.  Here are some examples of where that issue surfaces:

Through seventh grade, approximately sixty percent of the schoolwork is done in Arabic in the courses of social studies, math, religion, Arabic language, drama and PE.  English language, science, art and ICT are the backbone of the English program.  Creating a bilingual program within the IB curriculum has been a challenge.  For instance, Anna’s school in Geneva (Mosaic) chose not to use the IB program because they felt it would not allow them to be a truly bilingual school.  ABS brought in an outside consultant to help design the program and now they feel they have more of a dual language program rather than a bilingual program.

In the high school years, English is the main language of instruction.  I asked some teachers what is the stronger language for most students by graduation.  They responded that in terms for reading and writing, English was the stronger language.   Families understand this reality when they sign up for the school, but some parents and grandparents bemoan that Arabic is not the primary language.

The Ministry of Education also requires that the school use its approved syllabi in religion, history and literature classes.  These syllabi do not always match the IB requirements so some of this work has to be done in addition to the IB work.

The curriculum design highlights the tension between an international curriculum and a national curriculum.  Some other examples of the dialogue between Jordanian traditions and international traditions appear in subjects as broad as school uniforms (pants and button down shirts for boys and girls) and as specific as what’s appropriate for a student fashion show in the auditorium.

ABS has done an admirable job of designing its program, but one if the first steps in their strategic plan is to “clearly define internationalism and bilingualism within the ABS context.”  During my visit I participated in robust discussions on this topic.  Over the past five years, ABS has done an impressive job of drafting their guiding statements, so I am confident that this will turn out well.

The curriculum debate at ABS mirrors questions at many schools of how to weave an international education with local culture.  Just as I was visiting Jordan, the New Hampshire state legislature was debating legislation that would ban the use of the IB in New Hampshire schools for fear of handing over school curriculum to a foreign group.  As I head back to Holderness, we will face this question as well.  Thank you so much for reading.

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Fusing East and West

Dear Faculty,

Only four weeks to graduation!  Enjoy the run of performances, exams, new leaders and final gatherings.  This week I am writing about a school that I visited in China that hopes to fuse eastern and western philosophies.

The Yew Chung International School of Beijing (YCIS) is part of a group of schools.  The first Yew Chung school was started in Hong Kong in the 1930s.  Its original aim was to fuse western and eastern educational philosophies.  With the opening up of China over the past thirty years, there are now five Yew Chung schools around China and one in Mountain View, California.  Here’s a picture of the school motto in the front lobby of the school:

During my visit, I was most interested in how the school fused eastern and western cultures.

The fusion starts with governance.  The directorate includes people from China and the west. The school in Beijing has co-principals, one from Great Britain one from China.  They also have co-teachers through the primary years: one western and one Chinese.  The other three international schools in Beijing that I checked into had almost all western faculty.  (For instance, a girl at the International School of Beijing remarked that “almost all of my teachers are from the United States.”)  During the visit, I witnessed some of the give and take between western and Chinese faculty.

YCIS is committed to fluency in both English and Chinese, even with its students from Korea or Europe.  The principals felt that this commitment to bilingualism set YCIS apart from other schools in Beijing.  As part of their Chinese fluency, the students learn Chinese calligraphy as the characters themselves express eastern art and culture.

Academically, the curriculum is based on the British national and IBO systems, which are western.  But in a nod to Chinese academics, the school is especially proud of its works in Math and Science.  A Holderness parent from China shared with me a Chinese educational “proverb” that says something along the lines of: “If a person knows math and science, they can do anything.”  Along those lines, the school has a required Design and Technology curriculum through the middle school years.

I also asked how YCIS fuses eastern and western teaching styles.  Western teaching styles include a lot of discussion-based classes, group projects and formative assessments.  I, perhaps naively, said that the reputation of eastern teaching involves quiet students and memorization.  The British co-principal talked about how they need to teach Asian students to be more comfortable speaking up in class and questioning the teacher.  The eastern co-principal agreed, but she also said, “It’s also good for a student to learn how to listen.  Even when they are sitting quietly, a lot can be going on inside a student’s head.”  A specific example along these lines occurs in math classes.  Western math teachers ask students to write down all their steps while doing problems.  Chinese math teachers often practice “mental math;” that is–having students practice doing problems entirely in their head and then saying the answers out loud.  It was fun to watch this type of give and take between the British and Chinese co-principals.

YCIS is also committed to educating the whole child, and that involves many co-curricular activities beyond academics that lead to exams.  For instance, all students up through third grade are required to learn to play the violin.  YCIS likes violin training at a young age because it promotes coordination, mathematical reasoning and how to read music.  Here’s a picture of the school’s small violins for young kids:

The school also has culture and service requirements and offers interscholastic sports.  All middle school students visit and learn about different Chinese cities, and the school offers optional trips to different places around the world.  Sports are a western part of the school as not many sports are offered in the city schools in Beijing.  It was interesting to note that the British co-principal mentioned that he has to spend time explaining the importance of educating the whole child to some Chinese parents.  Chinese schools, for the most part, are focused on exams.  His example was how he would have conversations along the lines of “yes, we are going to require the violin even if that means less class time…”  The school counselor also described their Character Formation program that is run through the morning homeroom and assembly times.  Its curriculum focuses on key words.   Diligence was the word during my visit, and one class that I visited was reading from the Bible and from Confucius on the idea of diligence.  Finally, their Seeds of Hope service program aims to bring charity and love to different sections of Beijing.

Along these lines, YCIS puts an extensive effort into educating and working with parents.  The school counselor teaches a six-week/twelve hour parenting class as well as weekend workshops.  The school counselor explained how western parents often need help understanding the life of Beijing and Chinese parents often need help understanding what YCIS means when they say that they educate the whole child.  In addition, YCIS hopes to create the feel of a community neighborhood for their parents at the school.  I saw several parents on the playgrounds and in the common areas during my visit to the school.  It is clear that YCIS wants to fuse western and eastern families as well as educational philosophies.

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Starting a New School in Managua

Dear Faculty,

It was great to see the school during Second Visits.  I hope the first few weeks of April are going well for you.  This post is back-dated a bit.  Over break I served on a NEASC visiting team that worked on the accreditation of a new school in Managua, Nicaragua.  St. Augustine’s Preparatory School is a Catholic K-12 school that is ten years old and welcomed its first NEASC visit this year.  The school offers an inspiring story of an organization that started in rented buildings with seventy students and six elementary school teachers ten years ago and has grown into a school of over 450 students on its own beautiful campus.  St. Augustine’s is a good example of how a new school can succeed in challenging conditions by defining key values in its academic program, management and community.

Let me start with the three school founders.  All three were born in Nicaragua, lived and attended college in the United States during the civil wars of the 1980s, and then returned to work and teach in Nicaragua in the 1990s.  They are passionate about their school, and they also very welcoming people.  To build the school, they have borrowed a total which exceeds their current annual revenues from tuition.  They have taken a significant financial risk in creating their dream.

When I learned that St. Augustine’s had added 450 students while the two other English language schools in Managua had experienced declining enrollment, I immediately asked, what had the three founders offered that was not at the other schools?  As I asked parents, faculty and students why they had chosen St. A’s, three themes emerged: the challenging academic program, the well-run school, and the Catholic role in the school.

At the outset, the founders chose to follow the Core Knowledge Curriculum for its grades K-8 students.  Core Knowledge is a U.S. curriculum that they adapted for their country.  The school teaches all its classes except religion, Spanish, Nicaraguan history, music and art in English.  As the children reached high school age, the school adopted a U.S. curriculum with AP classes much like the Holderness program.   During the visit, I sat in a history department meeting that discussed how the teachers were struggling to keep up with the pace of the curriculum.  Later, I met students who said that they liked their classes but that they were “too hard.”  Adhering to the Core Knowledge (and AP) structure pushed the teachers and students to reach for challenging levels of academic work which has become a strength of the school.  Here is a picture of a history classroom:

Many parents, teachers and students also mentioned how they appreciated that the school is “well-run,” and that proficiency is symbolized by school uniforms.  All the teachers wear uniforms.  The staff wears uniforms.  The kids wear uniforms.  Teachers dress in a light blue school shirt and khakis; the staff wears green shirts; and the kids wear blue shirts.  The twelve seniors got to wear unique red shirts that have 12 written in big letters on the back.  The kids have an option among khakis and skirts, but they all have white socks and black shoes.   When we had an opening reception on Sunday night with the faculty, the Head of School let the teachers decide what to wear, and they chose to sport the school uniforms instead of personal clothes. Here are pictures of the faculty in uniform:

The grounds are well-manicured and are surrounded by a tall green metal fence.  Managua as a city is bit disheveled, and this visual organization set the tone for the structural organization of the school.  I would feel more at peace when I left the main street and walked on to campus.

The Catholic faith is the foundation of the school community.  A statue of St. Augustine stands in the center of the entry, and other religious figures decorate the campus.  Kids attend mass once a week and have weekly religious classes.  I sat in on a first grade class that was explaining Holy Week (Semana Santa) and attended a mass that also celebrated three birthdays in the chapel.  There are prayers to begin and complete the school day that emphasize the school values.  The Morning Prayer includes the line: “We ask you to bless us in our learning and our playing together.”  The Dismissal Prayer includes the line: “God, our Father, at the end of this school day, we thank you for all the blessings we have received. We ask you to forgive us our failings and to grant us the grace to come back tomorrow, willing to be better disciples of your son Jesus.”  Several parents and faculty mentioned to me that the Catholic element of the school is important to them.   Here is one of the statues on the grounds:

Finally, the Head of School meets individually with all prospective families and new teachers to explain the school values and habits.  Their school is different than the other schools in Managua, and he wants to make sure that new families and faculty buy into the mission.  Walking around, we could feel that commitment as the teachers were energetic and several remarked how they loved working at the school and for the school founders.  They have successfully built on a rigorous academic program, efficient organization and a Catholic community spirit.

Some more photos:

Driving on to campus

math class

snack bar

senior class uniform

 

 

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The Rhodes Scholarship of Secondary Education

Dear Faculty,

Three more days!  I hope your last stretch of Special Programs goes well.  Last week I spent two days at the United World College in Maastricht, Netherlands.  The UWC felt like the Rhodes Scholarship of secondary education.

That’s a big statement; what do I mean by that?  The United World Colleges (13 of them) are spread throughout the world and are a two year (11th and 12th grade years) programs for aspiring college students.  David Amadu is a UWC-Singapore graduate.  The students are chosen in a competition by national committees.  The national committees also help fund the students so it is a fully-funded, need-blind program.   Most UWC graduates then qualify for financial aid in US and other universities.  The academic curriculum is the IB Diploma.  144 different countries participate in the UWC.

As I had dinner one night with several students and heard their stories, I learned about the competitiveness of the programs.  Two girls from Tanzania and Montenegro made it sound as if they had emerged as one of the top students in their country, thus “the Rhodes Scholarship of Secondary Education.” (my words)  The students do not get to choose their school, just the UWC program, so they apply knowing that they could be sent anywhere in the world for two years.

The students are the magic of the program.  They are bright, sociable and want to make a difference.  One girl from Germany left my table early at dinner.  I asked her where she was going, and she said she had a “board meeting.”  It turns out she is on the board of a non-profit, second-hand book store in Maastricht.  She had spent some time in the store, made friends with the director, and then had been asked to serve on the board.  I asked her what her role was on the board.  “Promotion,” she said. “The store wants to get kids in to read their books, and I help with that.”

Student driven service such as this example is a required part of their program.  Another group of kids worked at a local non-profit restaurant.  They serve inexpensive meals to “lonely” people, mostly elderly.  The kids had gone from serving meals and doing dishes, to organizing a program every other Friday night.  They would do some type of presentation on their home culture for the customers.  That evening, a girl from Kenya was teaching dance steps to some other girls (not from Africa).  The next Friday night’s presentation was going to be Kenyan dance.  I smiled at the image of girls from Africa, Latin America and Asia performing a Kenyan dance for the elderly of Holland.

During my visit, students from the UWC of the Adriatic were visiting on a cultural tour.  Their school is in a small village, so they were excited to see the big cities of Maastricht and Amsterdam after a ten-hour train ride.  When they heard I was from the USA, they asked me how to order correctly at Starbucks.  The kids are also a rough and tumble group.  Since they come from all economic strata, they do not have the polish of wealth.  It’s very refreshing.

UWC-Maastricht also hosts students from around the world for a Theory of Knowledge conference.  (Theory of Knowledge is a required IB course.)  This year’s theme is “Crossing Borders”, and some students were working on how artists from different parts of the world viewed borders.  One class was looking at Frost’s Mending Walls when I was there.  The comparative fine arts projects were wonderful.   Only students present at the conference that is two days long.

The boarding challenge for UWC-Maastricht is unique.  50 UWC students enter the school in the 11th grade year and join a group of 25 day students from the Maastricht area.  Some of those students have been in that school since kindergarten, so the mixing presents some integration challenges.  The two programs that have worked involve orientation and the boarding house.  All 75 students are in the IB program, and so the local students participate in the three-day orientation at the beginning of the year.  Then, the boarding students host study groups, meals and parties at the boarding house.  Going back to last week’s theme of location, having two different groups of kids share one location for an activity helps improve their sense of community.  The Residential Director says they work hard to treat the students as one group.  “Once faculty make a distinction between day and boarding, the students will,” he said.

During my meeting with the Head of School, I learned a lot about the UWC system and the challenges of starting a new UWC school connected to an existing K-12 school.  We also talked about the goals of the school’s global curriculum, and his answer made me think of the bookstore, the restaurant, the kids travelling from the Adriatic, the ToK conference and of the boarding house.  He said, “All the important lessons occur outside the classroom.”

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Leysin American School, McCain and Obama

Dear Faculty,

For those of you who can read this post, I hope Special Programs has started off well.  From Philadelphia, to the forge, to the Pemi Wilderness to all the places that the Seniors are headed, Special Programs creates new locations for everybody at the school.  I bring that up because my visit to the Leysin American School (LAS) in Switzerland last week, as well as my visit to the UWC-Maastricht this week brought up issues around location.  This blog travels from mountain classrooms to the educations of John McCain and Barak Obama.

LAS is a boarding school of about 300 kids set up in the Swiss Alps, about a 90 minute drive from Geneva.  When I asked both adults and students, “why did you decide to come to LAS?”, many pointed to the window and said “just look outside.”  The scenery and mountain opportunities are stunning.  A picture of the view from a class in the library is below.

These comments reminded me that for boarding schools, just like colleges, location is a big factor in who decides to attend that school.  A school can’t change its location but it can use it.  Just as Holderness has many programs connected to the New Hampshire mountains and forests, LAS has a “mountain challenge” in its orientation, an afternoon ski program in the winter, and longer expeditions into the Alps.  Being on a train line and in Switzerland, LAS also takes advantage of its location in the center of Europe.  As part of their international curriculum, students and faculty take travel weekends and cultural trips every term to many parts of Europe.  Below is a fuzzy picture of where kids were headed for their next cultural trips.  The destinations included Florence, Amsterdam, Lisbon, Sorrento, Berlin, Munich, Barcelona, Venice, Georgia, Prague and Croatia.

Location is a factor on the LAS campus as well.  The school has recently purchased and renovated a beautiful 19th century hotel and turned it into their center for the IB Diploma program.   The Head talked to me about how the IB program and a beautiful facility were academic distinguishers for ASL.  The US diploma students work out of another building, Savoy, and so the new IB location creates some challenges too as housing the two different diploma programs in two different buildings can create a sense of two separate campuses.  Here are the school photos of the buildings:

LAS has students from over 50 nations and does not have one group larger than about 20% of the school.  Below is a picture of the names and nationalities of last year’s graduating class.

Like many international schools, the Head talked about how having such a spread of students eliminates the insider/outsider dynamic at the School.  Everyone arrives as an outsider and works to create a new community.  I watched the Student Council work on organizing the school’s international fair: a group of students from all over the world had divided up tasks from activities, to scheduling, to promotion, to finances; and they were visibly excited about the event that would share all of their cultures.  Below is a picture of the Student Council.  The kids with their hands raised are the executive committee.

As with the trips and the fair, much of their global education occurs outside the classroom.  Correspondingly, the residential dean makes sure that all students room with a person with a different mother tongue.  LAS also has a week-long orientation program that includes the parents.  Like Brillantmont, LAS uses a digital tool called PowerSchool that puts up daily assignments and grades for all students, teachers and parents to access in real time.  Connecting to the parents is an on-going process.

On the IT front, the students and faculty all use MacBooks and Google Docs, so the many digital assignments and projects can easily talk to each other.  With these new tools, the Dean of Faculty talked about the concept of global citizenship as another strand of international education.  Using digital tools can create international citizens.  For instance, many of the Arab Spring protests were powered by global digital citizens.  In contrast, one of the weaknesses of the Occupy Wall Street movement was its inability to leverage digital citizens.  The school hopes to educate kids in that type of citizenship.

As part of faculty training, all the adults had read Third Culture Kids by David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken.  Third Culture kids are students that have a passport from one country but live in another country.  For example, Anna Mac is a third culture kid this year.  The book discusses the issues and strengths of such students and helps teachers better work with them.  An interesting example of the global skills of third culture kids came out in the book’s introduction: both John McCain and Barak Obama are third culture kids.  McCain was born in Panama and lived overseas until he turned 15 years old.  Obama was born in the USA but spent a considerable part of his childhood in Indonesia.  Those experiences probably helped them rise to the top of the US presidential ladder where international (and digital) skills are especially important.

Enjoy your new locations during Special Programs.  A new spot creates unease, but in the long run creates important new perspectives and skills.

Jory

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King’s Academy, Jordan

Dear Faculty,
I hope your preparation for Special Programs is going well.  Apropos to doing something completely different, such as special programs, Martha and Anna journeyed to Jordan two weeks ago and visited King’s Academy.  Below is a link to her video (3:50 long).
It is a glimpse into the the challenges of creating a new school in the Middle Easton based on the Deerfield model .
Enjoy,
Jory
If you prefer a written version, here it is:
What do you get when you try to do three challenging things at once?  What if those three things are 1) starting a school 2) modeling it after one of the most established and revered institutions in the United States while at the same time 3) doing all the this in the Middle East?  The answer is you get King’s Academy in Jordan, a boarding school founded by the King of Jordan, a Deerfield Academy alum.      Having spent a day at King’s , I appreciate that the school holds the promise of becoming a real agent of change in this conflicted part of the world, but first, is has to become a school.

What has already occurred in the short history of this place is remarkable.  The cornerstone was laid in 2004, the school began operating in 2007 and proudly displays two large photos in the main administration building of its first two graduating classes in 2010 and 2011.  The campus is immense, an oasis of calm academia.  The desert heat is kept at bay by white, stone buildings built around grassy quads that are clearly a struggle to keep green.  The library is sized to be cozy but complete with the English collection of the first floor and the Arabic collection up above.  The spiritual center looks like a small building from the outside until you enter to find it is really an open courtyard creating an inspiring place for reflection.   There are dorms, a dining hall, offices and classrooms.  For a visitor from a New England boarding school there is familiarity at every turn.  From the librarian proud of her collection and happy to pose for a picture, to the piles of backpacks at the entrance to classroom building left there by kids who are not yet ready to give up the fun of the walkways for the work that awaits them in the hallways.

There is also a tremendous commitment to helping Jordan’s most promising students attend.  Somewhere around 40% of the students are on financial aide.  Many are “King’s Scholars” which means they came to campus in 6th grade, took an exam did well, and thus received a coveted spot at King’s that following summer to learn English, Arabic and Computers, in preparation for attending King’s as a boarding student.

It was during my time spent with the Deans of Students Office that I grew to appreciate the challenges facing this inspiring place.  First and foremost, none of the parents, outside the King himself, have ever attended boarding school.  Their educations, and the ones they envision for their children are about structured academics culminating in high stakes exams.  The Deans work hard to orient the parents and the students to everything outside of academics that is boarding school life, but even after enrolling at King’s, getting full engagement in anything outside of academics is an uphill trek.  King’s was envisioned and built as a 7 day a week boarding school model like Deerfield.  But what has evolved is a school for which 40% of the students are day students from nearby Amman, another 30-40% board 4 nights a week and return home for the Friday, Saturday weekend, and 20% are on campus for the full week.   To help create community, the deans have instituted “Spirit Week” and rituals such as Valentine’s Day cookie deliveries.  In order to have athletic teams they have had tom in some instances, first created the league of competitors from nearby schools.  Sometimes the hunt for athletic competitions takes them to some wild places.  Matt Westman, the Varsity basketball coach, (and Andrew Sheppe’s friend) will be taking his team to Beirut next weekend to play in a tournament.  They will fly there because Hezbollah controls the southern part of Lebanon, which makes flying directly into Beirut the preferred route.

This brings us to security.  The school has a discreet but formidable wall around it and all visitors pass through a guarded gate when entering.  It becomes second nature, I noticed, to open your trunk as you approach the gate because it is required of you to do so every time.  Once on campus it is a calm, delightful place. Despite all the security measures undertaken by the school and all the hotels I stayed at, Jordan is a safe country which was described to me by one foreign service diplomat from Great Britain as the “Switzerland of the Middle East”.  As I parted John Austin, the head of school, asked if Holderness would host some of his Jordanian teachers that travel to the United States to visit New England Boarding schools, to help them better understand the culture King’s is striving to create.   I told him we would be honored to help in any way we could, and in so doing, we too would undoubtedly become a better school too.

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The Sorbonne, The American School of Paris and L’equation du Coeur

Dear Faculty,

It was great to see everyone during Parents Weekend.  I enjoyed being on the other side of the conference lines.  You all look great.  After returning to Europe, we went to Paris for three days, and I spent time at the Sorbonne and at the American School of Paris, two leaders in international education.

On a walk around the student section of Paris, I went into the reception area of the Sorbonne (Universite Paris-Sorbonne), and the lobby had a piece on its history.  According to the exhibit, a medieval school of theology had been operating in Paris for awhile when in 1254 Robert de Sorbon, a chaplain, said he wanted to create a college not only for teaching theology but also for the hosting and nurturing of poor teachers and students.  [“l’hebergement et l’entretien des pauvres maitres et escholiers”—you may want to check my translation with Janice or Lew.)

The back story here is that the students up to that point had to find their own housing and there had been a street protest about the cost and quality of housing in the neighborhood.  (I guess the practice of young people throwing rocks in the streets of Paris goes back aways!)  Only the very wealthy could get adequate housing.  When the college started offering hebergement to the students, they organized them into four “nations.”  Nation had a somewhat different meaning back then, but essentially they housed students according to their cultural, linguistic and political background.  Here’s a map of the four nations:

So instead of mixing the different cultures, they housed the students with familiar faces. They also provided house masters, food and rules of behavior, or entretien.  At that time, the students usually started at around age 14, so as I read the history, I thought: “This is one of the first boarding schools!”

The Sorbonne was one of the few medieval universities in Europe.  Over the centuries, its practice of safely housing its students helped attract some of the best young minds from around Europe.  I wondered if its boarding program was one of the reasons that by early modern times, the European center for philosophy, scientific advancements and art had moved from the Italian peninsula to Paris.  One could argue that the Sorbonne was the first place to realize that an affordable, respectable boarding program would help them attract talented students from all over Europe (which was like from all over the world to them.)  Of course, supporting that claim would require more research.  However, I found no evidence of a 13th century job program or parent teacher speed conferences in their history.

From the Sorbonne, I travelled out to the American School of Paris (ASP) which is actually in Saint Cloud.   ASP is the first modern international school established in Europe, founded in 1946 to educate the children of diplomatic and corporate families moving into the rubble of post war Europe.   In 1967, ASP moved to its current campus.  The area had been occupied by NATO, but when NATO moved to Brussels, ASP moved in.  Up until this year, the French government had owned the land, but in 2009 the French government asked ASP to buy the land outright or move to another spot by the end of 2012.

ASP offers both the IB Diploma Programme and AP tests, and we discussed how they thought that the IB assessments were more thorough.  When I asked why they kept the AP, they responded that many American families ask for the AP over the IB.  In terms of their global education program, ASP is working on how to best prepare engaged global citizens.  They feel that engagement cannot occur in a traditional classroom, and they are pushing for more off-campus immersion experiences.  Like most schools, however, the regular school year feels “too busy” to schedule those encounters, so they are trying to create more options and funding for vacation and summer trips.  The difficulty of pulling students out of the traditional classroom is a common theme this year.

ASP also extends into the local community with an Extension program for French school children on Wednesday, Saturdays and vacations.  The programs focus on English language acquisition and American culture.  The themes I saw focused on Native Americans and Jazz music.  It is open to lower, middle and upper school students and works at distinct levels of ability.  Over 2,000 French students participate in the program.   A main building on campus is dedicated to the Extension school.  The program reminded me of the large demand for learning English language and culture among international families.

Finally, I also wandered into a Mathematics and Art exhibit near the Sorbonne.  Below (and also attached) is one of the displays.  In Paris, they find love in math:

The next post will feature a guest writer.  Martha travelled to Jordan last week and visited King’s Academy.  Stay tuned.

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