In November 2017, the Sina 2017 China Education Festival, sponsored by Sina Education Channel, was held in Beijing. Vermont International Academy (VIA) was invited to the ceremony and was awarded the title of “2017 Outstanding International School”.
The China Education Festival, held by SINA in 2008 for the first time, has become the largest and most influential annual event in China's education field due to its extensive industry coverage and social influence. On the 10th anniversary of the China Education Festival, about 1,000 people attended this festival, including well-known experts and scholars in the education sector, government leaders, embassy and consular officials, school representatives, top education investors, heads of educational institutions, and educational entrepreneurship elites. The theme of this year's China Education Festival focused on "changing education". It reviewed the annual “hot topics” in education and talked about the future development of education. It focused on various fields such as educational consumption, education and technology, online education, educational investment, education and public welfare, international education and so on.
As the award winner of “2017 Outstanding International School”, Mr. Lu Wei, the chairman of Hong Kong Veritas Education Group Limited, which oversees VIA, was interviewed by Sina:
First of all, congratulations to your company for Sina Education Festival "2017 China Outstanding International School". At this moment, do you have anything to share with us?
Well, first of all, I should thank Sina Education Festival for the honor. We are very happy to be invited here and to get this award. Secondly, I want to express my gratitude to the parents for their trust. Since 2012, the year VIA entered China, it encountered many problems. Without the understanding and support of the parents, it would have been very hard for us to develop to today's scale and influence. With only five years of schooling experience in China, VIA can enroll much less good students compared with many famous traditional schools. But in the past three years, many of our graduates were admitted into top 10 and top 20 universities in the United States, including Ivy League schools and many top polytechnic universities. And I believe it is because of our achievement that so many parents are satisfied with VIA. Recently, many international schools sprang up and became a hot topic online. Many celebrities send their children to international schools for better education, which leads the social trend. But it is not easy for parents to analyze whether an international school is good or not.
So Mr. Lu, do you have any suggestions for the parents about how to choose the right school for their children?
Yes, choosing a right school is very important, and as an expert, I have several suggestions below:
1. Parents should first fully know the children’s specialties, advantages as well as character, then choose matched curriculum and school.
2. I think education is to cultivate children’s hobbies and core abilities needed in the future world. International schools, where students are educated, should possess their own educational tradition and meanwhile have foresight toward innovation, and elements of internationalization. And all these, to some extent, have something to do with the founders and principals’ beliefs.
3. Well-established curriculum system, and it will be better if it has compatibility.
4. A good international school can also provide comprehensive education as well as personalized education.
5. Qualified management team and well-trained teaching group.
6. Good facilities.
7. The school should help the students with guidance and future plans, provide channels for foreign colleges and universities. This can make it easier for the students to enter an appropriate university for further study.
VIA adopts AP course and American Common Core, which is very dominant in America and is accredited by College Board in the United States; and meanwhile VIA takes Chinese students’ traits into consideration and has many humanities courses, including Chinese, Politics, History and Geography. Students can not only learn the formal American curriculum in a teaching environment highly similar to that of American high schools, but also systematically study the Chinese cultural traditions and values. VIA is committed to creating an education model for international schools that truly fits Chinese students and cultivating a large number of international talents who can "go abroad”, also “stay and get back " to China for China's modernization construction. VIA has established systematic leading principles for guidance and instruction, as well as standardized workflow. Guidance for studying abroad is not once-and-for-all, so students should receive guidance as early as they enter the school. The career plan and applying for universities are integrated, making it possible for the students to get involved in the process, also creating opportunities for communication between the school and students. And in order to give students more information about studying abroad, VIA keeps close relations with universities in many countries.
The market competition in international education is pretty intense now. So, in the process of adopting and international schooling path, what should we do to get both international and Chinese courses integrated?
The aim of education is to cultivate talents. And international education in China aims at preparing international talents for China’s future development. It should not only be consistent with national strategies, it should also cater to the expectation of market development.
1. From the perspective of national strategies: the 19th People’s Congress mentioned that China should stick to its own way of development, keep its own confidence in theory and methodology. The future nation constructors must know about Chinese history, culture and mission. Only in this way can they catch the opportunities for Chinese development and face challenges.
2. From the perspective of market development: in the past few years, with the growth of Chinese economy, its international status ascends, the number of returned overseas students is similar to that of students studying abroad. And even if they stay in a foreign country, they can only develop with understanding of China.
Therefore, international courses must be localized, get Chinese culture, history, nowadays politics and mission integrated. Besides, Chinese students’ traits should get attention.
In the very early stage of curriculum setting, VIA got Chinese elements involved, which coincides with Shanghai Education Commission’s norms for international curriculum. And in the aspect of curriculum, VIA strengthens English and bilingual instruction to make sure that students can adapt to American courses. As for management of instruction, VIA sets headmasters as the leaders to leader the strengthening of the management for students as well as communication with parents.
As a leader in international education, can you briefly introduce how you at VIA run so successfully? And we are very curious about what is your new annual plan?
Well, for the first question, I think the reason is our specially designed curriculum. In 2012 when VIA entered China, our curriculum took curriculum requirements for outstanding high schools in the eastern United States, Chinese students’ knowledge structure, language ability and studying habits and basic subjects that we think Chinese students should study further, like Chinese culture, history, geography into consideration. Our curriculum is designed by Dr. Harry Chaucer, American first-class curriculum designer together with Chinese educational experts. In the past five years, it has been improved and its superiority and practicality have been proved. The result is that VIA’s instruction in China can connect with higher education in America. And in this way compared with other Chinese students, students in VIA can get more attention from universities in the United States. And we always emphasize the quality of teachers, especially for foreign teachers. The proportion of VIA’s lessons taught by foreign teachers has always been the highest in these schools. Most of these foreign teachers are excellent with a wealth of international teaching experience. VIA’s campuses in China issue an American high school diploma, and in June 2016, our campus in Shanghai was accredited by AdcancED, the biggest independent certification institute in America. And this campus is one of very few campuses that have been accredited for the curriculum. All these together can attract many high qualified foreign teachers, especially American teachers, which is very vital for VIA’s success. Apart from the emphasis on the quality of classroom instruction, we also make efforts to gradually strengthen students’ involvement in extracurricular activities and improve the quality of the extracurricular activities, cultivate students’ community awareness and leadership, and further their study in the fields they have interests in. This year, with the help of the teachers, a student in VIA got the gold prize in British Physics Olympiad Competition. Actually, famous universities abroad attach much importance to these extracurricular activities. From last year, VIA expanded its schooling across China and we now have totally 6 campuses in Shanghai, Xiamen and Guangzhou. In the next few years, the number of our campuses will increase. In the process of expansion, we emphasize the standardization of curriculum and instructional management between campuses, to make sure that they are consistent in the process of acceleration and development.