|John Delautre and Shaozhou Cui, principal of Beijing Xinfuxue International Academy
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Earlier this month I visited the campus of Xinfuxue (“new classical”) school in Beijing to formalize a partnership that both schools have been discussing since last year. Xinfuxue is an independent school in the northern suburbs of Beijing, not too far from the airport; it occupies the campus of a former college and houses about 400 students in grades K – 12, all of whom expect eventually to matriculate to universities in the west. Typical of independent schools in China, Xinfuxue’s classes are much smaller than those found in public schools, averaging about 30 students per group, and the instructional approach is much closer to what you expect to find in a Whitfield classroom. The teachers and administrators, along with most of the students, have a western orientation and tend to speak English well.
The purpose of this new partnership is multi-dimensional. In the first phase, next year, Whitfield will help Xinfuxue staff and implement a hybrid Chinese/American curriculum for a new degree program within their larger program, on their campus. In case you are wondering, we will be hiring new (outside) staff for this teaching assignment rather than seeking a teacher from our current Whitfield faculty. Year one of this arrangement is a modest step that will not impact life on our St. Louis campus noticeably. Years two, three and beyond, however, hold greater promise for collaboration between our two schools involving student and teacher visits in both directions, and eventually our enrolling a small, select number of Xinfuxue juniors and seniors in Creve Coeur.
We are currently in year three of our international student program, which now involves a total of 20 students from 8 different countries, we have learned and gained much. We knew from the start it would be wise to move slowly in order to guarantee the quality of the experience for all our students. Along the way we have refined the criteria for success among our international candidate pool, and we now understand the challenges of housing our guests from other countries. Most of all, I believe we have learned the value of having students from other parts of the world in our midst, in the classroom as well as other aspects of school life. Though the effort has been demanding, the benefits are also undeniable in terms of increasing this community’s collective global awareness and cultural competence.
The success of Whitfield’s international program is to the credit of this school’s openness to new ideas, to our mutual recognition of the need to adapt to global realities, and to our warmth and hospitality as a community. There is no doubt, as we prepare our students for the 21st workplace and society, that there is strategic value in adding students from different parts of the world to our mix; but beyond that practical value, the benefits of interacting on a daily basis with friends and colleagues from around the world cannot be overestimated. And in the process we learn as much about ourselves as we do about others.