Beanstalk International School, interview with Mr. Mike Weeks, deputy director

 

On the 7th of March, 2013, we have met with Mr. Mike Weeks, Deputy Director of Beanstalk International Bilingual School(BIBS) at the Middle/High School located No.38 Nanshiliju,  Chaoyang district.

 

What is education in the Beanstalk International Bilingual School about?

My thoughts on education is that any parents that are interested in education should  go  to the school , find out from the administration, from the teachers, what the school is all about, find the mission statement, I mean, if you come here you can see what  Beanstalk is about.

We offer a free full day to any parents that are willing to visit the school, so that if the parents wants to bring a child in,  they are placed in a classroom for a day and they can see whether the child likes it or not.

Our mission is : “ we are an international bilingual school ”  so we are bilingual, Chinese and English and we seek to empower our learners to become multicultural global citizens. We want the Children in BIBS to be able to respond efficiently and successfully in a global environment, and be able to access to responsibility. This is actually facilitated by Beijing environment as a capital city, with its embassies.

Can you give us a quick insight of the curriculum?

We have a set of desired learning outcomes which describe the qualities our students are working towards. We are currently a candidate school for the IB’s Primary Years Programme and our students follow “Units of Inquiry” planned and delivered by our teachers, who have to be trained by the IB.

In the Middle School, we use the Cambridge IGCSE curriculum, and out Senior School is a candidate school for the IB Diploma Programme.

Where is Beanstalk’s campus?

BIBS has many campuses, currently we have 3  Kindergarten campuses with different curriculum for 2 years old up to 4 years old children. Another is our primary campus for children in reception and goes up to grade 6, and there is a senior school that goes from grade 7 to grade 12. Last year was the first year we offered a grade 12, students graduated so we had our first graduates. The addresses for each campus is on our website www.bibs.org.cn.

What are the choices of the graduates regarding College and University?

One is an artist so he went to an art school in the United States; another went to a Chinese university in Shanghai. This year, we have one student graduating, she can chose among different universities in America but she is Chinese, she is from Hong Kong, so she has the opportunity to go to the university there and she hasn’t made her decision yet. The student who is graduating this year started in Kindergarten in Beanstalk and she has done very well.

Beanstalk is an international bilingual school, what does it practically means?

We offer about 30% of our teaching in Chinese and 70% is in English. The Chinese side is governed by exams set by the Chinese academic district we are in. Our Chinese syllabus is that of the national Chinese curriculum used in the Chinese government school. In addition to regular Math lessons in English, we also teach Math in Chinese to our students at our Primary school.

Regarding their Chinese language skills, the students are pre-tested, put in A level if their Chinese level is a great level. The B level is pretty close but they need more support and C level is for the beginners.

Then when they start at reception, most of them are beginners, as they move up we find that most of the Chinese students stay in the A level, some of them in the B. When it comes to grades 2 and 3 we begin to get western students that move in level B,  and by grades 4, 5 and 6 we get some that are in level A.

It means that the children in Beanstalk are actually bilingual?

Yes, for example we have a western girl student, she has been attending our school since reception and now she is totally bilingual, it doesn’t matter if she speaks Chinese or English.

Thanks to such students, quite often we have made presentations to the public with a small performance: we have one western face, one Chinese face, Chinese face speaks English western face will speak Chinese. It always amuses people because they realize they just had a preconceived idea.

So, during the school time, the students are taught Chinese and Math, and the math is what we call Chinese math which is different from the western math the way it is taught. It actually focuses on a very high skill level and real strong practical applications to it; the western side is more application and more problem solving. We work together so that the English teachers know what the Chinese teachers are teaching, but we ensure that the Chinese are leading because their level of math tends to be a lot higher than the western level style of math. It shows in all the testing we do: the last two years, we used Stanford testing from grade 3 up to 6 and our math scores are off the charts compared with an average American school on a grade level. Our average is two or three grades levels ahead. When we compare the English level, we are right on but we’ve got a lot of ESL (English as a second language) students.

I have to say we do better as well because we have got a lot more academic time.

To give an idea of how much time we get more, if you go to an American or Canadian or Australian school, most of them will be starting at about 9 o’clock and finishing around 3, if you go to our school you’ll start  at 8.30 and you’ll finish at 4, so we are adding an hour and a half every  day,  and if you add the hours up  , it’s a couple of months of actual classes, plus we offer more teaching days than you would get back in North America, so I think we gain almost 3 months.

That time is very valuable it allows us to offer the children more opportunities, we find that the bilingual kicks in because of a couple of reasons. We teach in the PYP style but the children learn Chinese and they learn to write it and this is tough.

Are there other activities taught in Chinese or is it only Chinese and Math?

The children also learn music at lower grades in Chinese, so we are doing Chinese music. The children are exposed to Chinese opera and we have one block of Chinese culture every week where they learn Chinese art and Chinese calligraphy.

Where do the children in Beanstalk come from?

We have a lot of embassies students and some people from different countries.

They are happy because they are going to school with a lot of Chinese kids so they learn faster at the playground, lunchtime, a lot of them become friends.  This is easy because when you are kids, you have friends, you learn fast and you have to actually learn how to speak, the kids want to communicate more than grown-ups do.

We have a majority of Chinese kids but our students come from all over the world, we have a lot of different nationalities, thanks to the embassies. We have kids from South America: Chili, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, as well as children from Germany, Russia, Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand.  Some of these foreign students are ethnic Chinese, and sometimes their Chinese is not as good as their English which is for some people surprising.

This makes me think of one last thing about being bilingual: we have hired some western teachers that are Asian, we really like that because they have reminders of language from parents or grand-parents, that gives them an advantage and this is a good example for the children to see an ethnic Chinese person speaking fluent English.

Where are the teachers from?

The majority of the teachers are from North America, United States and Canada, but we do have some teachers from Australia and some teachers from England. We have got one teacher from Russia, some of our teachers are very versatile with languages, we get them from anywhere as long as the English is without too strong an accent, they are fluent, strong in vocabulary and in grammar, and if, of course, they are qualified teachers.

What makes you proud of the kids studying in Beanstalk International Bilingual School?

A number of things makes me proud, one thing is I can see the children growing year by year and I am proud of the quality of the students we get, most of the students have strong values. If they are westerners, they are exposed to Chinese culture a lot more, they see both cultures and they can make the adjustment.

I am really proud the way they deal with one another, the way young westerners came to the school and have been assimilated by the Chinese kids. When they arrive early at the school they do not see Chinese kids as anything else than kids and friends, whereas when children have come at higher grade levels, they tend to not chum with the Chinese, they don’t communicate that much.

So you can see the difference so there is an advantage to parents who chose to come at an early grade on , they are doing a really good thing.

Another impressive thing to see is the talents of our children, for example how to perform. Every year, we are doing performances in a professional theatre in Beijing, 1200 adults will be attending, the show is about 2 hours long  and every child performs, this is a story telling experience and some high schools students add to it, and the parents are happy. I love when parents are happy because when parents aren’t happy it means there is something wrong in the school, of course we have problems, every school does, but the parents here are genuinely happy, we have no behavioral problems, the worst thing that can happen here is that the children don t do their homework.

 

The interview ends up here, since we have the opportunity to meet with Mr. Enrique Eddy, who is a parent.  Mr. Enrique Eddy is a diplomat working for the Embassy of Mexico. He has been a parent with Beanstalk for a few years. He would be a kind of spokesperson for the Embassies, and is very often a volunteer for the activities at school.

As a parent, why did you choose BIBS?

We chose Beanstalk because of the bilingual teaching system. My son entered Beanstalk in grade 1, he is in grade 4 now, he is fluent in Chinese, he is fluent in English and he is fluent in Spanish because we speak Spanish at home, all three languages are without an accent. Actually what is interesting about his Chinese is that Chinese people often tell us that if they don’t see him talking, they would think he is a Beijinger, his accent is a Beijing accent. Thanks to the school they have 1 h 45 of Chinese every day plus all the additional classes that he takes that are all taught in Chinese. For example, music, Chinese calligraphy, painting and other classes such as dance as well as Wushu are taught in Chinese. So when you combine all of them it makes around 2 hours and 50 minutes of Chinese a day. In other schools children may have one hour of Chinese per week.

After he left the Kindergarten we looked for 15 different schools, but we eventually chose Beanstalk. Our son now has friends from all over the world and Chinese friends as well.

Beanstalk International Bilingual School (BIBS)

Comprehensive information on the website:  http://www.bibs.com.cn/

Age Range: 2-18

Number of students: 750

The school has 5 campuses:

International Kindergarten (BIK)
1/F, B Building, No.40 Liangmaqiao.Rd
Chaoyang District
Beijing 100016
Tel: 86-10-6466 9255
Email: bikoffice@bibs.com.cn

Bilingual Kindergarten (BBK) Wanda Plaza, Building 7, 93 Jianguo road, Chaoyang District, Beijing Tel: (+86 10) 5960-3887 Email: bbkoffice@bibs.com.cn

Beanstalk Kindergarten @ Chang Qing Teng No. 4 Dongba Nanyijie Chaoyang District, Beijing


Tel: 86-10-5960-3887

 

Primary School
No.6 North Road of East Fourth Ring Road
Chaoyang District
Beijing 100016
Tel: 86-10-5130 7951
Fax: 86-10-5130 7946
Email: office@bibs.com.cnMiddle/High School
No.38 Nanshiliju
Chaoyang District
Beijing 100016
Tel: 86-10-8456 6019
Fax: 86-10-8456 2808
Email:seniorschool@bibs.com.cn

 

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