My first job as a consultant was at Chadwick International in South Korea, the partner of Chadwick School outside of Los Angeles. This international partnership was ready to add a high school, and they hired me to help with the experiential programming for incoming ninth graders. I traveled to South Korea twice with colleagues to create and then help lead this orientation program in the southern part of the country where many of the city-raised students had never been, setting up activities such as farming, fishing, hiking and living in homestays. In addition to enjoying the project itself, I learned a great deal about this partnership and became intrigued with what is becoming a trend in global education.
Several schools in China, South Korea, and India have reached out to independent schools in North America as partners. Each partnership differs according to the needs of the schools involved, and yet they all have some similarities. They appear to grow out of a desire to learn from each other, and since it is usually the Asian school that reaches out first, a desire to bring more critical thinking, innovation, and creativity to areas traditionally more structured and content-focused. The North American schools tend to benefit more financially as well. After I worked at Chadwick International, I heard about another school on Jeju Island in South Korea called Branksome Hall Asia operated by Branksome Hall School in Toronto, Ontario. Later, I learned that Barstow School in Kansas City, Missouri has partnerships with several schools in China. Closer to me, the University Child Development School in Seattle has partnered with Ascend International in Mumbai, India.
These schools intrigue me for several reasons. First of all, I marvel at the nature of our world that these partnerships can exist, even thrive, across continents. Second, as an advocate for experiential education, I love the fact that people have jumped into something new and are figuring it out as they go along. Finally, I am excited by the possibilities of exchange between different cultures, educational systems, and teaching pedagogy. I wonder how they came about, how each school is benefitting, what bumps in the road they have experienced, and what they have learned that will serve them as they evolve. I suspect that strong leadership is important to keep them developing to mutual advantage.
I have followed Chadwick School’s experiment as they have added student and teacher exchanges, co-developed curriculum, and struggled with the decision to stay with the International Baccalaureate curriculum that is standard in International Schools, or use the Advanced Placement curriculum more common in the United States. I know that the relationship between the two schoolshas absolutely enriched both campuses even with the inherent challenges. (see these articles: “Chadwick fosters creative thinking” and “The ‘five-year-old Chadwick International” and for more information). Led by progressive educator Paula Smith, the University Child Development School (UCDS) has worked hard to foster a true partnership with Ascend International, not simply create an Indian clone of the Seattle school. Many faculty and staff, both senior and new, have spent significant time on their counterpart’s campus to ensure things like language, behavior and methodology function well in both cultures.
I recently connected with a former student of mine who works at UCDS and just returned to India for his second year at Ascend International. He could not say enough about the impact working there has had on him. Teachers return to their home schools energized, transformed and excited about how the partnership enhanced their teaching. I want to learn more about these experiments, especially what educators are learning from each other, and what that learning means moving forward into the increasingly connected world of global education.