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Canadian Has Big Plans for CIS Beijing

September, 2006
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IMG_2310 Sharon Crabb said she always likes to take on new things, but she never thought she would have the opportunity to travel abroad and work as the principal of the new Canadian International School of Beijing (CIS).

  “This is so exciting. I have been an educator for 37 years, but this just feels like it is starting all over again,” said Crabb.

  In fact, this is her very first time working full time in a school abroad.

  “Yes, a brand new experience for me,” she said. “I feel very much at home already, although I’ve been here for only a couple of weeks.”

  Her interest in coming here was sparked when students from China attended her previous school in New Brunswick, Canada.

  In talking with, and observing the students over two years, she said, she learned a lot about China, and particularly about them.

  “I saw sometimes the struggles they had as they left their home and country, and traveled abroad to study. They were very brave to do that,” she said. “Then suddenly there was such an opportunity for me to do that, I just could not pass that up.”

  In this new school, Crabb believes she and her team are given many opportunities to bring in materials, curriculum and other resources. The teachers are also excited because it is not often they have the opportunity to work in a school that is so rich in technology and resources, such as the smart boards in classrooms, computerized libraries, and a completely wired campus.

  “When you have an empty room, you can fill it with the kind of things you want to work out the best. More importantly, you are involved in creating the whole thing,” said Crabb.

  She also believes this is a precious learning experience for most of the Canadian teachers who have never been in China before, and are looking forward to learning some Chinese and becoming familiar with China, particularly Beijing.

  The principal thinks everyone should prepare for a few challenges in the new school year.

  The first challenge is to introduce the Canadian curriculum to the school, to be delivered in English.

  “English is probably the second or third language of the new students. It is always a challenge whenever you are learning a new language,” she said. “We have to make sure we are building their English language development when we deliver the curriculum so that they can demonstrate their knowledge in other subjects, too.”

  At CIS, the Canadian curriculum, which starts at Grade I, is taken from the province of New Brunswick. The subjects for CIS students include English, math, science, social studies, physical education, art and music, and information technology, etc.

  “In Canada, each province has its own curriculum. It involves development by teachers who are practicing it in the classroom, and it is practiced provincially and nationally,” said the principal.

  Right now, the majority of teachers are Canadian teachers who have worked in that curriculum in New Brunswick for several years. Crabb said this is because “CIS wants to make sure we establish a very solid foundation at the starting point.”

  For its kindergarten level, the school uses the philosophy and curriculum of Dr. Maria Montessori, which has a little more emphasis on math and sciences than the Canadian kindergarten curriculum.

  “We find quite often the international students having a very strong ability in math and sciences,” Crabb said. “Montessori curriculum, which very well aligns with the Canadian kindergarten program, will benefit the students in science and math particularly.”

  According to the principal, CIS is also willing to introduce highly respected International Baccalaureate programs in the near future.

  Upon learning that developing their child’s English skills was the first priority of most parents, Crabb decided to devote more time on English learning at each level at CIS.

  “The role of CIS is to provide a very strong English curriculum. Meanwhile we are to keep a good balance in providing for the needs of the students in terms of Chinese studies as well as other aspects,” she said.

  CIS students will receive daily instruction in Mandarin in grades 1 through 12. Through extra-curricular activities and field trips, children will learn about China more.

  As the school grows and matures, the principal hopes to add other languages to its curriculum, including French, which, she said, some parents have asked about.

  The new principal expressed pleasure that CIS is starting its first school year with up to 300 students. Her projection for next year is 900 students, then 1,500 to 1,700 in two years.

  “That is a great initial group because we will use part of the school and we will be closer on the school,” said the principal. “School is really like a family. When you go to a school, where it is warm and inviting, you know it is a good school.”

By Xing Yangjian

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