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CISB Head of School: Commitment to Excellence

November, 2017
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During the interview with Douglas K. Prescott, Head of School of Canadian International School of Beijing (CISB), I was deeply impressed with his passion for education and his love of the school. 

“Education today is more exciting in many ways than 40 years ago. This keeps me energized and passionate, and makes me want to see what it is that we can collectively do as a school that empowers our students to be the very best they can, so that they not only can, but will, be the leaders of tomorrow’s world,” says Prescott. 

0j7a0595e589afe69cac1Coming from the province of New Brunswick, Canada, Prescott joined CISB seven years ago as the Head of School. What he has brought to CISB is his abundant knowledge and experience in teaching and administration at various schools, and his vision and plans for the school’s development.

In his 40 years in education, Prescott has taken various teaching and administration positions. As a teacher, he taught different subjects such as Physical Education, History and Biology, and was extensively involved in sports coaching, including basketball, soccer, volleyball and baseball.  As a school administrator, he has fulfilled the roles of vice principal, principal and founding principal in a number of schools in Canada and other countries. He also has a great depth of understanding as it relates to both the Canadian and International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculums, with professional certification in IB PYP (Primary Years Program), IB MYP (Middle Years Program) and IBDP (Diploma Program). He is always committed to blending the strength of Canadian education and values into the school’s system.

Opened in September 2006 in the Third Embassy Quarter of downtown Beijing, Canadian International School of Beijing has grown into a full IB World School. Accredited by the New Brunswick Department of Education in Canada, CISB offers its students an internationally recognized Canadian curriculum – the New Brunswick curriculum – that is an outcomes-based system that ensures all students attain the required knowledge and skills before graduation. Additionally, CISB is offering abundant extracurricular programs that boast of over 60 types of activities, ranging from Chinese calligraphy and martial arts to music, ice hockey and football. All these programs support students to develop to their full potential and become well prepared for their further education and future life.

0j7a7753e589afe69cac1With over 1,000 students, CISB boasts a truly international and diverse school community, representing more than 55 nationalities. It is within this multilingual environment that CISB students receive quality learning while taking the rigorous Canadian and International Baccalaureate curriculums. Every year, CISB High School graduates are accepted to well-reputed colleges and universities ranked within the top 100 in the world, often obtaining scholarships.

Proud of what CISB has accomplished throughout these years, Prescott attributes all the achievements to collective efforts made by the whole school community – teachers, students, families and administrators. 

“We are already a very good school, and we are well above the international average, but we cannot be satisfied with the status quo. We don’t want our staff to be comfortable and we don’t want our students to be too comfortable,” he says. He believes CISB is still a young school, and there is still a lot to do to improve the teaching and learning for CISB students. He hopes the whole staff team will do whatever is necessary to help the students do better in their studies. “Excellence is not something that you get by snapping your fingers. Excellence is a journey. I want us to be on a continuing journey towards greater success.”

One good measure is that CISB has launched the Canadian Academic Academy Program for the new school year, which offers two-hour after-school courses available each night for students who want to enrich their Math, English, Chinese Literature, or other subjects, as well as for those students to be challenged at the highest possible levels. This after-school academy is currently open to students from Grade 3 to Grade 12. It is hoped that instead of going to private tutors or attending external after-school courses, students who want more to study can continue to stay on campus.

In addition, new developments in recent years include a Parent Advisory Committee that works to reinforce the partnership between parents and school teachers and staff; a Maker Space Lab set up for students to have more opportunities to be creative and innovative, and newly renovated swimming pool and gym.

“In every department in our school, be it academic, human resources, admissions, or staff in the cafeteria, everyone is trying to be the best they can, so as to ultimately prepare our students to be the very best global citizens they can be, with not only strong academic skills, but strong people skills as well, and people that have values and empathy, and know what it means to be good stewards of the environment,” says Prescott. “Part of my responsibility is to try to inspire and encourage our students to come with that excitement, that curiosity, that desire to be better when they leave school each day than when they arrived that morning.”

0j7a1306e589afe69cac-2What he often encourages the students to do is to try out new things and to challenge themselves, as the students need to learn how to fail and move forward. “Don’t keep doing the same over and over again, and getting the same results. If you make a mistake or you come up short, the most important thing is that you get back up,” Prescott says. That means the students need to have resilience, grit and mental toughness, and then they are able to recover when things don’t go their way. Meanwhile, it is the school’s responsibility to make sure that the students are provided with necessary support, enhancement and enrichment in order to overcome failures. “Because there is nothing that feels better than when you accomplish something and say ‘Yes, I now understand!’” The students also should know that learning is not learning unless they can apply it to real use. If they cannot do something with the knowledge they learn, then it has no value. 

He points out that learning takes many different forms, not just about literacy or science, PE or fine arts. Learning has evolved dramatically since he started his career, thanks to advancement in technology and globalization. Educators have to stay current, because their students have convenient access to various kinds of knowledge.

“Learning happens everywhere. As an individual, your mind is open to endless possibilities…It is this well-roundedness that is developed as the students grow and mature, and they can fine-tune those areas where they want to pursue their career.”

He is also excited to see that students today are much more socially responsible than before, that “they have a much greater understanding and care for their world and are passionate about helping those less fortunate and thinking beyond themselves.”

Being an educator, Prescott feels it is most rewarding when seeing students excited and wanting to learn. It always feels great for him to listen to students describing the learning process in their own languages, as well as older students talking about their future and who they want to become, where they want to go and what they wish to accomplish.


By Qin Chuan



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