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Joyful Learning Starts at JOY EL International Academy

September, 2017
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0j7a4810e589afe69cacBefore the school year 2017/18 started, Christiane Adovelande, a mother from Republic of Benin, West Africa, wanted to find a more suitable school for her four children after 10 months in Beijing.

“Both Chinese education and Western education are good. The combination of both is what’s special in international schools here in China: you have the Chinese civilization and culture, and you also have the Western,” said Adovelande.

The Adovelandes are the family of the Benin Ambassador to China, and already had and appreciated previous international school experience, including some schools in Beijing.

Instead of staying with the school her beloved girls had previously been with, Adovelande finally chose JOY EL International Academy, a newly built school that was just inaugurated in late August and is situated midway between the international area of Chaoyang District and the main villa area of Shunyi District.

After paying visits and talking with the teachers, Adovelande is convinced that JOY EL adopts very high education standards and has good and experienced teachers in place. Her kids will be in Grades 4, 5, 7 and 9 respectively. “The education system of JOY EL will give good life values and moral principles to the children,” she said.

Her opinion is rather representative among parents of current kids who have decided to send their small ones to JOY EL.

0j7a4761e589afe69cacAccording to Vivian Gao, Director of JOY EL, the construction is in its final stage and the students won’t wait long to enjoy their gorgeously designed campus, a 50,000-square-meter area that blends parkland and gardens with dynamic architecture to create an attractive and healthy environment for living and learning. Facilities include a swimming pool, basketball court, yoga studio, mufti-functional gymnasium, tennis court, football pitch, technology and science lab, drama room, cooking kitchen, theater, auditorium and a large-scale library.

As a start, there are two Early Child Center (ECC) classes, nine classes in the Elementary School and four classes in the Middle School. But in the long run, JOY EL will be able to provide coherent care and education to about 1,500 pupils from 2 to 18 years old.

While adhering to the Chinese National Curriculum through Grade 9, the school intends to be a full International Baccalaureate (IB) school with Primary Years Program (PYP), Middle Years Program (MYP) and Diploma Program (DP). It is now already a candidate of IB DP school and expects to offer DP in the school year 2019/20.

“I would like JOY EL to become a school where everyone is treated with respect and kindness and where every student can reach his or her potential.  As we plan to be an IB World School, our aims are closely linked to the learner profile and to the mission of the IBO to make the world a better place.  While promoting international-mindedness, we also want the students to be proud of their own heritage, culture and language,” said Middle/High School Principal Jane Krader.

0j7a4863e589afe69cacOriginally from Colorado, Krader has spent the last 28 years working in international schools in various countries.  She was Middle School or Middle/High School Principal at her last three schools, and the founding Middle School or Middle/High School Principal, which she believes prepares her very well for her role at JOY EL.

Krader used to work under the leadership of Gao, a reputable educator who has been devoted to international education for more than 20 years and is now determined to incorporate the best parts of both Chinese and Western education into the educational system of JOY EL, so that the students will be able to not only speak both languages fluently but, more importantly, master both ways of thinking with sufficient cultural understanding as well.

For example, the Chinese way of elementary math teaching is strong in terms of oral and mental arithmetic, calculating skills, as well as abstract concepts, but pretty weak when it comes to the use of math and mathematic methods in handling real-life problems, which is exactly where the Western way of math education is successful, Gao said, “So we studied the IB standards, the Chinese national standards and the standards of some other countries, and have woven them together.”

At a JOY EL elementary math class, a foreign teacher and a Chinese teacher will conduct teaching in a collaborative way at the same time. However, rather than simply repeating the same concepts in two languages, the teachers will have differentiated emphases when they teach, but all toward a common objective.

Gao holds the view that one of the strengths of Western education is in PE, which she believes is very crucial to a child’s development. Therefore, all JOY EL PE teachers are foreign teachers that have coaching qualifications. The teachers are required to identify the weaknesses and strengths of each child, and then help them overcome and reinforce accordingly.

0j7a4993e589afe69cac“Our goal is that each of the students will develop at least one sportive skill, as sportsmanship is key to their character buildup,” Gao stressed, adding that school teams of football, volleyball and various other sports will be set up and will participate in inter-school competitions.

As for the nurturing of students’ ability in both languages, JOY EL Chinese teachers and foreign teachers really do work as a team during much of the day, so students are constantly hearing both languages, and are themselves speaking and writing in both languages every day, said Michael P. Donaldson, Principal of Early Childhood and Elementary, who has 15 years of experience in China as principal and head of school of Kindergartens and international schools. “And in terms of reading material, our classrooms and Library feature nearly 20,000 volumes of literature already in both English and Chinese. It’s a fantastic collection!” he added with pride.  

It has been widely accepted that extracurricular activities are an integral part of school life. One of JOY EL’s initiatives in this respect is to introduce a series of STEAM programs devised by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics and is a frontier framework for teaching across the five disciplines. This will include courses on subjects like robotics and plant life, so that the students will be imbued with scientific and innovative knowledge and ideas, according to Gao.

“I believe that our families are looking for a long term educational pathway for their children that leads them to graduation and on to an outstanding college or university. They want their children to be proud of their heritage, caring toward the environment, and ultimately they will be strong contributors toward making our world a healthy place for themselves and their own families one day,” said Donaldson.






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