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New Headmaster Makes Her Mark at BISS

September, 2006
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ann-fowlesTo Anne Fowles, the new headmaster of Beijing BISS International School, BISS is a school she “has been watching for some time.”

Ms Fowles was part of the steering committee of the Association of China and Mongolia International Schools (ACAMIS) several years ago when she was director of the International School of Ulaanbaatar (ISU) in Mongolia. Both ISU and BISS are ACAMIS member schools and Ms Fowles used to be the president of ACAMIS.

“I attended many meetings throughout China and knew many schools. This school is the one I’ve been watching because I liked the things going on here,” she said.

“One of the key features of the school is it is a medium-sized school. In a medium-sized school, I will know all the students before long. They will know their teachers very well, too. And we would like to maintain the focus on our students, their happiness and enjoyment in the school.”

The headmaster is also happy that BISS introduces all three IB programs, and what she discovered recently is the students have achieved excellent academic results.

This year saw the largest ever number of students taking IBDP exams, with a pass rate of 93 per cent and some excellent individual results, the highest being 41 points out of a possible 45. A large percentage of students scored 30 points or more, and more than half of those scored 35 or higher. Especially outstanding results were achieved by the students who studied Korean A1 — every student at higher or standard level scored the maximum of 7.

For the new school year, the first thing this new headmaster likes to do is to congratulate the students for all they have done for the last few years.

“The students have done really well,” she said. “It is important to remember what a rigorous course the IB Diploma is for students. Six subjects are studied; three at higher level and three at standard level. Students also study the Theory of Knowledge course, undertake at least 150 hours of CAS (Creativity, Action and Service) and complete a 4,000 word extended essay to fulfill the diploma requirements.”

Before coming to BISS, Ms Fowles worked in international schools in Fiji, Mongolia and Thailand, all of them IB schools. Her previous school is one of the leading IB schools in the Asian region. Ms Fowles is well known in the region because of her involvement in each of the IB programs. At present, she is the chairperson of the MYP committee for the IBO.

“BISS is the first in Beijng to have all three IB programs, well advanced and achieving good results. My vision for the future is to maintain them, and to make it more widely acknowledged,” said the headmaster.

After more than 30 years of teaching, Ms Fowles thinks the key to a good school is to ensure it has a loving, caring and supportive environment, as well as high academic standards.

“When I did my MBA, my thesis was on “What parents look for when they choose a school.” What I found is: the first important thing in the school the parents want is for their children to be happy, and next important thing is they want their children to do well academically.”

One of her aims this year is to look at language courses at BISS, which she believes are important for children in international schools. The headmaster hopes to determine whether BISS could do more for the children who come from different languages.

“Children who grow up in international schools often have an international school accent which sounds a bit American and a bit somewhere else,” she said. “It is always important for them, if they travel around, to still maintain their language and culture and know their own nationality.”

Meanwhile, she wants the students to know more about the country they are living in, the local culture and people. Location makes a difference, the downtown position of the school, Ms Fowles believes, has a stronger link with the local community.

“An international school should not be isolated like an island. The community gets to know our students as well. In an IB school, a community based program, a caring community, supportive teachers, beautiful school environment, and lovely students all work as a whole.”

In fact, changes have taken place across the school already: A new school gate and new cafeteria have been completed, and there is going to be a new outdoor eating area for the students. Inside the school, the classrooms and the new computer labs, all have been updated recently.

“At the moment, we should concentrate on doing the best we can for the students in our school. But as the person new to the school, I’d like to understand better how the school is doing that,” said the new headmaster.

By Xing Yangjian

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