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Principal Nick Bowley: Bringing New Standards to BCIS

September, 2010
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nick-bowley-1sEmbracing the new school year, Beijing City International School (BCIS) welcomes back Nick Bowley as their new Head of School. Bowley is no stranger to the BCIS community as he led the school as Interim Head of School for one year, 2007-2008, and then served as a full-time consultant in January 2010.

“I had a very strong impression of the school during that interim year at BCIS when the school was only 2 years old. But there are certainly many things I like, such as a developing curriculum, very strong team of teachers, excellent facilities and ethos of collaboration within the school and outside the school. Moreover, I like the school’s focus on the child,” said Bowley.

Originally from the UK, Bowley has spent most of his teaching career abroad. He has served as a teacher, principal, and head of school in international schools in East Africa, the Middle East and China. From 2001 to 2007 he was Director of the International School of Tianjin.

Principal Bowley said he absolutely loves his career and “Seeing children thrive in good schools and take opportunities that will benefit their future lives and the lives of those around them is the most satisfying thing for an educator.”

With this new position at BCIS, Nick is going to stay in Beijing, China for another 3 years or longer. He said he likes China very much and he feels very at home here.

“I enjoy meeting Chinese people, and visiting the Beijing city,” He said. “I am going to learning some Chinese. I hope to travel and see more parts of China, especially trekking the mountains…”

LittleStar had the pleasure to interview Mr. Bowley before the new school year and the new Head of School excitedly shared with us his thoughts on international school education and his vision for BCIS’s future development…


LittleStar: You have worked at many different international schools worldwide, and before returning to BCIS as a full-time consultant in January 2010, you have been traveling the world as an accreditation officer for the Council of International Schools (CIS) for 18 months. In your opinion, what makes a school a “GOOD” school?

Principal Bowley: A few things. One of them is a unified sense of purpose. Everyone has to know what kind of school they are; they have to understand what kind of school they want to become and they all have to agree on that. If you have that, you can have everyone moving in the same direction with enthusiasm and commitment.

Of course, you need many other things. First and foremost, you need excellent staff because the quality of a school is always judged on the quality of learning in the classroom. That depends on the teachers, so you have to have good teachers.

You also need to have good governance, and make sure that people are governed in a fair and caring way. People will feel they are working for a sound institution where they are well treated, well compensated and so on.

Besides, a good school needs good facilities, but they are not the most important aspect. Beautiful facilities are very nice, but it is possible to teach well under a tree.

LittleStar: The IB curriculum is so popular nowadays that 8 out of the 10 big international schools in Beijing are offering IB programs, including BCIS. You were an elected member of the IB Regional Heads’ Representative Committee, Asia Pacific region from 2003 – 2006. How do you see this trend of international schools becoming IB schools?

Principal Bowley: Well, IB is a very sound curriculum, that’s why it is becoming more and more popular. And there are a number of reasons that make it a sound curriculum.

In nature, IB is an inquiry-based curriculum. For instance, the elementary school students are studying the Primary Years Program with an inquiry approach, which means the courses are properly taught to challenge the students.

One good thing about the IB curriculum is that it has a good international dimension, which means it can be adapted to the host country. Students can learn from the IB program whether they are in Africa, in Asia or South America.

Another reason why many schools apply the IB curriculum is because there are so many IB schools worldwide. It is easier for children to transfer from one country to another country and go to an IB school. What’s more, IB is widely respected by governments and universities.

LittleStar: BCIS is authorized to launch all three IB programs. How is the development of IB programs progressing at BCIS?

Principal Bowley: IB is essentially a framework, and the quality of the program depends on using this framework along with quality work by the teachers.

At BCIS, we are trying to develop the program which is centrally IB but more than that. We want to give the IB program a personal touch. So, it is the same program but the needs and talents of each individual child within the class are taken care of.

What we are working strongly on these days is making sure the program is vertically articulated. That means when a child grows up from Grade 3, 4, 5 … till 12, the pathway of the program is very clear, so it is a very consistent and coherent education for the child.

The other area we are working on is called Horizontal Articulation, which means at any particular grade level connections are made between different subjects the child studies.

Developing the IB program is an ongoing process that never ends.

LittleStar: BCIS is celebrating its 5th anniversary this October. Five years, especially the first five years of a school is especially important. How do you see the first five years for BCIS?

Principal Bowley: If you think of the school as a child, then you see how important the first five years means are to a child. The school is similar.

The first five years for a school is not a race to achieve certain things. But it is very important for the school to understand by the end of the five years what kind of school it is and what kind of school it wants to be.

There have been many things accomplished in these five years. For instance, BCIS has been authorized to run all the IB programs; BCIS has also been accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS), and Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

LittleStar: What is your goal for BCIS in the next five years?

Principal Bowley: I want our school to be, first and foremost, well known for offering outstanding and rigorous education that meets the needs and talents of each individual student.

I want our school to be a place where children know that their individual needs and talents will be met, parents are happy to have their kids in school, and the teaching staff are really keen to proudly serve and stay on the team for many years.

LittleStar: BCIS offers a very good scholarship program, will that continue in the future?

Principal Bowley: Yes, we will continue with the scholarship program. With the scholarship program, the school can attract highly esteemed students.

One other important reason is that unusually we are able to enroll Chinese students as well as expatriate students. There are cases that some Chinese families cannot afford our schooling because of the high school fees, and the scholarship program can help here.

We always want to provide the best educational service to our community, both the expat community and the local Chinese community.

LittleStar: Starting the new school year, what is at the top of your agenda?

Principal Bowley: I am absolutely keen to enhance the quality of students’ learning in the classroom. That is my main focus because that is where our strength lies as a school. The school will focus on how well our students are learning in our classrooms; how engaged they are in learning; how excited they are about learning and how learning is preparing them for future learning and future life.

If the quality of learning in our classroom is exceptional, then our school’s reputation will be enhanced.

By Xing Yangjian


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