Six-year-old Sabiha Hakimi is lucky. Compared with children in her home country Afghanistan, whose access to schooling has been severely affected by the prolonged war and state of unrest, Hakimi is receiving an education, and a very good one at that.
Hakimi came to China with her diplomat parents and was enrolled at the Canadian International School of Beijing (CIS) six months back. When asked about her feelings regarding her school, the little girl simply said: "I like it."
Hakimi said she likes the school because the people are nice and she has many friends on campus with whom she enjoys playing sports, especially rope skipping and table tennis.
A group of children could be seen playing football as she spoke. They all wore the same uniform, but had different colors of skin.
"Our school has students representing over 30 countries and this number is still growing," said Principal Sharon Crabb, who came to CIS about one year ago from New Brunswick, a province on the east coast of Canada. "It makes the campus really multicultural."
Although the school offers no specific course in a particular culture, it is dedicated to building a multicultural environment through the activities offered, said Crabb in an interview.
For example, students are learning how to make kites this week. "Students are so excited that they even try to fly the kites indoors," the principal said, adding that the process is helping the children learn not only how to make kites, but also the local culture, as kites are "so Chinese."
A Grade I student receives close personal attention at the Canadian International School of Beijing (CIS).
Meanwhile, the school provides Canadian culture to the students such as the annual Canada Day festivities to celebrate Canada's National Day on July 1.
The school also arranges field trips to museums, parks and historical sites in this Olympic city of Beijing. It takes the students to the zoo to see pandas, organizes them to take part in special events like the Jack "The Golden Bear" Nicklaus Golf Clinic, and encourages them to participate in community activities like the International Children's Day event hosted by Nike for the Migrant Kids Sports Program, in order to build up their sense of social responsibility.
Students at CIS also have the opportunity to act, sing or dance in dramatic and musical productions or in the choir, write for or edit the school newspaper, and participate in several other extracurricular activities, including swimming, piano playing, ballet, golf and wushu.
However, the rich extracurricular life is not the only thing Principal Crabb is proud of. "To the best of my knowledge, our school is the only one in the country that uses a certified curriculum from a particular Canadian province, and the curriculum is delivered by teachers from that region," she said.
The curriculum, from Canada, has a strong global reputation and the school's 28 highly qualified teachers, all of whom are from Canada, collectively represent over 500 years of teaching experience, Crabb noted.
"The school may be new, teachers may be new, but it's very easy to know the information of the school teachers if parents visit the website of the education department in Canada," she said.
The principal emphasized that students at CIS are taught exactly the same course as in Canada, and the graduation diplomas received by students there carry the same weight as those offered in Canada.
English, Mandarin, math, science and social studies are the major courses for elementary students at CIS, while the high school section also has history, technology, chemistry, physics and biology courses on offer. Five Mandarin classes are offered per week, and all students need to pass level four of the Chinese Proficiency Test (HSK) before graduation. The school, which officially opened last September, now goes up to Grade 10. Grade 11 is to be added in August and Grade 12 will open next year.
Apart from its elementary and high school sections, CIS also has a Montessori Kindergarten for children between 18 months and 6 years of age, with its teaching method aimed at ensuring their fullest development.
"Our teachers work with the children as individuals and each Montessori curriculum monitors the progress of every child," Crabb said.
The school now has about 300 students. That number is expected to climb to between 450 and 500 in August and reach the full capacity of 1,500 to 1,700 in 2009, by virtue of the quality education offered and CIS' convenient location - in the city's Third Embassy quarter. The embassies of Canada, Japan, South Korea, Israel, Germany, Malaysia and the future embassy of the United States are all situated close to CIS.
(China Daily 05/23/2007 page13)