Our children have been born in a new era of diversity, open-mindedness, internationalization, and with a common shared destiny for all mankind. The real purpose of education is to cultivate global citizens with diversified and cross-cultural communication skills. In this changing context, international education and international schools have sprung up rapidly within China’s education system. As a parent at XLIS, I feel very lucky, because in Xi’an, the ancient capital where history and culture converge, we can not only enable our children to learn some of the profound Chinese culture, but also get an advanced scientific and diversified international education here. The International Baccalaureate (IB)’s scientifically advanced education philosophy and mature education system, has trained a large number of outstanding students. As an international school with such a scientific and advanced education system, how can we, as parents, cooperate with the school to strengthen the cultivation of students so as to truly achieve our expectations and vision of education?
Changing the Educational Perspective
First of all, let’s look at ten IB Learner Profile Attributes: thinker, balanced, principled, risk-taker, caring, open-minded, knowledgeable, inquirer, communicator, reflective.
These words, which seem so big and inspiring to us as parents, are penetrating little by little into each student’s daily study and school life. Parents may not be confident and comfortable at first with a school that doesn’t constantly use the fixed text books. The course is organized by the teachers based on the students and the real-time background through the central idea of the main theme.
When I studied at Harvard, I especially emphasized big ideas which can have a dramatic effect on teaching pedagogies, because big ideas can carry out multi-disciplinary, multi-task and classroom activities to arrange and adjust teaching. In this way, students with stronger abilities in comprehension and interdisciplinary skills can be cultivated. Every Friday, teachers at XLIS conduct a formative assessment of the students’ learning content, so as to adjust the students’ individualized learning progress and difficulty. This is what you cannot find in other schools. Therefore, when students apply for college, their critical thinking, comprehensive discipline, logical and comprehensive analytical abilities will be enhanced and impress university application and enrolment officers through these years of study in XLIS.
When we, as parents, get to know the learning system of the school from a scientific and educational perspective, we will understand its scientific nature, and thus, become less prone to the anxiety caused by ignorance or confusion. In the advanced educational systems of Europe and America, the students’ educational goal is not solely based on academic achievement and learning. In recent years, an increasing number of Ivy League universities have toned down their standardized tests and added more comprehensive tests. The IB education system has stood out even more in a changing environment, with an increased use of reading and writing in advanced tests such as the GRE, which measure students’ overall ability. Among such changes, the advantages of IB become ever increasingly prominent. In addition, children’s perseverance, courage to explore, as well as all aspects of an excellent quality and cheerful personality, have been built on their learning journey.
As a parent of an international school, we should not only cooperate with the school to cultivate our child’s ability in learning and thinking, but also actively encourage them to participate in various activities and sports, in addition to acquiring more dimensions of knowledge and experience in the process. Our view of education therefore needs to be changed. And the purpose of the school is not only to teach traditional knowledge, more to train children how to think, make decisions, grow and communicate. In such an educational environment, we should not only see the growth of children, but also the growth of us as parents. We have a better understanding of the developmental needs of children, and we can communicate with school and teachers in a deeper, better way.
How to Cooperate with the School?
The cooperation between home and school is very important in the European and American education system. This is why an interview with the parents is required when applying for international schools. Original Family plays a decisive role in the growth of children. The communication and interaction between parents or other family members and children within the family is the foundation of how children develop in school and society, so family and school are closely linked. The first lessons in the American kindergarten system is usually related to “Family”, then extend to their own community, and finally look at the world of coexistence.
As parents, active communication with school can lead to a better understanding of the child’s learning development. Communicate more with your child to improve his cognitive abilities and values. Studies have shown that in high-income and educated families, parents and children have more communication opportunities than low-income and educated families. Children who have more communication opportunities will have better learning skills, public speech skills and communication skills.
Being an experienced PTA member once in the United States made me realize that parents are always willing to join school activities, no matter what their position is. The important part is building communication with the school in the process. Children will see the role model set by parents, and I believe this will give them more confidence to allow them to enjoy school life more. In addition, in such a diversified environment such as an international school, parents from different countries can exchange and learn from each other, which is a great opportunity for parents and families to obtain different education methods, and the friendship between children can be improved accordingly.
Since we understand the benefits and advantages of “Home-school cooperation” now, what should parents do to achieve this goal?
Firstly, communicate with children at home and encourage them to share what happened at school as much as possible. On this basis, we can chat about what was covered and improve personality and social ability. For example, in the United States, the most common question parents ask after picking up their children after school is: “How was your day?” In the conversation that follows, children and parents share information with each other. The way home and dinner time are both very good communication opportunities. Guide children in all aspects during communication, so that they can make full use of home time for learning how to better support school life and make the right adjustment. This adjustment is not only when children encounter social difficulties, but also when they have exams and performances. Parents and school should work together to help children overcome common challenges they face.
Secondly, cooperation on the academic part. It is very common for parents to accompany children while they are doing homework. But it doesn’t mean that parents must help their children to do homework and make sure it is high-quality homework. The reason for keeping company when they are doing homework is to understand the progress of their study and to know what learning level they are currently at. If necessary, parents can communicate with the teacher regarding the learning issues. Through the communication, parents will notice some problems which their children may not find or also some advantages they haven’t noticed, so as to make more accurate personalized adjustment. For example, my daughter was born and raised in the United States, English is her first language, and her English reading level is relatively advanced. Through observation keeping her company during homework every day, I found that her reading materials from school is too simple for her. After I talked to her teacher, she gave my daughter a more appropriate level to read. The reading material brought back by my child afterwards were more challenging for her, so she did not lose interest because it was too simple.
Academic cooperation exists in all aspects, not only by including parents cooperating with the school, but also including parents working with the school to make sure their children are working with materials appropriate for their level. Schools can provide the most professional education for children, only if parents can cooperate with teachers and schools by providing accurate information and expectations. In this way, the children’s academic study will be twice as effective.
Last, and most importantly, is that parents actively participate in school events and activities to build the community together. Parents’ participation is one of the crucial ways for the school to organize such events and activities. For example, during the Literacy Week, parents were invited into classrooms to read to children. When children see their parents come to read, they feel very excited and proud. Parents’ presence is a positive influence on the learning process, as well as pulling the relationship between parents and children closer. Other students in the school will also be more interested in reading, thus allowing school culture and children to obtain mutual benefits.
In addition to parents’ participation of activities, another essential part is the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA). The PTA plays a very important role in schools in European and American countries. Many activities are led and supported by the PTA. There is an old saying which goes like this: “Many hands make light work”. The wonderful memories children get from school activities and the sense of belonging to school culture are very valuable. These activities are supported by the school staff because teachers work very hard in their daily school life. Besides, they arrange the curriculum and prepare for the activities, and manage the children’s learning emotions every day. Whether the activities of the school are rich and colorful or not hinges greatly on the PTA’s support. The activities of international schools are far-reaching, whether they are social activities that connect families to establish community concepts, or activities that promote students’ different extracurricular activities and hobbies, they enrich the school culture and students’ experience.
Education can never only rely on school; parents need to lead by example. When we are lucky enough to be a part of XLIS community, we will also learn and grow together with our children. Parents should contribute their own strength for the better development of school and children to create a positive, harmonious and cooperative healthy school environment.