"Embedding" in China: CAIS-SYA Beijing Academy

January 06, 2012

Dear CAIS Community,

On Wednesday evening, December 14, 2011 CAIS launched a major initiative to our Middle School families: CAIS-SYA Beijing Academy.  It is with a great deal of excitement and a genuine sense of pride that I announce this program to the entire CAIS community.
Program Overview
The CAIS-SYA Beijing Academy is a structured, three week academic program for all CAIS 7th grade students that will run in the spring, in partnership with School Year Abroad (SYA) and Beijing Normal University Sanfan Middle School.  During this inaugural year, students will receive three hours of intensive Chinese language instruction in small classes that are organized by proficiency level.  On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons, students will engage in field projects outside of the classroom that will require them to use the language they have learned in the classroom, but in authentic contexts.  On Wednesdays and Saturdays students will participate on excursions in and around Beijing to places of cultural significance such as the Guangji Temple, the 798 Arts District or the Xing Zhi School for the Children of Migrant Workers.  Sundays will be spent with Chinese host families with whom students will live for the duration of the program.
Mission Consistent Program Objectives
The CAIS Board of Trustees recently adopted the following Mission Statement: 
Embrace Chinese
Become your best self
Create your place in the world
The program objectives of CAIS-SYA Beijing Academy are designed around this Mission, and include:
  • Students use Chinese language to function successfully and appropriately in authentic culltural contexts; 
  • Students learn actively through experience, not passively through observation;
  • Students develop self confidence, independence and responsibility;
  • Students develop humility and respect for difference;
  • Students develop the ability to be adaptable and resourceful.

Access for all CAIS students: A major strategic priority for the CAIS Board
The CAIS Board of Trustees views this program as fundamental to the School’s Mission and therefore a major strategic priority for the School as we move forward.  The Board has manifested this support by developing a long term financial plan that insures the program’s sustainability; CAIS-SYA Beijing Academy will be an integral part of the 7thgrade CAIS curriculum, and all seventh grade students will have access to the program regardless of their families’ financial circumstances.  80% of the program costs will be covered by the school’s operating budget.  Seventh grade families will be asked to contribute the remaining 20%, with tuition assistance available to families for whom the 20% is an obstacle.  In this, the inaugural year of the program, a generous anonymous donor has provided seed money that will cover 80% of the programs startup and operating costs.  A generous CAIS 7thgrade family has already stepped up to provide financial support to those families in need of tuition assistance.
With the launch of CAIS-SYA Beijing Academy, all CAIS graduates will have the distinction of having participated in this meaningful capstone educational experience in China.        
CAIS’s Local Partners
In order to ensure the quality of program execution on the ground in Beijing, CAIS is partnering with the Beijing Normal University Sanfan Middle School and School Year Abroad (SYA).  Sanfan is a well-known middle school and part of the Beijing Normal University laboratory school system.  CAIS established a formal relationship with Sanfan during the 2010-2011 school year and we have already held successful student exchange programs together.  School Year Abroad (SYA), founded in 1964 by Phillips Andover Academy, is a consortium of 40 US independent schools with satellite campuses serving US students in five countries.  SYA is well-known for its outstanding intensive language instruction and experiential education emphasis.   Nicole Wilson, CAIS’s Director of International Programs will coordinate with our dedicated program coordinator from SYA on all aspects of program operations.

This is an exciting moment in the School’s history, and a rare opportunity for our young students to embrace Chinese, become their best selves and begin to create their places in the world.