MDN: Lausanne Leading Academic Efforts at New School in China
Xiamen #1 Lausanne International School, a partnership between Lausanne and Xiamen #1 School in Xiamen, China, is scheduled to open in August. The joint campus will use Lausanne’s International Baccalaureate teaching program to educate 1,200 students, most of whom will originate from Xiamen or elsewhere in mainland China.
Representatives from Xiamen #1 School first came into contact with Lausanne in September 2014.
“They were looking for a school that had an international population, an enviable college placement record, the IB program and that was located in the U.S. And through that metric they found us,” Lausanne headmaster Stuart McCathie said.
The connection between Xiamen and Lausanne was made possible through Lausanne’s history with the Confucius Institute, an educational organization maintained by the Chinese government.
The Confucius Institute has branches in universities and schools across America, including a highly regarded installation at the University of Memphis. One function of the Confucius Institute is to implement Mandarin programs free of charge in schools like Lausanne.
“As a result of our relationship, traditionally we would receive annually somewhere between 120 and 150 visitors who would be Chinese nationals,” McCathie said. “They would include teachers, school administrators, superintendents, local government officials and some former ambassadors.”
Those visitors often would stop by Lausanne while engaged in monthlong tours of various American educational institutions. There is a great hunger in China for educational reform, according to McCathie, and all eyes are turning to American schoolrooms – and to the IB program.
“In China, the emphasis is on regurgitation, providing the correct answer. In the International Baccalaureate program, the teacher’s role is about helping the students come up with the right question,” McCathie said.
The IB program features courses with difficulty grades amounting to college-level work.
The Chinese visitors often were impressed by Lausanne’s execution of the IB program and would propose some type of partnership, but these would ultimately fall through.
Lausanne, pursuing the offers with an eagerness influenced by the need for revenue growth, was disappointed time and time again.
“As a school maxes out on enrollment, they can’t bring additional students in to get additional tuition,” McCathie said. “We cannot add additional students, nor do we want to. How do we pursue other revenue opportunities?”
The answer came in the form of Xiamen #1 School, which has now committed $50 million for the construction of the new campus. Lausanne will design the academic structure and host training workshops for teachers.
Lausanne’s international reputation made the school a good fit for a Chinese partnership. Its student population hails from 55 different countries, and more than 30 percent of its students have a foreign passport.
Multiculturalism is a vital part of the Lausanne school day.
“We focus on each individual child,” Trott said. “We really celebrate who they are: their personality, their learning style, their family’s culture and their family’s traditions. It really adds so much to the conversations in the classroom.”
Diversity also means flexibility.
“Lausanne is full of international students, teachers and teaching materials,” said Maggie Lin, who graduated from Lausanne last year. “It will be easy for them to adapt to the new environment [in China].”
Lin came to Lausanne for eighth grade in 2012. Prior to that, she lived and studied in Xiamen, a coastal city in China’s southeastern Fujian Province, across the strait from Taiwan. Although its population is several times that of Memphis, the city is tiny in comparison to Shanghai and Beijing.
“It is a beautiful, peaceful and chill city,” Lin said. “I would choose Xiamen over Shanghai or Beijing any day.”
Lin explained that Lausanne’s new partnership represents an excellent chance to bring an international education into the city of Xiamen, benefiting students who cannot afford to attend school outside of China.
McCathie said the school will have a boarding component, where students can stay for five days or seven days a week.
“The goal is to recruit students from other parts of mainland China and from surrounding countries in that part of the world,” he added.
It also seems that one school in China could lead to a string of international education centers for Lausanne.
“We are currently in discussions with other similar opportunities within China, and also within other parts of the world,” McCathie said. “It’s been very exciting and we’ve been very fortunate.”
Laura Trott maintains that no amount of overseas expansion will cause Lausanne to forget about its students at home in Memphis.
“It’s so wonderful to recognize how much Memphis has grown as a global community over the past decade, and for Lausanne to have grown along with the city,” she said. “I know that we’re going to do our best for our students here and the students in China.”