Nanjing International School is the first and oldest international school in Nanjing. As we look towards our 30th anniversary in 2022, we’re reflecting on how being such an established school benefits our students and community, and how we’re still leading innovation in learning not only in Nanjing, but in China and beyond.
“The most obvious advantage to being a well-established school is our campus,” said Mr. Kasson Bratton, Deputy Director of Learning at NIS. “Of course, the campus isn't quite as old as the school, but having such longevity means the construction of purposeful learning spaces over time that can architecturally match our mission and strategy. When you walk onto our campus, it becomes obvious that we have an educational environment that supports the kind of learning we embrace and strive for.”
A strong, nurturing school culture is another element that is built up over time. “When the school first started almost 30 years ago, it was a true community school with one teacher, five or six students all under one roof,” said Mr. Bratton. “When you talk to the people that were around when the school was founded, you hear the value of community, loud and clear. And I think when you talk to people today about NIS, you hear the exact same thing. This kind of strong learning community and inclusive culture can really only be built over time. It's not something that happens overnight.”
The degree of continuity that NIS has been able to keep over the past three decades has been supported by community funding and our unique non-profit international school status in Nanjing. Continuity is key to our innovation efforts because it also means a tight knit, deeply passionate community of teachers and leaders who stay with NIS for many years.
“When there's a school as established as NIS, you have teachers that become established in the school,” Mr. Bratton explained. “We’re lucky enough to have long-serving members of staff. Many of them have been here 10 or more years – some even 20. On the leadership side, NIS has only had two school directors in its 30-year history.”
Innovation has been part of the ethos from our school Board and leadership since NIS was founded in 1992. “The fact that we've been able to have that stability at the Board and leadership level with a focus on being innovative in our practice has been essential to getting us to where we are now,” said Mr. Bratton. “The goal of including every student in the curriculum, inspiring personal excellence, and making sure creative thinking is at the heart of our practice means we always have to be looking for new and better ways to teach and learn. I think that desire to achieve our mission is really what pushes us to be so innovative today.”
Our International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum factors into our innovative drive and spirit. The IB is constantly innovating the way they envision their framework for teaching and learning, which helps NIS stay on top of what is necessary to provide a 21st century education that prepares students not only for top universities but also a successful life. “Our journey with the IB has helped us evolve as well,” said Mr. Bratton.
Being the first IB Continuum school in China highlights an important point of difference with other schools in Nanjing, establishing NIS as the premier IB World School in the region. “Some schools promote themselves as more American or European-focused in terms of curriculum and style,” said Mr. Bratton. “We’re about bringing in best practices from all around the world to best support our students to adapt and thrive in a changing world. The IB reflects the reputation for our school as one that focuses on creative teaching and learning rather than a heavy focus on recall of facts that you might find in other curricula.”