Perspectives on Curriculum
The challenge before us is to develop a world-class high school curriculum that not only satisfies the expectations of the Chinese National Curriculum, prepares students for college, develops their intellect and curiosity, but also arms them for life in an increasingly technological and turbulent world.
With so much information in the world, and truth and reality difficult to discern, people must gather evidence, evaluate credibility and bias, listen with open minds and make balanced, logical arguments. Because competition for the world’s attention demands constant innovation, students must be trained to use their creative resources not only to invent novel ways to be heard above the noise, but also to ensure that their ideas and projects are substantive and add to the betterment of society.
Further, according to experts, today’s students could face as many as twenty distinct professions, half of which don’t exist today. How can school prepare students for such a professional landscape? The answer is that they need to develop thinking skills, habits, qualities and attitudes valuable in any profession. Hence, the Yungu curriculum aims to teach students not what to think, but how and why.
In order for our students to learn to think critically, Yungu teachers must design learning experiences in which students observe, question, reason, research, interpret, analyze, make choices, communicate and develop agency. Because we are a boarding school, we have the additional opportunity to design a residential program that supports our mission and extends learning beyond the classroom and the academic day.
Both residential and academic programs must provide frequent opportunities for students to think critically, independently and creatively, goals best served by doing, rather than merely learning about, work in each field. Through inquiry-based science, problem-based math, seminar-based humanities, project-based interdisciplinary assessments, research, writing, debating, presenting and creating—and critiquing—original works of art and music, students will graduate from Yungu as confident, capable thinkers.
Curriculum content will build on a foundation of Chinese National Curriculum: we want all students to earn a National Diploma, for which they must pass XueKao exams in Grades 10 and 11. Beyond XueKao requirements, course content will be designed around place-based elements, including connections and internships with local professional experts, to develop globally-minded innovators and critical thinkers. While many of the advanced courses that faculty design will prepare students to perform well on A-Level or AP exams (if students choose to take them), we won’t follow IB, Cambridge or any other set curriculum. Aside from AP Seminar/Capstone, which is integral to the thinking and work we expect from students, we don’t anticipate courses bearing an AP label. Our most advanced courses will feature original research, writing, presentation and application of ideas to real-world problems.
While we will give students experience in traditional summative exams, we favor authentic formative assessment: we want students to demonstrate their understanding through problem-solving, papers, projects and presentations in which they apply, analyze, interpret, evaluate, create. We are drawn toward mastery-based grading, portfolios and qualitative assessment; yet we are still considering to what extent we might need traditional grades (A-F; 0-100%; 1-6; etc.) in order to meet the admission requirements of western colleges/universities.
We are also in the process of working through Chinese National Standards, California Common Core, and Next Generation Science Standards to identify essential elements for inclusion in our curriculum. We intend to meet or exceed all relevant standards, and during our first year, we will undertake the demanding process of mapping standards to courses and lessons.