Full House is a regular series where we speak with a notable individual from China’s education industry.
David Edwards commenced his position as head of school at Guangzhou’s soon-to-be-open ISA Science City International School in October of last year. He brings to the job 26 years of educational leadership experience in schools around the world, having engaged with schools in Australia, Hong Kong SAR, Singapore, Republic of Korea, India, the Chinese mainland and United Arab Emirates. For this month’s Full House column, we spoke to Edwards to learn more about what parents and students alike can expect from ISA Science City when it opens its doors in September 2020.
A good teacher can make all the difference. What qualities do you look for when hiring school faculty?
When we hire staff, we follow a simple four-step process: A. They must love children, must love teaching; B. We explore what they do beyond the classroom: their own study, associations they are members of, conferences they attend, sporting teams they coach and so on. This reinforces whether they see teaching as a job or a vocation; C. We learn more about the types of schools they have worked in previously. We want evidence that in their professional journey, they know what high standards look and feel like; D. Our final step is to ensure that the qualifications each teacher possesses are highly recognized, have been obtained at strong universities and colleges, and are directly related to the role we are recruiting them for.
The Greater Bay Area is becoming increasingly associated with technical innovation. How will technology be utilized in the school’s curriculum?
We must ensure that students and teachers understand the wide-reach of technology, develop a range of critical skills that help them explore technology more effectively and are comfortable navigating the world we now have, which is technologically driven. So, professional development of staff is critical throughout the organization and we have built an organizational structure that will ensure every member of staff is given excellent training and support, which will then directly impact the experience of families and most importantly, the students.
In terms of hardware, primary and secondary school students will be a one-to-one technology environment, additionally supported by smart boards in all rooms and a very strong wireless network. Our Innovation Hub will be a central place all members of the school community will be able to come throughout the school day for support, guidance and extension activities.
Head of School David Edwards. Image via ISA Science City International School
There seems to be an ever-growing selection of international and bilingual schools in the Greater Bay Area. What will set ISA Science City International School apart?
ISA Science City is already quite unique. We are not a franchise, whose brand is attached by name to an overseas entity. We are not directly licensed by a foreign government curriculum, be it from the UK or US, for example. ISA Science City is a purpose-built international school, bringing together – through all facets – the best of the East and West.
We recognize that we are a school striving towards excellence at an internationally recognized level, and will be a school in Asia, in China, within the GBA, in the city of Guangzhou, placed in Science City. Each of these layers is important, especially when we think more carefully about the desires and aspirations of families in these zones, as well as the curriculum standards we must meet at each of these levels. Outstanding schools are very clear on their purpose, identity and programs. They make strong, unwavering commitments to deliver on each of these elements. Outstanding schools focus on getting the foundations very strong and in doing so, ensure that teaching and learning are consistently strong in every class, for every student, every day. They ensure that there is a positive, strong relationship between home and school. ISA Science City is focused upon getting these foundations incredibly strong. In doing so, we are confident in the opportunities we will provide our families now, ensuring their child’s success in the future.
On a personal note, what brought you to Guangzhou?
Joining ISA International Education Group was an outcome of belief. I deeply believe in the vision and commitment of the board and investors. I believe that there is an extraordinary opportunity to develop a school in Guangzhou that is respectful to family aspirations, understands and respects the culture and place where we exist, strives towards excellent international standards and is a place and space which excites and encourages great learning.
Guangzhou is a wonderful city. I particularly admire the urban planning in Zhujiang New Town and how there is a respectful co-existence between the old and the new. The overall ‘vibe’ of the city is also fantastic. People are more friendly and relaxed than perhaps the larger northern cities and there is a great openness to all people. This is not the same as other cities I have lived in nor spent time working in.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
[Cover image via ISA Science City International School]