About the Host School
RDFZ was established in 1950 and has 5,000 students on roll from 12 to 18 years of age. The ethos of the school is: 'To value individuality, discover personal potential, enhance student growth, boost national prosperity and to promote the progress of humanity'. This is achieved via all round development of students, with value placed on distinctive skills, innovative spirit and moral excellence.
The school's leafy campus is located in the heart of Beijing's education precinct. It has over 130 teaching rooms (all with audio-visual facilities), a large library, well-equipped science laboratories, a telescope, a 50m indoor swimming pool, numerous badminton and basketball courts, a small gym and table-tennis area, a 400m athletics track, 5 lecture theatres, an 800-seat auditorium and a rehearsal room for the school's full-size orchestra. RDFZ also has several other rapidly developing branch schools.
RDFZ is consistently placed at the top, or near the top, of the middle-school rankings. RDFZ has the highest number of graduates admitted to Beijing University and Tsinghua University (considered the top universities in China) of any middle school in China.
Awards for students are extensive: 2 gold medals and 1 silver medal at the International Mathematical Olympiad successively, the first award in the 7th Rado Watch Award for Chinese Adolescent Elites in Science, Gold and Silver Sail Awards, the Gold Roc Award, as well as winners of Beijing's Ten Best Middle School Students Award, the first place for scientific papers in The National Adolescent Innovation Competition, more than 100 prizes for innovation at a municipal level, a total of 9 international gold and silver awards, 7 national gold awards and 5 patents authorised by the State Patent Bureau (among which 3 have been developed by factories and put into production).
About the A Level & IB Centre
The International Curriculum Centre in the High School Affiliated to Renmin University currents offers both A-Level and IB curriculum.
RDFZ A-Level is currently in its sixth year of operation and has approximately 400 students this year and will aim to have an ongoing student population of 450 from next year. We have 19 Chinese teaching staff and 29 foreign teaching staff (from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Kenya, Sri Lanka, India, Canada and the USA).
A to C pass rates at A2 level for 2009 were extremely high. Students in the Centre range from 14 to 18 years of age and although the majority are from Beijing, we have students from many different provinces in China.
In the year 2011/12 the Internationa Curriculum Centre gained authorisation from the International Baccalaureate Organisation to deliver the IB Diploma.
In terms of centre facilities, we have 4 staff offices and a comfortable staff lounge; 15 teaching rooms (all with audio-visual and wireless internet); dedicated labs for Physics (including interactive whiteboard), Chemistry (including interactive whiteboard), Biology and ICT. We also have access to several lecture theatres and study rooms for each year level.
Students of the centre put on a school play last year and we are organising a 'spelling bee' competition this year. A range of other activities are available within the main school. A number of visitors from overseas universities also hold information sessions for our students on a regular basis.
We keep administrative requirements as minimal as possible so that teachers can concentrate on delivering great lessons to our students. Our students are bright, committed and well behaved. We have a large number of high-achieving students and our teachers generally find it very rewarding and fulfilling to be stretched and challenged in their subject area of expertise. Teaching in English to non-native speakers requires some adjustment to teaching techniques but most people make the transition easily.
A new on-campus accommodation block for teachers has just been opened this year and there are 1, 2 and 3-bedroom fully-furnished apartments. In later years of service, some teachers choose to move to their own outside accommodation. A reasonable apartment in the school district costs around RMB 4500/month.
The campus is based in the heart of the Haidian district with a major subway interchange a few minutes walk from the school front gate. Beijing is the cultural and political centre of China and is making great strides in promoting itself as a world-class city. It offers a vibrant and diverse nightlife, a burgeoning arts community, a myriad of restaurants and a terrain made for bike riding. All this (and more) make Beijing an exciting place to live.
The cultural and historical sites of Beijing are numerous with The Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace and many more. Beijing is also a rail and air transportation hub for the rest of China and with a single flight you can be in most Asian cities by sunset.
RDFZ A-Level Centre prides itself on low staff-turnover – many teachers are on to their fourth, fifth or even sixth contract!
Teacher Case Study
David Wheeler, Physics
I began my teaching career in 2003 after graduating with a Medical Physics degree from the University of Wales. My first teaching post was in Ysgol Gyfun Gwyr, a Secondary Welsh comprehensive school in Swansea, Wales. After my first year, I was successful in attaining the Head of Physics role at the school and remained in that position for 7 year’s before applying for an International position at RDFZ in 2010.
My role at RDFZ is teaching AS and A2 level Physics. I am also the International Award co-ordinator, which is a self-development programme where students are required to develop their communication, problem solving and team work skills. (The Duke of Edinburgh Award)
I enjoy working with motivated students who truly have the desire to continue their academic pursuit in a western country. I love to push students to realize their full potential, and I feel I have the atmosphere in which to do just that here. In addition, I find living in Beijing very comfortable. There are so many things to see and do, and since the subway and taxi services are excellent it is so easy to get around.
A word of advice- Learning Mandarin is essential. I thoroughly enjoy studying it in my spare time. Once you get a grasp of the language and are able to communicate with other people, your life in China becomes even more enjoyable.
Student Case Study
When did you start at the A Level Centre and how would you describe your experience there?
I joined the A level programme at RDFZ in 2005. The first year is called pre-A level, which is specifically designed for us as international students to get better prepared for the next two years of study. During the first year, half of the lessons are taught by foreign teachers, mainly aiming at providing us with a good English foundation and the other half are taught by Chinese teachers. I personally think that my English level was hugely improved during the first year.
After sitting the internal exams, we pass through to the second year. In the second year, I studied A level Mathematics, AS level Economics, Physics and Business Studies and got A in all these courses in the AS exams. In the mean time, we also had ongoing English lessons which was a great help when taking the IELTS exam.
In the final year, I studied A2 level Economics, Business Studies and Further Mathematics and got A in all these courses. I dropped Physics at this level because I needed more time to finish the two year Further Mathematics syllabus in one year, which is quite demanding.
Overall, I truly enjoyed my experience studying at RDFZ. My A level results and an 8.5 in IELTS demonstrate the excellence of the school, the teachers and the programme.
Thanks to the program, I am now enjoying my university life at Imperial College London.
What were the benefits to you personally in studying A levels?
For me, I have always been interested in Economics and Business Studies. The Chinese system does not have these courses so this is a clear benefit for me to choose A level. Additionally, I wanted to go the top universities in the world although we have very good ones in Beijing. This is partly because I want to improve my English and partly because the courses here in the UK are more practical.
However, I did find that taking some Chinese courses in high school very beneficial because it gave me a very good grounding. I think the course structure in this A level programme is very good, in which English and Chinese courses are combined.
What were the challenges?
Well, for me, I think the biggest challenge was that we have to approach study using a lot of our own initiative. We need to read lots of extra material and do a huge amount of exercises voluntarily to ensure satisfactory exam results. No one would tell you what to do and when to do it, it all depends on you. You are taught to “own your own learning”.
What grades did you obtain?
A in Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Business Studies and Economics. 8.5 in IELTS
What are you doing now?
I just began my second year studying Mathematics with Statistics for Finance in Imperial College, London.