Peking University High School International Division:Empathy in Practice

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Peking University High School International Division:Empathy in Practice

Beijing, ChinaBeijing, China
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

We are interested in educating global citizens and social entrepreneurs. We would like to form partnerships with non-profit organizations around the world.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

As the China transitions from a manufacturing labor-intensive economy into a knowledge-based creative economy, Chinese education needs to transition from a test-oriented system into one that develops the ability of students to think critically and to work collaboratively. But while there’s a growing consensus within China that schools need to start emphasizing empathy, there’s widespread disagreement on how to best do so, or if, given China’s cultural and political context, that’s even possible. Our goal is to show that emphasizing empathy in curriculum is indeed possible, and that doing so has positive education outcomes.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Our school takes a holistic experiential approach to teaching empathy, creating situations that forces students to develop their own individual identity while learning to appreciate the feelings and viewpoints of others. Our school policies are the foundation: We discourage standardized testing, competition, and results, and instead emphasize individuality, diversity, and process. Curriculum-wise, we emphasize reading, especially fiction (traditionally the best way to teach empathy to students). We also emphasize drama and journalism, which forces students to constantly switch perspectives. We also try to develop global citizenship by sending our students to unfamiliar countries, such as Botswana, where our students expand their cultural horizons, challenge their prejudices, and learn to appreciate helping others while tutoring disabled children (read our student’s blog here: What accounts for the emotional intelligence of our school is th
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

We emphasize teaching Chinese students how read and write effectively in English. In our reading class, we first teach students how to properly read an English text such as John Steinbeck’s The Winter of Our Discontent by understanding plot, characterization, and symbolism. Most Chinese students have never read an English book before, but our students persist and they eventually are able to read English books. But reading the book is only the preamble to a much more difficult challenge: To work together in groups to deconstruct the text, formulate a thesis, support it with evidence and logic, and write a literary essay. Our students’ biggest problem is working in groups, and as a class we discuss group dynamic (understanding and effectively using each team member’s strengths) and effective communication skills (how to debate using evidence and logic, and how to offer advice and feedback that’s constructive and not personal). We take as much time as necessary so that every group can turn in its best work. Also, we have the groups read and edit each other’s essays so that the entire class is working together. At the end of this process, our students learn to appreciate the value of teamwork. We also find that by taking our time and eliminating competition our students can be at their most creative.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

As a public institution that prepares Chinese students for study in American colleges and universities, we have hundreds of peers and competitors in China. What makes us distinctive is our holistic and progressive education approach that emphasizes developing student’s individuality, creativity, and empathy. Our competition sees its mission statement as securing college placements for its students, and thus emphasizes test-taking skills for the SAT Reasoning Test, Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), and Advanced Placement (AP) examinations. Right now, our biggest challenge is how the market defines success (getting students into top American colleges); we feel that emphasizing short-term results contradicts our mission to educate Chinese students as global citizens & partners
About You
Peking University High School
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Peking University High School

Organization Country

, Beijing

Country where this project is creating social impact

, Beijing

Your role in Education


The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with

Private (tuition-based)

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

The information you provide here will be used to fill in any parts of your profile that have been left blank, such as interests, organization information, and website. No contact information will be made public. Please uncheck here if you do not want this to happen..

How long has your solution been in operation?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Now that you have thought out your entry, help us pitch it.
Define your company, program, service, or product in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]

We promote individuality, creativity, and empathy in the class,aims to educate China’s next generation of educators, writers, & thinkers

Identify what is innovative about your solution in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]

We envision school as a community of learners where our teachers & students collaborate together to make mistakes,learn from them.

Social Impact
What has been the impact of your solution to date?

We are constantly featured in the Chinese media, and have a website where each week we file a report on our progress. We understand that we are an education experiment, and that to help promote reform in Chinese schools we must be open, clear, and honest about our difficulties and our weaknesses. Our biggest impact is that we are demonstrating that education reform is indeed possible in China.Our students have improved greatly as individuals as well: They are happier, more confident, more creative, more curious, and more motivated to learn. Our parents were at first skeptical, but now they are actively promoting our program in their social networks.

What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?

We would like to start a debate in China as to the meaning of education. Most Chinese think that education is about getting students into top colleges, but for us education is about teaching students to be global citizens and life-long learners. We want to challenge the traditional notions of education, parenting, and success in China.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

Chinese cultural values are dominant and persistent, but we do hope to impact a minority of parents and students who believe in our progressive education. The best way to do that is to educate our students to the best of our ability, and to be honest and forthcoming about our mistakes so that our students and our parents are learning from the experiment as much as we are.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

In six months, we would like to be so well-known in China that we focus the education reform debate in China.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Augment student recruitment

Task 2

Emphasize student outreach and impact

Task 3

Engage the media and Chinese public

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

We want Chinese schools and social entrepreneurs to emulate our model, learning from us while working with us to adapt our model

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

See our first graduating class go to America, and perform well.

Task 2

Build up from a program into a full-fledged school that’s sustainable.

Task 3

Build systems and processes that are scalable.

Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world [125 words]

I’m a Chinese-Canadian, born in China, raised in Toronto, and educated at Yale College. I’ve always believed in the power of education to transform lives; My father washed dishes for a living, but through persistence and hard work in the Canadian public school system I won a scholarship to study at Yale. After graduation in 1999 I went to Beijing to teach in the public school system, but became disappointed in the rigidity and narrow-mindedness of China’s test-oriented education system.In 2008, I visited a friend, Wang Zheng, who was principal of a high school in Shenzhen, China. Many of his students were now planning to leave the Chinese education system in order to study abroad, and I could see an opportunity to impact Chinese education positively.Also, there’s growing concern within the Chinese government that its schools must begin emphasizing creativity if the Chinese economy is to be competitive in the 21st century global marketplace.

Tell us about your partnerships

We work with many non-profit partners to provide the best possible education for our students. In the summertime, the Hotchkiss School provides three weeks of a theater and literature program, and Lawrence Academy provides three weeks of outdoor education (hiking, camping, canoeing, and biking). In the wintertime, we send our students to exchange schools around the world; our students were just as the Maru-a-Pula School in Botswana, and we plan to send them to schools in Jordan and Colombia in the future.

What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section? [75 words]

Our school is a community, and our teachers, parents, and students work together closely to spread our message as well as create the best educational opportunities for our students. We are always looking to recruit individuals who share our ideals and passion, but we are careful also not to dilute our culture by growing unsustainably.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

We are interested in educating global citizens and social entrepreneurs. We would like to form partnerships with non-profit organizations around the world where our students could volunteer. We are always interested in partnering with schools around the world on student exchange programs.