Taipei Kuei Shan School: Nurturing the Unique Gifts of Each Child
Taipei Kuei Shan School
Taipei Kuei Shan School

Planning a trip near nature on rusty weekends is a great escape from brick-and-mortar life, helping divert the eyes from digital screens to scenic frames. Looking at nothing but just the lush green trees, grass, and bright sky is a pure definition of peace.

And fortunately, it just doesn’t stop there! Along with being a consolidating partner in a fleeting moment of peace, nature is a nurturer, provider, and teacher too!

And to decode and understand these little wise teachings, an ecosystem that infuses educational wisdom along with nature’s experience can get the ball rolling in one’s own favor.

Learning in the biotic ecosystem and under the open sky is an experience that every child would love to have. Not only this, but it also increases the development and understanding of one’s surroundings.

In several schools, at least one class is conducted either on the ground or in the natural environment, which is more of an experience than a study.

Have you ever wondered what the scenario would be if this were something schools regularly did?

Well, there is one institution that does believe in this principle at its core. One such education leader is Taipei Kuei Shan School. It believes that environment and nature nurture and teach. As a result of such nurturing, each child’s unique gifts could be developed into maturity.

Prof. Hsiong Hui-Ying led the foundation of the institution in 1963. She believed that a student’s education is best when it speaks holistically to all parts of the student, both inside the classroom and outside. Education should focus on the student, not the teacher; the method should be inquiry-based, not content controlled.

Journey: From a Seed to a Tree

Founded in 1963, Taipei Kuei Shan School has a long history as an experimental school under the authority of the ROC Ministry of Education (MOE). Although it began under the MOE, Kuei Shan has had the opportunity to follow its educational philosophy free of direct governmental oversight and develop its educational program in a way that conforms to its mission statement.

The school began as an elementary-middle school and added a high school in 2016, becoming a full K-12 educational institution. In this process of preparation, it adopted and has been certified to administer the International Baccalaureate as an IB World School, with full certification for the Primary Years Program, the Middle Years Program, and the Diploma Program (DP) for the 11th and 12th grades.

The school graduated its first cohort of IB diploma students in 2017 and has excitedly graduated six cohorts of students to the present day for a total of over 150 Kuei Shan IB DP graduates.

The Roots of Institution

The school’s vision statement says, “Grow into an individual made in the image of God. Our educational practices aim to foster self-worth as well as respect for others, are guided by proven effective methods, and are conducted in a student-oriented style. As a result of such nurturing, the unique gifts of each child can be developed into maturity.”

Kuei Shan’s mission is to provide holistic education that is Biblically inspired, academically rigorous, socially friendly, and globally and culturally responsive.

‘Students will be equipped to experience TRUTH.’

The school lays the principles as,

Transformed: by the renewing of the mind

Rigorous: academic pursuits

United: life-giving community

Twined: heritage with globalization

Holistic: balanced development

The Originator of the Thought

The school has been shaped by the hands of numerous educators, leading it to achieve a reputation. However, the vision and philosophy of the founder, Prof. Hsiong Hui-Ying, is the most directly responsible for leading Kuei Shan in the proper direction.

She is a philosophical granddaughter of the famed American educator John Dewey.

His views on modern educational practice shaped Prof. Hsiong’s vision for education to be student-focused in an era of the assembly-line model for education. Prof. Hsiong believed that “A student’s education is best when it speaks holistically to all parts of the student, both inside the classroom and outside. While the focus of education should be on the student, not the teacher, and the method should be inquiry-based, not content controlled.” For this reason, Prof. Hsiong set up Kuei Shan to have fewer students in each classroom. By this, she also ensured to provide students with a rich set of learning experiences so that each student would be met where they are at with learning opportunities appropriate to their interests and abilities.

Her vision lives on through the educators at Kuei Shan, who use modern teaching methodologies to help guide students to learn in the manner they learn best.

Providing a Shade to Society

Kuei Shan’s biggest contribution to the community is that it led the way to a more inquiry-based, student-centred bilingual learning environment. While other local schools still employed lecture-style learning with large classrooms, Kuei Shan worked to reverse this trend with fewer students per classroom.

The institution emphasizes a ‘Student First’ learning approach led by teachers who lead as a ‘Guide on the Side’ instead of as a ‘Sage on the Stage’, where senior students mentor younger ones. Students are encouraged to explore music and the arts, and everyone is given the opportunity to develop a green thumb and grow a potted plant.

Facing Wind, Rain, and Erosion

Though gaining certification for becoming an IB World School was a challenge, the school was quite in-line with the IB educational philosophy. IB certification requires the teachers to demonstrate that the learning environment is truly student-focused and inquiry-based. This has kept the teachers on their toes.

Space being a challenge, the school has always looked for new ways to optimize its space usage. Especially as the student body of the school has grown by leaps and bounds since 1963, it has been continuously creating fun and better spaces for students. This also has led to the creation of a campus with many green spaces outside the classrooms for students to learn in a more natural environment. The school looks at the future with the building plan to increase classroom space, thus creating even better space for students.

The Extracurricular Offerings

Kuei Shan firmly believes that “Education goes far beyond academics.”

At every grade level, the school works hard to provide students with both structured and unstructured inquiry opportunities. Students are given many options for educational enrichment both inside the classroom and out on the playground. From the earliest grade level, students are encouraged to use their physical abilities to learn.

Kuei Shan treats the outdoor play as an important dimension of the student’s growth. As students get older, they have the opportunity to get involved in many academic, social, and athletic clubs and activities. The school encourages students to involve themselves in intramural sports, in scholastic organizations like Model United Nations (MUN) and World Vision, and in leading service-oriented activities such as community outreach mission trips and visiting orphanages or elderly homes.

The Standout Qualities of Kuei Shan

Kuei Shan believes that the environment is the third teacher; therefore, it always gives a lot of thought to setting up its learning environment, both indoors and outdoors. Every classroom in the school has its unique characteristic and layout – Each classroom is different from others; students can gain new learning experiences each time they move to a new classroom.

Apart from the changing environment each year, students also have plenty of opportunities to connect to nature. As the school suggests, “We provide our students with a lot of trees! Our school buildings and playgrounds are surrounded by greenery of all kinds, from sturdy trees that students are encouraged to climb, to bushes that are great for hiding, to grassy fields for playing, and tall, narrow trees that all students can view from inside their classrooms to help them relax.”

Students have treehouses and a soccer pitch that has a zip line running from a two-story tower to the opposite end of the field. One corner of the school campus consists of a small pond with living creatures for students of all ages to enjoy, ponder, and study. But to top it off, Kuei Shan may be the only school with a spiral slide that provides students on any of its six floors with ready access to the playground at a moment’s notice.

Kuei Shan is a great place to study and a place that ensures that studying is fun.

Exposure to Global Light

Kuei Shan not only practices the IB curriculum but also employs to encourage students to practice global-mindedness and multicultural thinking. The school’s strong English language focus opens up a world of opportunities for its students and prepares them well for studies abroad after graduation. Nearly 100 percent of Kuei Shan graduates go on to study at top schools around the globe, making the institution proud.

Achievements, Accolades, and Awards

Kuei Shan mentions, “One of the greatest achievements is what we help our demographic to accomplish.”

The school keeps tuition fees intentionally low so that the average Taiwanese family can afford to get a world-class education for their children, while most international schools offer similar programs at a cost that only the wealthiest can afford.

Kuei Shan is proud to provide a world-class IB education to middle-income families and enable their children to go to top schools around the globe.

A Fruit as Thought

The advice Kuei Shan gives to its students is, “Do not fear difficulty or shrink from the challenge. Doing difficult things builds up your abilities and enables you to go much farther than taking the easy way. Choose the hard path to stretch yourself. Don’t be afraid of failure. We cannot truly succeed if we are not willing to try, fail, and try again and again until we succeed.”

Leading to Future

Kuei Shan provides a necessary service for the future of its community. It looks forward to providing more for the community. Every year the school increases its student body and is increasingly bulging at the seams.

The institution plans to build new high-school facilities capable of serving double the current number of high school students and of repurposing its current buildings for a growing elementary and middle school.

Kuei Shan says, “We look forward to the day when our facilities will expand to the point we can provide a quality world-class educational experience to even more families in our community.”

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