Our Society 14 september — 15:19

Behind the walls of a British castle in Baku (Report from Baku-Oxford School)

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BY AFA BABAYEVA

Today it is considered that educational content, which includes not one but two programs - national and international - is the only main condition for the full development of a child's own abilities. Whether it is true or not, only time will give the answer to this question. Although we know for sure that there is never too much of a good thing, and that there can be no superfluous knowledge. And one must say that such a concept today enjoys well-deserved respect, since it confirms the immutable truth that education is a fundamental method of social progress and reforms.

This Gothic structure, built specifically for the Baku-Oxford School (BOS), is a rare exception in the architectural ensemble of the capital. It is exquisite, fanciful... Located on a hill, it, as if challenging our modernity, combines in itself hugeness and solidity with airiness, luxury and simplicity. At the same time, its inner order is perceived as an addition to external beauty.

It is believed that every Gothic cathedral, where, by the way, the coronations of kings were held in ancient times, is a universe, and in its stone laces on the steeples there are secrets that later become a legend. And so, looking at this majestic structure, it seems that its creator, who made a lot of effort, is either a genius or a sorcerer.

Yes, BOS is ambitious, but let's not forget that, for all its ambitiousness, it is ready to sacrifice its originally high destiny. Today it accumulates scientific and educational material, its walls absorb children's sonorous polyphony, but the time will come, and BOS, just like the world Gothic, will gain its legend.

A special environment has been created behind the school's massive doors. Studying, education, according to teachers' deep conviction, is a process of life, not preparation for it. For years, dealing with children's material - and many of them have been working here for more than 10 years - teachers are improving their teaching methods by attending various trainings conducted by foreign specialists. This need to plan interesting and exciting lessons comes by itself. And this is very important, because the interests of a child, determined by teachers, are nothing but signals and symptoms of growing strengths and abilities, because they show the level of development that the child has achieved. These interests cannot be suppressed or ridiculed, they should be encouraged and supported, so as not to lose much valuable.

Such detailing speaks about the educational model of the school, which has become a real creative laboratory where high-standard academic programs are tested: IEYC, IPC, IGCSE, CAIE, the State Program on Azerbaijani and Russian languages. A second foreign language - German, French or Spanish - is also taught at the students' choice from the 6th grade.

To say that the pupil's load is large means to say nothing. By the standards of parents, children are catastrophically occupied. In their opinion, the free personal time of their children is a luxury. And they are surprised at this, because schoolchildren are not in a hurry to run home. After classes they go to study groups and sections in accordance with their interests: a swimming pool, a ring, a tennis court, a drama group, pottery... And this is not just attendance. This is attendance with a successful result.

Baku-Oxford school students this year participated in NHSMUN, Montessori MUN, World Scholar's Cup, Baku Round, as well as in various subject Olympiads and sports competitions, where they won cups, medals and prizes.

Every year, the school hosts conferences, debates on various topics in the IMUN frameworks. The Chairman of the MUN Development Program is a graduate of the school Nazrin Rustam-zade, who has been dreaming of a diplomatic career from the time she was a little shaver. And finally her dream came true: this year she was enrolled in the University of Los Angeles at the Faculty of Political Science with a degree in international relations.

'This year, BOS, founded in 1998, celebrates its 20th anniversary. Time has changed a lot, but, according to experts, for the better.

Today our former pupils are students or graduates of the best universities in the world,' says the founder of Baku-Oxford School, Mehriban Mammadova. 'Our graduates are currently students at UCL (UK), Exeter University (UK), King's College (UK), Birmingham University (UK), St Andrews University (UK), Warwick University (UK), Lancaster University (UK) , Edinburgh University (UK), Stanford University (USA), University of Pennsylvania (USA), Parsons School of Design (USA), American University (USA), George Washington University (USA), Penn State University (USA), California State University of Toronto (Canada), University of British Columbia (Canada), University of Calgary (Canada), Vienna University (Austria), Erasmus University (the Netherlands), Charles University (the Czech Republic), Bocconi University (Italy), Istituto Europeo di Design (Italy), GLION (Switzerland), Istanbul Technical University (Turkey), Middle East Technical University (Turkey), Koc University (Turkey), Budapest University of Technology and Economics (Hungary), and so on. Many of them successfully work both abroad and in Azerbaijan.'

According to her, there are no major and minor issues at the school. Everything is important. And the degree of attention does not decrease even in respect of such a seemingly ordinary matter as fire safety. Sending their child to the school, parents are sure of his or her safety. Although they do not even suspect what kind of a titanic work is being conducted with the children.

The school has automatic fire and anti-terrorist alarms; all the conditions for ensuring security have been created. The entire staff of the school is well informed and trained in evacuation plans.

Activities of all the school's divisions are directed and skilfully controlled by the Board of Trustees, which includes founders, well-known teachers, psychologists, parents, and representatives of the city administration. The main consultant of the school and one of the members of the School's Board of Trustees is Vladimir Kuskovsky, a professional teacher and administrator who has been working in the education system for over 30 years. As a native of Belarus, he constantly worked in various countries of the world: in the United States, England, Germany, India, etc., where he advised the creation of international schools. Now Kuskovsky works in Switzerland and is the director of the International School in Basel. Cooperating with the main offices of the world education, professionally advising and directing personnel and academic policy, V. Kuskovsky since 2012 worked in parallel with the Baku-Oxford School, which allowed the school to receive the coveted status in the shortest possible time.

'Quality education today is a priority topic both in the CIS countries, and throughout the world. Nobody wants to remain in the role of an outsider,' he says. 'Moreover, no one will want to have a catch-up model of school education. This is risky, because you can always stay in the problem field, taking into account the already used considerable resources. It is equally difficult to become a leader, being a catching up model... Although in this case we have the pleasure to observe this phenomenon of Baku-Oxford School.'

The school's Headmaster Alexander Simester speaks of successful promotion of Baku-Oxford school not without a note of pride in his voice: 'In our school we have introduced the best practices from across the world. My experience has been 25 years of international schools. First of all, in the UK, but then in a number of schools in Vietnam, Holland, India, Oman, Chile. That experience had allowed me to introduce all the best ideas from those schools into this one. We are the first school in Azerbaijan to have dual accreditation: with New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), and the Council of International Schools (CIS). The procedure of accreditation envisages a long and large-scale process, which is finalised with an actual inspection at the school. This inspection evaluates the management, professional training of the teaching staff, organisation of the education process and school life in general. The received accreditation opens wide prospects fore development and constant self-improvement of the school. Thus we consider ourselves the international school of choice. We put ourselves as a market leader in Azerbaijan. And we are proud of it.'

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