Improving School Partnerships

Some Insight and Evidence

Solving a puzzle (geopaul/

In this three-part series of articles articulating Asia Society's vision for robust partnership relations, we have previously outlined how to establish key goals and stakeholders, key steps in the development process, as well as a roadmap for assessing and guiding partnerships. In the last of this three-part series, we discuss the way forward.

Schools are commonly matched on their own or by an external organization based on considerations regarding grade levels, geography, characteristics, industry, student population, etc. Personal connections between the key drivers (such as principals, teachers, and superintendents) are extremely important. Oftentimes representatives from the two schools “hit it off” while traveling together or over a meal.

Evidence and experience point to a few ways to improve the partnership development process.

  • Educators on both sides should continuingly engage (especially beginning partnerships), and they should be encouraged to perform due diligence, such as guided readings of one another’s education systems, objectives, and best practices related to partnership building
  • Drivers or liaisons of a partnership must have sufficient knowledge of the objectives, willingness, and capacity of the other side to engage in various kinds of collaborative projects.
  • Schools should be encouraged to think more broadly when implementing initial activities which may serve as starting points for longer-term projects and relationships. Sometimes the establishment of a formal partnership agreement is catalyzed by a one-off collaborative activity.
  • Joint projects (tasks, unit of study, curriculum, etc.) should be carefully designed, so that they reflect goals and purposes for both American and Chinese students. These activities should also take into account the varying levels of linguistic capability and content knowledge of the participating students.
  • Schools should think about how more members of the school community (e.g. teachers from other subject areas) could benefit from this relationship.
  • Partnerships should take advantage of technology, not for its own sake, but to facilitate communication, and to engage learners.
  • Schools should constantly look for parental, business, and community support that will both enrich and strengthen the relationship.
  • Schools should consciously build in opportunities that encourage unscripted activities. Serendipities are invaluable and impossible to plan.
  • Objectives and expectations from both sides should be realistic, and even then participants should anticipate setbacks, but focus on learning from experience – it’s the best teacher!

Author: Jeff Wang