BIEA Holds Inaugural Drone Awards

On the 28th of June, BIEA reached the conclusion of its first Drone Design Competition with an awards ceremony held at the South of England Showground in Sussex.

The competition reached 2500 schools across the country. 10 teams, ranging across junior, intermediate and senior categories, from state and independent schools, from around the UK, were invited to the final ceremony.

The competition was designed by a group of experts in STEM education and STEM competition designs. The challenge for students was to create a drone that could respond to a potential disaster situation of their choice.

All 10 teams had the chance to present their designs to over 11,000 students and teachers at the Big Bang South East fair, the largest regional STEM education fair in the country. BIEA guests included David Hanson from the independent Association of Prep Schools, Iqbal Khan from Olivebranch Syria and Heather Williams of the British Science Association, who toured the student’s efforts and had the chance to ask questions about their designs.

The student-designed drones included plans for a decontamination unit for radiation disaster zones, rescue-at-sea drones and innovative models for search-and-rescue. Some students had even built full-scale models of what their design would look like. After two weeks of judging in June, the first-place prizes went to: London Meed Primary School for the junior category, independent student Alexander Gray for the intermediate and Highworth Grammar in the senior division.

BIEA Trustee Nikki Colins addressed the audience in her keynote speech, highlighting the impressive standards of entry for this year’s competition. She outlined how, in the next twelve months, our commitment to reach diverse and under-served audiences will form the very basis of BIEA’s programme design and development. This is reflected in next year’s international drone competition as students from the UK and China will be invited to tackle global issues and team up to collaborate with children in Syria. This competition concept is made possible through our partnership with Olivebranch Syria, a humanitarian NGO dedicated to serving the Syrian people and ensuring education can still be provided within the on-going conflict.

The climax of the day saw all the winning teams receiving their very own modular drone to put their ideas into reality. These light models were donated by our partner Goertek, who share the same international education mission as BIEA. Goertek is a global leader in drone and VR technology. With a focus on enhancing science education experiences in young people around the world, Goertek is investing in education drone development as part of its corporate social responsibility programme.

The awards were followed by a synchronised drone display by Goertek programming experts Eddie Fei and Alan Song.  The drones impressed on the audience what they were capable of by performing a synchronised dance routine over a specially designed QR coded carpet and provided a fitting end to the ceremony.

BIEA could not be happier with the event and wishes to thank Big Bang, STEM Sussex, Goertek, Olivebranch, BSA and all of the hard-working volunteers and staff that made it possible. BIEA looks forward to returning next year with an even bigger and better event.

The rise of China's international schools

It’s no secret that China takes its education seriously. As we write millions of students are taking the world’s biggest and possibly most stressful exam, the gaokao, one which determines the course of entire lives. The gaokao exam is a cause of almost constant pressure in China and has been blamed for a myriad of mental health issues amongst teenagers who will often finish their high school curriculums a year early in order to study almost nonstop for their one chance at a top-tier university. It’s no small wonder that some parents, particularly in the expanding middle classes want a different way of learning, one that is more individual, holistic and is quickly becoming something akin to a status symbol.

We are of course talking about the rise of the international school.  Within China, there are primarily two types - ones which cater almost exclusively to foreigners or Chinese citizens with foreign passports usually modelled on British or American syllabuses and found in cities with high proportions of expat workers such as Shanghai and Beijing. The second category, however, is the one to keep an eye on. This marries a bilingual education with a western style curriculum to create a new experience for Chinese students who may not wish to continue in the exam factories of China’s mainstream state education.

China already has more international schools than any other country in the world. A 2017 relaxation on laws restricting access only to foreigners has meant that as long as there is a Chinese partner involved in the school they can flourish across the country. One notable example has been the Elite K-12 Education Group which has taken inspiration from British educational establishments to dominate top-tier cities across the county. Even well known private schools from the UK have been tempted over to open up in China with both Dulwich and Wellington School opening their doors recently.

The growth in international schools is estimated to double in the next 10 years to keep up with the astounding demand generated by the middle classes who see a modern bilingual education as an important stepping stone to further education in western universities and to the creation of the notion of belonging to a class of modern cosmopolitan ‘global citizens.’ All this growth is good news for foreign teachers who are in more demand than ever and can make significantly more in terms of salary and perks than in their home countries. Local teachers are also benefiting from the growth of international schools as they train up in modern teaching practice that veers away from rote learning and allows them to embrace new and creative forms of education.