Andover’s engagement with China dates back to the 19th Century, and includes the first China-US high-school exchange, established between the Harbin Institute of Technology and Phillips Academy in the 1980s. The most recent chapters, however, open with the support of Oscar Tang, even before he became President of the Board of Trustees, and his late wife, Francis Young Tang, who devoted themselves to encouraging Andover faculty to learn more about China. In Oscar’s view, China-US relations are likely to be the most important bilateral relationship for at least the next half century.
Recent faculty research trips focused on major water systems and water issues in China, and their success led Temba Maqubela, Assistant Head for Academics, to propose to Oscar and Barbara Chase, Head of School, that the next step should involve students in a summer program. Under the auspices of GPG, the Global Perspectives Group, a plan emerged to develop such a program together with our partner schools in China and to locate the program in Kunming – away from the heat and pressure of Beijing and Shanghai. With the help of connections at our Beijing partner school, RDFZ, Temba traveled to Kunming and was pleased to find a superb new partner school that was happy to host the new venture.
With Oscar and Barbara’s support, the focus on the environment evolved into a program with a strong science course as foundation, tightly tied to courses in economics, social philosophy (ethics and social policy), and language and culture. All four courses would deal with the same topics, and an afternoon research seminar would provide the framework for thoughtful and explicit integrative learning. Thus was born the BASK in ASK Program, linking four founding schools: BDFZ (The Affiliated High School of Peking University Yunnan Experimental School), PA (Phillips Academy), RDFZ (The High School Affiliated to Renmin University) and SDHS (Shanghai Datong High School).
In the summer of 2012, faculty from all four schools convened in Kunming to see if a plan could be worked out for a program to launch in the summer of 2013 or 2014. Led by Peter Merrill, coordinator of Andover’s GPG, the group worked hard first to learn how to learn together, and then to lay the groundwork for the program. By the end of the week, the group was ready to push for a 2013 launch.
Over the course of the academic year, work continued on program development and all three schools developed and implemented a selection process for students. The program launched on schedule, on July 17, 2013, with twenty students and thirteen teachers. The group was led by Tom Hodgson, Acting Director; Lixia Ma, Assistant Director; Gongming Yan, Program Coordinator; Ran Shang, Local Coordinator; with returning teacher Qi Mi, from RDFZ. In addition, Tedd Parker taught economics and Willa Abel taught science.
The summer of 2014 saw a similar number of participants from the four schools. The group was again led by Tom Hodgson, Director; Lixia Ma, Assistant Director; Gongming Yan, Program Coordinator; and Ran Shang, Local Coordinator. In addition, Nancy Ann Little taught science and Peter Merrill taught economics.
In 2015, the third summer, there was a dramatic rise in the number of participants. The Andover student delegation numbered eighteen, and the overall number rose to thirty-five, and the teachers numbered twelve. The group was led by Peter Merrill, Director; Lilia Cai-Hurteau, Assistant Director; Gongming Yan, Program Coordinator; and Ran Shang, Local Coordinator. In addition, Nef Francis taught chemistry, Jerry Hagler taught biology, and Liz Monroe taught economics.