American School of Ulaanbaatar (ASU) opened in Zaisan in 2006, and is preparing to celebrate its 10th anniversary this Fall. The private international school has grown rapidly in the past ten years and ASU’s student body has grown along with the school’s achievements.
ASU offers its pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students a Western curriculum taught by certified Mongolian and foreign faculty members. ASU has been accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, and a large percentage of its graduates go on to pursue university educations abroad.
The school is preparing for its annual Open House being held on Saturday, April 30, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Parents, friends and family of current and prospective students are invited to attend to meet ASU faculty, staff, and students.
The UB Post spoke to some of ASU’s administrators and faculty to learn more about the school, what it has accomplished in the past ten years, and its hopes for the next ten years of molding Mongolia’s future leaders.
Dr. Kate Sutton Jones, Secondary School Principal
Parents have a lot of choices for private education in UB. What sets ASU apart?
ASU was conceived and built by Mongolians to provide a Western education for Mongolians who seek to complete their post secondary education abroad and then return home with the aptitude and skills to contribute positively to the development of this country. This is why we refer to our students as Future Leaders. Our commitment is to provide the very best education to our Mongolian school population.
ASU students participate in competitions and events abroad, and a large number of graduates go on to study at foreign universities. How does ASU prepare them for these academic challenges?
We deliver a North American curriculum similar to those being delivered in comparable schools in Canada and America. To ensure our students are able to be successful, we provide the personalized support required for our English language learners to achieve the level of which they are capable. We set and maintain high academic standards through the recruitment and retention of the best teachers from abroad. We insist on high academic achievement, and our standards for a strong GPA are on par with the best schools in North America.
What is ASU’s vision for the next ten years?
To continue to develop the future leaders of Mongolia. To continue to educate graduates who not only perform at the highest level academically, but who also demonstrate the 21st century learning characteristics of creativity and innovation, communication, critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration, concern for the environment, and who are tech savvy
Roger Dutcher, Elementary School Principal
As ASU approaches its 10th anniversary, what are some of the school’s most notable achievements over the past decade?
One of our major milestones was when we opened our new Elementary School building in August 2013 for students from pre-kindergarten through grade 5 to meet the needs of an increasing student population. Enrollment at the Elementary School increased by more than 20 percent the following school year and we continue to grow.
We have had a number of significant events over the years, including our initial accreditation in 2011 and our re-accreditation in 2014. In 2013, ASU was accepted into the prestigious National Honors Society, an organization that focuses on scholarship, service, leadership, and character. This year, ASU established the first Mongolian chapter of the National Art Honor Society. Also this year, several of our high school students participated in the Harvard Model United Nations event in Beijing, and three of our students received awards, one as an Outstanding Delegate.
During the 2014-2015 school year, Advanced Placement courses in calculus, world history, and English were added. Over the years, our students have earned medals and certificates of distinction in several math competitions, including the Waterloo Math contest and the Australian Math Competition.
How does ASU prepare its students for success through its elementary school curriculum?
Our curriculum is challenging, addresses the needs of individual students, and has clearly articulated learning outcomes. Our teachers work in collaborative teams to determine the best strategies for addressing specific student needs.
We also have several support services for struggling students and English language learners. Three of our faculty members teach English as a second language, providing in-class support for core classes such as language arts, science, social studies, and math, and also conducting one-on-one or small group instruction with selected students. Our Resource Teacher instructs students in small groups using a variety of assessments in order to develop reading skills such as fluency, phonemic awareness, and comprehension, as well as to provide
guidance for appropriate behavior. We also have a Learning Support Specialist who is a certified counselor and helps to address the social, emotional, and learning challenges of some of our students. We have recently begun offering special instruction for some of our most advanced students through a Gifted and Talented program.
In addition to our rigorous curriculum and in-school support services, we subscribe to online academic resources that supplement classroom learning. Our students in kindergarten
through grade 5 have access to Mathletics, an online program that gives step-by-step animated support to guide students through curriculum-based concepts, and students can also participate in Live Mathletics, in which they can challenge students around the globe in games of speed and skill.
Students in grades 1 through 5 also have access to RAZKids, which offers more than 400 e-books, along with quizzes to test comprehension and skill reports that can be used to help
teachers target instruction to specific needs. In 2015 we began using Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), a computer-based assessment in math, reading, and language. Although most of our students begin at ASU Elementary with little or no English language ability, the assessment indicates that they make great progress in both social and academic English in just a few years, surpassing the norms by the time they reach middle school.
What projects and activities beyond academics does ASU offer its students for a well-rounded education?
ASU is committed to a holistic approach to student development. Learning is guided by the Expected School-wide Student Outcomes, as we seek to create academic achievers, critical thinkers, involved citizens, effective communicators, and self-directed lifelong learners. These outcomes are integrate into all we do at ASU.
Aside from our core subjects of math, science, social studies and language arts, we also offer many special courses, such as physical education, dance, drama, music, visual arts, and computers. Every Monday and Wednesday we also have after school activities that offer options for students to participate in creative or athletic events, such as Yearbook Club, Chess Club, soccer and swimming, storybook writing, and Builder’s Club.
There are numerous extracurricular activities at the Secondary School, including a variety of sports, speech, debate, the Global Issues Network, and Model United Nations. Our schedules also include special events throughout the year, including our concerts, plays and musicals, sports days, International Day, science fairs, spelling bee, and math competitions.
CD Johnson, Secondary School Science
As part of ASU’s diverse and experienced faculty, what do you focus on to give your students a unique educational experience?
In my classes, the goal is to renew and foster their sense of wonder and curiosity about the world around them. My class tends to be based around many projects throughout the year to expose the students to many different technologies and mediums. My students have written stories, poems, and songs; created music videos, voice-overs, and stop-motion animations; performed presentations, skits, and slam poetry; and built spaghetti bridges, straw towers, and Rube Goldberg machines.
In what ways do you bring Western educational standards to your classroom?
The school prescribes to the Ontario Curriculum when choosing its course offerings and curricular instruction, and my class is no different. Some expectations that I have carried with me from my experiences teaching in the United States are that all students can learn, and it is my responsibility to provide them with opportunities to be successful. To do this effectively, my students learn through a variety of means, such as visual, auditory, kinesthetic (movement, hands-on experiences), verbal, inter and intra-personal means. Some students may need to see something in order to understand, while others may benefit more by moving and acting an idea out.
Not only should the delivery of content be adapted to better meet the student’s needs, but the ways in which students can demonstrate their understanding of the material should also vary. At times, it may be better to provide a student with the means to easily and efficiently express their thoughts, while at other times the goal may be to improve in an area that is difficult for students. The goal is to understand the needs of the individuals in your class and to meet those needs in a way that provides each student with opportunities to succeed.
How does ASU prepare students to be successful global citizens?
The motto of ASU is “Learn, Achieve, Lead”, and we prepare our students for just that. In science we have discussions about issues and how they impact their lives and Mongolia. Some topics we’ve addressed and discussed this year have been the biodiversity of wildlife in various areas of Mongolia, the impacts of switching to different energy sources, and concerns about the availability of clean water. The entire school embraces the ESSOs, Expected School-wide Student Outcomes, one of which is to be an involved citizen. The school provides a variety of community service opportunities, whether it’s cleaning up the local river area or helping families at the garbage dump through the Veloo Foundation.
Heather Caveney , Elementary School Teacher Librarian
What is the value of ASU’s resources beyond the classroom?
People often think of resources as materials, facilities, or other tangible things. ASU does have a great many good resources on hand to be used in classrooms. However, perhaps our greatest resource is the knowledge held collectively by the teachers who, having taught and traveled around the globe and coming from a variety of home countries, have filled up their
educational toolboxes with a multitude of strategies, skills, and teaching modes. The first and most important “resource” any educator has to offer students is a positive and empowering
environment in which to learn. Before a child can learn, they must feel safe and secure, and they must have a positive, engaging rapport with their teachers. ASU and its staff (foreign and Mongolian) do an excellent job of creating this environment, and one can feel it as they walk our halls, or visit the classrooms, library, or other communal learning spaces. From our guards and bus drivers, to our program assistants, teachers, and administration–everyone at ASU is excited to see the bright, smiling faces of students who arrive at school each day, excited to learn and grow.
ASU has a diverse staff, but can you tell us about thediversity of its student body?
What has surprised me most about the student body, even here at the elementary school, is how well traveled these kids are. Most students have visited or lived abroad at a young age. Our student body is 80 percent Mongolian, and the remaining 20 percent come from more than twenty other countries. Some students arrive with little English, while others come having spoken it for a few years, and for some, English is their first language. They all work to help one another. One morning I listened as first graders kindly supported a classmate in using the correct pronoun. Considering that in Mongolian language one doesn’t distinguish between “he” and “she”, it makes sense that English pronouns can be confusing to our young learners. ASU students, no matter their background, are eager to help their classmates succeed. Through Specials classes and the after school activities we offer, students have the opportunity to interact with students from other grades and to try something new.
How does ASU help its students become life-long learners?
The best way that ASU helps its students to become life-long learners is by encouraging their curiosities and interests. In addition to teaching our curriculum, we have ample opportunities to show our students how to seek information when they want or need it. We have a variety of special events throughout the school year for students to learn about one another and the world, and to share of themselves, their knowledge and interests. Our monthly Spirit Day celebrations, International Day, ASU’s Got Talent, Science Fair, Sports Days, spelling bee, and our Winter and Spring concerts are just a few of such opportunities at the Elementary School.
As a teacher librarian, I not only assist students in finding information they want from the library’s shelves, but I’m also sharing with them the gift of storytelling and imagination. I read stories to classes of all ages, encouraging them, along the way, to ask questions, make predictions, and to share aloud the connections they make to the book or story. Making connections–text to text, text to self, and text to world–is how I demonstrate to students that they fit into the vibrant tapestry that is our diverse globe, from their family, to their school, to the nation of Mongolia, and out into the larger world. They are each a part of a huge, human ecosystem and have the ability to impact others through both small actions as well as greater ones. Our goal at ASU is to build confident, competent, and compassionate emerging leaders for Mongolia’s future. We begin this building process by encouraging and supporting
each student from their own unique starting point, and offering learning opportunities and activities that can engage their minds, hearts, and spirits, so that they can become thoughtful young adults with a passion for learning and a great desire to pursue their own dreams.
J.Khaliunaa, Secondary School Mathematics
How has ASU worked with other Mongolian schools and organizations to be part of the larger Ulaanbaatar community?
Our school has numerous clubs that reach out to communities that are in need. For example, we have Global Network Initiative, National Art Honor Society, and National Honor Society chapters at our school, U.S. based and international organizations. I am in my third year of being an adviser for the National Honor Society chapter at our school and we do service projects, such as a winter food and fuel drive, river clean-up, a fall clothing and book drive, and tree planting at our sister school, School No. 60. We donated more than 1,400 non-perishable food items, a truck full of coal and wood, and more than 10 boxes of clothing to the Veloo Foundation and a local orphanage. We planted nearly 100 trees at our sister school last year, and we are planting another 100 trees in May of this year.
Our school collaborates with other schools in town through our athletics program. We have middle and high school volleyball, basketball, and soccer teams, and we often host or participate in Ulaanbaatar Athletic Conference games. Our students have won numerous awards and certificates from these games.
We also have a debate club which meets on a regular basis and has participated in numerous debates at local schools in town. Our students have won severals best speaker awards and titles. We showcased our students’ art work last year at Marshal Art Gallery, which was open to the public.
Our Drama Club performed two successful productions, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (2014/2015) and “Twelve Angry Men” (2015/2016). This year our music and drama departments put together our first school musical, “Grease”. We worked with School No. 60 on the costumes for the musical, and our sister school did a wonderful job with tailoring thecostumes.
How do these partnerships benefit ASU students?
Our students acquire leadership skills through organizing events, contests, service projects, fundraisings, drama and music productions, and engage in partnership activities. As we
run these projects, our students critically think and assess the logistics of our projects and activities, effectively communicate with one another in person or through holding meetings
in class or virtually via emails to get the job done on time, develop a sense of care for others, and so forth besides school work. These soft skills are really aligned well with our school
core values such as, being academic achiever, critical thinker, self-directed lifelong learner, involved citizens, and effective communicator and which are highly important in 21st century.
In what way does ASU provide a Western education through a Mongolian lens?
I think that offering a Western education to our students in our homeland, with the assistance of our Western trained teachers and administrative staff, is a great opportunity and awesome investment for preparing future Mongolian leaders.
Our instructions are student centered, and we have caring and well educated teachers and staff that constantly look for solutions to meet the needs of all our students, which isquite different from regular school programs that we have in Mongolia in general.
The fact that our students learn Mongolian Language and literature alongside learning a global language, English, is a great way to preserve the cultural aspects of education alongside the life skills and self-development guidance that ASU has to offer its students. These are some things that ASU has to offer to their students, which I find quite unique and valuableas a Mongolian repatriate.
For more information about ASU or questions about enrollment go to asu.edu.mn, or call 11348888.