The Association of China and Mongolia International Schools (ACAMIS) was founded initially as a means for students to connect in post-season regional tournaments. Since then, the organization has evolved, adding more sports as well as other student activities, service learning grants, and professional development opportunities for staff. We are grateful for the vision of the ACAMIS founders who established a framework that was sustainable and adaptable.
The first event was hosted by the Western Academy of Beijing in May 2000 with seven schools participating in basketball and soccer tournaments and a mile-long run. A few weeks later, the first annual general meeting (AGM) was held at Xiamen International School on the southern coast of China in Fujian Province. To further extend the idea of friendly collaboration and competition, drama, public speaking, and Earth Day symposium workshops were sponsored during the 2000-2001 school year.
LINKING TOGETHER 83 MEMBER SCHOOLS
Today, ACAMIS has a membership of 83 schools ranging in size from less than 300 pupils to over 2,500 in Mongolia, mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. In addition to the continued connections for students through sports tournaments and cultural events, ACAMIS also helps school staff through professional development programs and networking opportunities. These staff services include a Spring Conference (bringing together heads, aspiring heads, business managers, librarians, counselors, athletic directors, arts/cultural coordinators, curriculum coordinators, and technology directors), a Chinese Conference focusing on language acquisition best practices, and workshops for middle managers as well as administrative personnel.
WORKING WITH APAC AND EARCOS
Because of our dual approach of serving students and teachers, we believe we are a unique association in the world of international education. ACAMIS cooperates closely with two other major associations in East Asia.
The Asia Pacific Activities Conference (APAC) currently only consists of 12 schools, generally the oldest and largest schools in China, Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Vietnam. APAC sponsors post-season athletic tournaments in volleyball, basketball, soccer, track, swimming, badminton, and other sports. APAC also supports cultural events for band, choir, forensics, drama, and dance.
The other organization is the East Asia Regional Council of Schools (EARCOS). Membership of EARCOS numbers around 150 schools from throughout Asia. EARCOS offers two major conferences per year aimed at assisting the professional development of teachers and school administrators. EARCOS also collaborates with ACAMIS in the hosting of technology-centered conferences. EARCOS further supports weekend workshops hosted by individual member schools interested in sharing their experience and expertise.
Both APAC and EARCOS are significant and excellent organizations. However, they offer limited opportunities for many schools that are widely scattered, small, and have fewer resources, factors that may hamper the ability to network and travel. ACAMIS fills this void.
MANAGING GROWTH AND DIVERSITY
The primary challenge facing ACAMIS today is managing our growth. To help meet this challenge, a part-time executive director (a former head of school who had also served on the board) was employed. His primary role is to help the board move from management (where board members made all the decisions and assisted with events) to policy. It will probably take a few years to accomplish this goal, as the plan requires additional financial resources.
An additional issue is managing the great diversity that exists within the organization. We have many small member schools in remote, rural locations that have difficulty bringing a team to a tournament. Characteristically, smaller rural schools serve the children of parents working for civil service groups or non-governmental organizations and these schools may lack basic resources. Larger schools are often found in the urban centers, have long waiting lists, and serve students whose parents work for global conglomerates. Some ACAMIS member schools are non-profits while others are for-profit. Across all our members, curricula vary: some schools offer the IB, others the National Curriculum in England or an American curriculum and others a combination of various curricula. A few are faith-based schools. Cultures vary widely depending on whether schools are based in Hong Kong, Kunming (capital of Yunnan in southwest China) or Ulaanbaatar (capital of Mongolia). All member schools report that finding and retaining excellent teachers is a challenge. However, ACAMIS continues to be committed to all member schools to fulfill our mission and purpose.