Sweden to host first Think Global School trimester

Photo caption: Youth take part in the world's largest LAN (Local Area Network) party, a gathering of computer enthusiasts playing games, browsing the web and developing software on November 26, 2009 in Jonkoping, Sweden. Sweden is the first stop for the tech-savvy students of Think Global School. (Jan Johannessen/Getty Images)

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — For the first time in history, a parent will actually be proud that their child attended three different high schools in one year.

A San Francisco-based high school, Think Global School (TGS), is about to launch an ambitious program that will take students around the globe, literally. By the time they graduate from the private non-profit high school, students will have lived in 12 different countries and experienced 12 different cultures, languages and histories. The students will also be information technology gurus, as advanced communication technology will be at the curriculum’s core.

The first year will take the students to Stockholm, then Sydney, Australia; Beijing, China; and Hong Kong. Year two will include Santiago, Chile; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Berlin, Germany. As juniors and seniors, the students will study in Vancouver, British Columbia; Barcelona, Spain; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Amman, Jordan; Bangalore, India; and finally Washington, D.C.

In Sweden, public high school Young Business Creatives, which specializes in global business education, will host TGS.

"A school that wants to educate the students for tomorrow's world needs to actively open up to the rest of the world. YBC works ambitiously with 21st century skills, including creativity, information technology and what we call 'global competence,'" said YBC founder Hans Renman. "To cooperate with TGS is an excellent way for us to work achieve that."

A unique, digital educational social network will allow TGS students to connect with one another, their teachers, families, friends and inner-city partner classrooms in real time around the world.

“Technology will be integrated into daily life at school in a variety of ways,” said Mike Hourahine, chief technology officer at TGS. “Students will capture and share their experiences through the use of a social media system we have called Spot. Student blogging including video and pictures will be an important part of growth, reflection and assessment during their time at TGS. Spot also provides students and teachers with other social media tools, such as an internal Twitter-like system, social bookmarking, and profiles.”

The $88,000 annual tuition includes meals, living accommodation, electronic texts and health insurance as well as a MacBook and an iPhone, including all of the required software and support that makes it possible for the students to blog, vlog, text, tweet, chat and email about their experiences.

“Google apps for education, including gmail, Google docs and Google sites will round out an extensive online toolset for TGS,” Hourahine said The programs and documents are stored online, allowing students to access them from anywhere. “Their MacBook will be their central classroom library, collaboration and content creation tool, while their iPhone will serve as a video and picture camera, digital library and even a content creator when they are out exploring what the host city and country has to offer.”

And what of Apple’s newest toy? “We are currently exploring the e-reader market, including the Apple iPad, for the best device for this purpose for our students,” Hourahine added.

The school opens this fall enrolling students in ninth grade. Each year following that, another grade will be added until there are four classes. The students will engage in a rigorous academic program that adheres to both the International Baccalaureate program and U.S. curriculum standards. The curriculum integrates the histories, geographies, languages, ideas, current events and people of each host city. The non-profit high school teaches all in English and has no religious or political affiliations. Organizers hope the student body will reflect the global nature of the school.

Eleven students out of a class of 15 have been accepted so far for the the school's first year. All 11 are receiving some form of financial assistance.

“We strongly believe that coming from an underprivileged background should not deny anyone the chance to get into TGS. We will focus on academic skills, desire to travel and the global citizenship potential," said TGS Project Director Janice Cheng. "We want kids who truly want to come to TGS to have that opportunity to be a part of it, so we will do our best to make it work for them."

Philanthropists Harry and Joann McPike provided the school's start-up funding. In the future, the school will conduct its own fundraising efforts, Cheng said.

”Think Global School came from the vision of our founders, Joann and Harry McPike. They saw a real need for a global school that could take students from many different nations and bring them together as a group to explore the world,” Cheng said.

The McPikes searched the globe for a school to send their own son to when he reached ninth grade. The suggestion to homeschool him so they could continue traveling gave them the idea to start an entire school of children traveling the world.

The students will be visited by expert lecturers from the host cities and the lectures will stream live as webinars and be downloadable for partner classrooms. At the end of each school year the students will have an individual digital portfolio chronicling their academic achievements and extracurricular experiences.

"Our host school in each city will not only provide classroom space, the use of science labs and other special rooms and library, but we will also engage in activities together. We may take lunch together, join the host school instructional sports, go on field trips together and attend special guest lectures,” Cheng said. “The goal of this activity integration is to allow both students and teachers to interact and build lifelong relationships through working closely together.”

Freshmen activities outside the classroom will include dining on dim sum in Hong Kong, scuba diving the endangered Great Barrier Reef in Australia and visiting ecologically sustainable wind farms in Sweden.

“Ever since I was little, I have wanted to travel the world and explore other cultures. I believe Think Global School is a perfect opportunity to do that,” said one of the students who will enroll when TGS opens this September in Stockholm, via email. TGS will not announce the students’ identities until later this year, citing security.