While Yungu’s association with Alibaba and its entrepreneurship may be clear, questions arise—such as：
What is the culture of this developing school?
What are its values?
What is its direction?
1. Overview: Happy Rules of Play
2. Co-Creation Culture: A Start-up Mindset to Stay Inspired & Strong through Conflict
When colleagues meet and work together, individuals won’t—shouldn’t—always agree, and tensions and conflict can arise during meetings, whether expressed or not. There may be a sense of obstacles in the way of progress. All should maintain their open-mindedness, energy and a spirit of cooperation.
Expect initial meetings of departments/teams on projects to be relatively short (~10 minutes or so)—so that projects can be outlined efficiently, with the leader preparing the way in advance with survey-based communication. Following the meeting, individuals will undertake their assignments and fulfill necessary tasks, coordinating with others.
Subsequent meetings will focus on ongoing developments and the facts of the emerging situation, including data analysis, joint review and reflection, with assessment of any problems and new potential—with everyone learning from the experience—before proceeding to the next set of actions.
Yungu Elementary & Middle School Principal
“Before I came to Yungu, I firmly believed—after a decade of management experience—that a good head develops the school’s plan and that the administrative staff and faculty implement it. I was used to making the decisions and setting the directions for the school.But at Yungu, my position was challenged. I’ve realized that, rather than being the sole decision- and policy-maker, I need to listen carefully to others’ ideas. Here we believe in a culture of co-creation, with innovation and direction coming from the faculty and staff. The team spirit of Yungu promises to become the great engine of growth for this distinctive progressive school.”
We must always keep in mind—together—the mission of Yungu: To bring out the best in every child. This is not simply the belief of the co-founders and Board, but something all the staff believes.
3. A Group Mission to be Advanced Individually
Yungu values the balance of individual goals with the team vision and the development of the mission. The School is developing a process of assessing and supporting individual teachers in several stages (below), rather than relying on the conventional assessment system for teaching performance, the KPI (Key Performance Indicator), which focuses on a single target set by a supervisor and which can set up failure:
(1) Self-assessment, a reflection on the extent to which the goals of the previous academic year were met;
(2) Career growth conversation, an exchange between teacher and colleagues for a fuller understanding of how the individual is developing, achieving and finding fulfillment within the context of the School’s needs and team’s vision, in order to set new and continuing goals;
(3) Midterm review, a review in the middle of the following term to check on ongoing progress and to make any adjustments.
Every new teacher must come to Yungu not only with a sense of the School’s mission, but also with a personal mission—a genuine love for education—which, as Jack Ma has said, must be the foundation.All teachers are expected to bring with their great talents and skills a strong self-discipline and willingness to advance the School’s principles, enforcing its rules and acting on concerns.
What isn’t tolerated: violation of law or ethical standards, dishonesty or serious lapses of integrity, lack of genuine love and respect for children.
4. Holding True to Commitment & Self-Expression, While Confronting Reality
Secretary-General of Yungu’s Board
“Holding true to our commitment to Yungu is of the greatest significance. We’re devoting ourselves to helping children express themselves honestly and sincerely and to helping them learn the real skills they need. So we YGers are expected to express ourselves honestly as well—what we want to say and how we feel—and to raise legitimate objections, not just agree with administrators and colleagues.In my view, our Open Door Policy is a very good one, which emphasizes genuine and open communication. ”
Every YGer is expected to
→ Tell the truth, expressing one’s actual thoughts—be straightforward and honest in comments;
→Keep doors open to everyone, without any barriers to meetings/appointments;
→Believe in yourself and the things you hold important—be persistent in advancing your ideas and never give up on your principles.
5. Inclusiveness: Empathy & Curiosity, Integrating Different Cultures
Yungu is a Chinese school that enjoys a rich educational and cultural environment, where students are exposed to a range of Eastern and Western cultures and so develop a global vision and international perspective, and are able to communicate with those from different cultures.
Today we have 46 teachers (27.5%) with overseas experience and 17 expat teachers (10%) .
Open and honest communication among teachers of different cultures and perspectives is of course essential for the School to function and for the community to thrive.
For the sake of our students, we need to model a multicultural society in which all interact freely and respectfully, sharing our perspectives and our customs. Together we bear the responsibility for teaching and cultivating our students and for building a school whose example may lead the way for future education in China. To this end—and for our own happiness in a close community—we need to work together as equals and to engage with one another, extending ourselves as colleagues and friends, even family.
6. Directions for YGers
a. Be Who You Are
The only part you can play is yourself: the other roles are already taken.
Yungu believes in personalized education. Different individuals are different characters, with their own personalities and potential. Each student is of course unique—as is each teacher, whose individuality we respect and in whose growth we believe.
We use the T model: the horizontal refers to overall competence and balanced development, and the vertical to the height (and depth) of individual growth. What is hoped is that teachers will find their element in Yungu by allowing the full play of their interests and bents while continuing to develop as experts in their fields. We want the School to abound with versatile and capable teachers who are flourishing in rich soil.
Principal Rachel Feng:
A campus was originally a place for mutual learning. Such a foundational belief should continue among us, companions who teach younger generations and who learn from our students. At Yungu, one should think of oneself not at the top, but in a pool of those as strong—or stronger—working together enthusiastically, each contributing unique talents.
Yungu believes in your abilities and has accepted you. We must each keep an open mind with one another, learning one another’s strengths while maintaining and honoring our own. Yungu will allow you to grow according to your own rhythms, so long as you remain open and earnest, wholehearted and sincere.
b. A Certain Attitude
Secretary-General Cherry has posed five sets of questions:
(1) Do you just complain?
We all encounter problems: that’s normal. Those who don’t just complain and rebel but who work toward solutions are the admirable ones. Have the courage to fix things, to test your capabilities, and we’ll rely on you.
(2) Do you make a perfunctory effort when asked to help—or do you make a serious effort and try to understand the context?
Are you afraid to admit any professional weakness or lack of knowledge—or are you brave enough to ask when you find yourself beyond your limits? Consider that asking questions or expressing bafflement may actually be helpful and add perspective.
(3) What is your motivation in teaching—gaining approval or helping students and the School?
What is the point of my lesson—experimenting with a new teaching method or based on the students’ needs? What is the impetus behind my performance—drawing attention from administrators, winning colleagues’ praise, impressing students or reaching out to students for the School?
(4) What attitude do supervisory administrators have toward their staff—do they regard them as subordinates working for the machine, or are they interested in their individual development?
Some colleagues treat other staff as instruments to complete tasks or projects, while others hope they will become stronger through practice.
(5) Are administrators and department heads willing to work with colleagues more able than they without fear of being overshadowed?
Those in higher positions, if open and broad-minded, recognize that they may have colleagues who are more talented than they are. It’s common for teachers who take their responsibilities seriously to hope that their students will one day surpass them in ability and stature.
Eventually, over time, it is possible that some who started in subordinate positions may supersede some who originally were above them. But if we want the best for an institution, those who are the most able should lead the way, and the rest of us will be stronger as a result, difficult as the personal burden may be.
7. Yungu’s Structure
a. A Flat Organization
In The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman outlines a vision for a level playing field globally. Yungu School embraces a culture in which all players are equal.
Principal Rachel Feng:
Our team hopes that Yungu, through concerted efforts, will blossom into a democratic and academic place of learning, more than a top-down bureaucratic institution. Our departments and offices are to be marked by mutual growth and cooperation. My role is to support the team and the teachers, to coordinate the interactive development between departments and rest of the School, as well as to scout possible directions ahead, helping set the pace for various groups to move forward.
Yungu is divided into four academic institutes—the Institute of Student Development, the Institute of Curriculum, the Institute of Education and Sciences, the Institute of Education and Technologies—with supporting departments of Technicians and Engineers, Visual Design Center, Administrative Services, HR, Purchasing, Brand Promotion, among others. The School is setting up a complete system for modern school management, with more than 40 staff members, who provide ready help for front-line teachers: this is a creative and innovative group playing wide-ranging roles involved in the business of running a school.
b. An Academic Atmosphere & Practical Application
At Yungu there aren’t any prizes or gold medals for teachers. Ideally the School would be a Golden-Age academy, where teachers concentrate on the growth of children under existing conditions, as well as tend to their own development as teachers, what they should learn in order to teach their students what they need to know, inventing corresponding strategies and means of instruction as necessary, connecting content and methods. Yungu teachers keep up with academic research and innovate, and they will find themselves in the company of those with like minds here.
Practicing what they preach, teachers will keep in mind not only the latest research in their fields of science, humanities and social science, but also real contexts, practical concerns and the most effective applications of content. The School suggests three fronts:
→Maintaining ongoing study and research—even if limited—and then sharing that work with peers, whether in formal or informal presentation or publication;
→Focusing, beyond mere reading, on some pedagogical approach, method or process, set of devices, etc., and not merely summarizing this but experimenting actively, and exploring this with colleagues;
→Aiming to combine the fruits of research and effective methods to reach students in experiential ways and so develop their abilities intellectually, psychologically and practically.
Think Tank—a platform employed by the Institute of Education and Sciences for outcome sharing—is an attempt by Yungu to adopt flatness in scientific research: every teacher is the master in Think Tank, which will illuminate a subject/project and follow its progress, the platform being open and accessible, with interaction by peers. Supervision and collaboration incorporated in the process, with the spirit of exploration, and of synergy, heightened.
As Founder Jack Ma said in his talk to Yungu teachers,
I hope the road to be travelled by Yungu students will be paved by our own educational research, and will lead ultimately to a new approach—so that our vision and education system may extend to other places, both urban and rural, around the world.
With a commitment to such a mission as Yungu’s, we will be working together to explore new frontiers and to forge an educational future for students beyond our own.
c. A Climate of Empowerment
Our School brings together on one campus expert teachers experienced in the environment of the region and traditional culture and those bringing backgrounds from noted universities abroad and international perspectives.
Every member of the Yungu community will assume more than a single role: no one is just a teacher, department chair, human resources officer or IT specialist. The School is staffed by a team with different skills and capabilities—experienced and talented, creative and warm—and everyone is encouraged to grow and prosper here.
Three conditions obtain:
→People need to make mistakes as they make their way in the new environment: they shouldn’t worry about this. Trying new approaches and then reflecting on them and re-strategizing will motivate growth.
→Teachers should ask for the School’s support as they plan instruction and acclimate themselves, expressing their concerns, so they can adapt comfortably and work happily in the community, developing at their own rate.
→Teachers will learn from experience as they go: they should continue to rely on this process. They should also consider Yungu’s various resources for professional development: Eriksson-type coaching, extravert training, PBL training, with workshops in inquiry-based learning, design thinking, project management, first aid training, and many other areas. But again, their own personal experience and learning from others will mostly develop from practice.
Core Value: People at the Center
At Yungu we believe that children will learn how to find intellectual and personal fulfillment when they have been taught by teachers who are themselves thoughtful and fulfilled, resilient and persistent. Students develop the ability to seek answers, find solutions and pursue goals happily when their curiosity and natural motivation have been wisely cultivated by teachers who are lifelong learners.
Confusion and growing pains are inevitable as a new school takes shape. With clear vision and sustained determination, with patience and mutual understanding, Yungu will grow into what it aims to be and realize its vision.
Founder Jack Ma:
Yungu needs a group of people who will work together on this shared cause earnestly, and who will love their labor. What we must keep in mind always is that we are shaping the future for all children.