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Whittle wants to take over the world

| September 5, 2012 | 0 Comments

New York City is abuzz with talk of a proposed autumn 2012 launch of a school like no other. Chris Whittle and Benno Schmidt, founder and chair respectively, claim that The Avenues: The World School – a ‘for-profit’ venture – will reinvent private education. Its students will start languages like Mandarin or Spanish as early as Grade RR and will benefit from a curriculum designed by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Teachers will de-emphasise traditional ‘silos’ like social studies in favour of units like Demographics, Water and Poverty, and will teach both horizontally within a grade and vertically among grades. ‘Partial semesters’ spent on different continents at other Avenues campuses will enrich the perspectives of both pupils and educators, and will simplify the lives of parents working for corporate multinationals.

Whittle, described as “a pied piper in education entrepreneurship”, has a controversial track record spanning more than two decades.

The headquarters of his latest venture will be a large, 10-storey building in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighbourhood, outfitted to the tune of US$60 million. It will be the first of at least 20 interconnected campuses to be built over the next decade in major cities including London, Paris, Beijing, Moscow, Tokyo, Mumbai, São Paulo, Abu Dhabi, Sydney and Johannesburg, as well as Washington and San Francisco. This is the core of The World School, says Whittle on his promotional website: “Every school brochure says that today’s great schools must prepare students for global life. [The Avenues: The World School] with faculty and campuses in all the world’s largest cultures will have a huge (and, today, virtually unique) advantage in achieving these new educational requirements.”

Some World School teachers may earn as much as 20% higher than the average, says Whittle, adding that increasing class size – plus a starting tuition fee of US$40 000 – will reduce labour costs. Speaking at various ‘uptown’ promotional events, Whittle has stressed that he wants The Avenues to be scalable. “We want to be a beacon for schools everywhere,” he said. The school’s most famous pupil will be Suri Cruise, daughter of newly divorced celebrity actors Tom Cruise and Katy Holmes.

Category: Spring 2012

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