REVIEW OF Cambridge International Academy BY parent, Shengli Feng
- Date of Review
August 28, 2023
- Child 1
Gr. 12 (Male, Day Student)
- Child 2
Gr. 12 (Male, Day Student)
(5) Student Experience
Hanson (my son) and Andy (home stay student) were transferred from a public school to Cambridge International Academy in 2022 after they finished Grade 11. The reason was because we believed that the school environment at Cambridge could help them to achieve their personal goals to a better extent. They finished Grade 12 at Cambridge and the outcome turned out to be amazing. Hanson was accepted by University of Toronto Scarborough (BBA Co-op) and Andy was accepted by University of Toronto Scarborough (CS). They are very satisfied with the results and their experience at Cambridge is definitely all positive. They appreciate all the help received from Cambridge. They provide small class sizes and teach every student based on their own learning style. In this way, the student's potential can be explored and maximized. Cambridge also provides plenty of extracurricular activities, such as academic clubs (e.g. DECA, homework, Math), leadership (Model UN), sports club (basketball, badminton, Tai Chi), arts club (music band, talent show), etc. The staff are always kind enough to help students by all means to make sure they finish their work and achieve their personal goals. This is a big difference between public schools and private schools. Overall we are extremely happy with Hanson and Andy's experience in Cambridge and we recommend this school to friends and all parents.
(5) School Leadership
Leadership at Cambridge is very impressive. I always appreciate their leadership, ownership, and accountability to their work. The owner Lin Lin is the most dedicated person to lead the school to success. She has excellent experience and understanding of student education. Her concepts of school management and education are widely accepted by staff and parents. She is not only implementing high-level management work, but also paying attention to details. For instance, she often communicates with parents regarding student's behavior and performance in school, she welcomes students at front desk every morning and says goodbye after school. Students feel they are being taken care of. The principal Sandra Arff is another example of a leader to lead the school to success. Sandra is a kind of earnest person and always does her best in work. She is energetic and hardworking everyday. She communicates to parents via Remind to let parents know what is happening in school. She organized every parent council meeting and made every effort to address parents concerns. She also taught some excellent after-school programs. Hanson attended a few sessions of the public speaking program taught by Sandra before he was officially transferred to Cambridge and his public speaking skills were improved significantly from there. Both Lin and Sandra always emphasize that the student safety is the highest priority in school and inappropriate behaviors are not tolerated (e.g. racism or harassment). All staff hold the same manner and attitude. I felt free and comfortable to reach out to anyone if I had a question. They always replied quickly and effectively. I'm happy with the leadership and administration of Cambridge.
The teaching is the best part of Cambridge. All the teachers are highly qualified, passionate, and knowledgeable in more than one subject. To help students achieve their academic goals, the teachers customize the learning plan based on the student's situation and learning style. Besides the normal class time, after-school programs were also provided as required to students, such as Math club, homework club, DECA, etc. Students can choose whatever programs they need and explore their potential, e.g. attend DECA role-play or the University of Waterloo mathematics contest. The teachers are very responsible and always make sure students perform well in school. When I reached out to teachers for student performance updates, they always replied in a timely manner and provided details on student learning progress and results. They also pointed out the areas for improvement, so that I can work with children together to make sure actions were taken to correct issues before they become a problem. Students are encouraged to ask questions and seek help if they need it. Both Hanson and Andy benefited from this kind of teaching and learning environment.
Cambridge uses the same Ontario curriculum as public schools do. This school provides smaller class sizes with all the standard courses provided in public schools. For high school students, the school provides various classes to meet students' requirements, from arts, and business to science. Cambridge's academics are very strong, especially in Mathematics. Multiple high school students attended the Mathematic contest organized by University of Waterloo and achieved excellent results (many students received top 25% certificates). The school advocates a multicultural learning atmosphere. It initiated a formal lunch program last year. Meals from different cultures were ordered once a week from restaurants. During the formal lunch, students learned table manners and different cultural practices. Many students organized the formal lunch and it helped to build students' leadership and organization skills. The teachers also pay attention to the different learning styles of each individual student and apply proper methods to make sure the student can achieve the best learning results. For example, Hanson did not like math too much, The teacher started with easier problems for him and made sure he could catch up with the class until he was comfortable with the progress. On the other hand, he is interested in business, and the teacher Sumia let him lead the DECA club so that he was encouraged to learn business in depth. I believe the academic programs at Cambridge are adequate to fulfill your children's needs.
Extracurriculars are just as important as academic programs, especially in the field of skill improvements of leadership, organization, initiative, etc. At Cambridge, plenty of extracurricular opportunities are available for students to choose from. For elementary school students, there are clubs such as basketball, Tai Chi, music, etc., where students can have fun and learn skills in sports. There are also extracurricular programs for learning such as Robotics club, where students can learn coding and building LEGO robotics. This can develop children's logical and critical thinking skills. For high school students, There are also various fun clubs such as sports (Badminton) and culture (Chinese Food). To achieve their personal goals, it is more important for high school students to improve their leadership skills. Cambridge provides clubs like DECA and Model UN, where students can apply and improve their skills in different fields. More importantly, students in Cambridge have more opportunities to demonstrate their leadership/organization skills. For instance, Hanson was voted as the president of the student council in the second term and he reached out to Ajax Public Library for co-organizing events for the public. He got the opportunities to demonstrate his leadership and initiative skills. You can surely find proper extracurricular opportunities for your children in Cambridge and you will not be disappointed.
In terms of students, Cambridge has a multi-cultural environment and accepts students from different ethnic background. There are couple of things amazed me when I joined the first parent council meeting. The first subject was that some parents are teachers in a public school and they transferred their kids to Cambridge. Sounds interesting, why would a teacher in public school transfer their kids to a private school? That was exactly what happened in here. Another thing was that many families have 2 or 3 children in Cambridge. From these instances, you can see that parents really trust the school environment. Normally all students get along with each other very well. The school promote a tolerate and respectful atmosphere. I believe the leaders and staff from Cambridge spent extensive effort to maintain the safe and respectful environment in school. Since the classes are smaller, it is easier for students to build friendship and close connection. Even though there are some minor issues sometimes, the teachers always can discover and solve it promptly. Hanson liked the smaller classes because he felt the teacher can spend more time to interact with each student. This is not possible in public school at all.
(5) School Life
With regards to the school life, I have 100% confidence to say that Cambridge has the best student life on campus. Hanson and Andy loved to go to school every day and they never missed a class in the whole year. Cambridge always has a good plan of field trips for the whole year at the beginning of school year, such as tree-top trekking, Wonderland, hiking in conservation park, etc. Hanson and Andy were hesitating if they wanted to transfer to Cambridge in the summer of 2022. After they attended the school open house and had a better understanding of the school environment and student life, they liked the school and made the decision to transfer. Teachers in public schools are different and have less interaction with students because of the larger teacher to student ratio. Meanwhile, teachers in Cambridge have better interaction with students and every student feels they are respected and taken care of. Students have more opportunities to demonstrate their best part to peers. That increased the confidence and made Hanson and Andy like to attend school every day. I noticed that both Hanson and Andy had more motivation in both study and extracurricular programs. This is a good example of the excellent student life in Cambridge. Another example is that both Hanson and Andy would like to volunteer more in school to organize events, such as Christmas, Halloween party, talent show, etc. They really had fun and enjoyed the school life in Cambridge.
Community at Cambridge is one of the best examples of why it is an excellent school. The leaders in Cambridge believe that student education is a mutual effort from both schools and families. Therefore, they really invite parents to be involved in the community of Cambridge. One example is that a parent council was formed and the meeting is conducted on a monthly basis. Every parent is invited to attend the meeting and you can speak out your concerns/questions freely. Both Lin Lin and Sandra surely attend the meeting every time answer questions and provide parents with updates of school status. To make it easier for parents to attend the parent council meeting, online meeting is provided as well for those who could not attend in person. Meeting minutes were also prepared and sent to all families so that parents who could not attend also knew what was going on in the school. Beyond that, parents were also provided opportunities to attend and volunteer for student activities such as field trips. I volunteered for a field trip to Tree-top trekking and recorded videos for students who enjoyed the activity. Parents are also able to actively join the discussion about school issues and student activities. For example, parents raised concerns about student safety in the parking lot during rush hour. The leaders discussed this concern openly during parent council meetings and announced what actions to be taken. Parents were happy with the disposition of the concern. I personally attended all the parent council meetings and many activities. I felt I was truly involved in the community of Cambridge.
(5) School Location
Cambridge is located in the heart of the town of Ajax, Ontario. It is close to the Ajax library main branch and Ajax town hall, so it is a pretty convenient location. Normally students are not allowed to go out of school by themselves for safety reasons, but senior students can go out during lunch hours to grab a quick bite. There are many restaurants nearby. Also, banks and grocery stores are close to the school in walking distance, so it is convenient for students to handle personal business after school. Ajax Hospital is one block away down the south to the school. It is convenient for students to get medical assistance in case of any emergencies. I have no complaints about the location of Cambridge.
Admission to Cambridge is an easy process. I never had any frustration about it. The administration office manager (Winnie) is very kind and helpful to guide me through the process. Winnie sent me the electronic copy of admission request forms and guided me to fill it out. She also did a lot of work by herself to reduce my workload to transfer Hanson and Andy from the public school to Cambridge. She prepared the request forms and sent me only for signature, then she contacted and processed the forms with the public school. The school knew that new students needed time to get themselves used to the new environment. Therefore, they arranged meeting between teachers, students, and parents to become familiar with each other. They took every opportunity to help students to get familiar to the new school life quickly. So it was simple once decision was made and I believe nobody would experience any frustration.
(5) University placement and counselling
Both Hanson and Andy are in Grade 12 and their goal was to be accepted by the University of Toronto successfully in 2023. They made it with support and help from the staff at Cambridge. Without support and help from the staff, they could be struggling in the university application process and the results might not be as expected. The school interviewed every Grade 12 student and understood their personal goal at the beginning of the school year. Then developed a plan of what universities to apply to. This is the most important reason why Hanson and Andy decided to transfer to Cambridge. In public schools, nobody would care what your goals are. They can claim you are successful once you graduate from high school. But at Cambridge, you set your goals and the school would help you achieve them. When students had questions about university applications, the staff always helped them understand the process. More importantly, the staff emphasized the lessons learned from experience, and told students what to do and what not to do, so that students could avoid any mistakes. With Hanson and Andy's successful university application, we are happy and we all greatly appreciate the support and help from the staff in Cambridge.