After three years at Frankfort Independent Schools, Dr. Ron Chi will take a two-year leave of absence to work with education programs overseas, effective July 1.
As chief academic innovation officer for both FIS and Kentucky State University, Chi has been a liaison between the two institutions.
“That was under three presidents,” Chi said, “starting with President (Raymond) Burse, where he and (FIS Superintendent) Houston (Barber) created the position. (Former KSU President) Dr. (Aaron) Thompson opened it up to where it was really supporting the redesign of the School of Education, and now President (M. Christopher) Brown, who has been this amazing leader with regards to opening up the university to really redesign itself for kids who would not think to attend college.”
Chi said the position of chief academic innovation was created specifically to create joint programs between the schools. KSU professors teach dual-credit courses in high school classrooms to students who would not normally take college classes.
“This is access and opportunity to early college coursework for all Frankfort High School students without compromising academic rigor,” he said.
Chi has also been working on implementing “The Profile of a Graduate” at FIS. The profile is basically a statement of what skills — other than core math, English and sciences — FIS will pass on to its students during their preschool to 12th-grade education, he said. In talking with local businesses, Chi said a common issue managers and owners face is prospective employees with academic skills but no real-world skills.
“Education is stuck in the 1950s,” Chi said. “Teachers stand in front of the classroom disseminating knowledge without any real student engagement.”
What schools don’t do a good enough job of is teaching life skills, like working together as members of a team, showing the grit to stick with jobs even after failing and innovative, creative thinking.
Beginning July 1, Chi will travel overseas to China, South Korea and Estonia to pursue his passion of creating a global education standard. He is hoping to bridge communication and collaboration between Frankfort students and students in Seoul, but as the district has focused on improving collaboration locally, that communication has been put on pause.
Chi said he wants to reopen those lines of communications. Other countries have a variety of real-world skills they value more than America does. Sharing those values can only serve to improve American education, he added.
“Estonia has been aggressive in really having their kids understand the importance of coding and programming, even calling it an additional language,” Chi said. “The beauty of what they have is they start their kids in kindergarten learning how to code. We are far removed from that in our system. We can learn from them in how they have a balance of technology and human connection.”
Chi said the only way America can compete globally is to embrace a global understanding of education.
“If we stay isolated here with regards to our classroom and what we think innovation looks like, the whole world is going to pass us,” he said. “The whole world right now is working collaboratively. Based on our current federal leadership …, it seems like we even want to close shop to our country rather than explore and be open to being one in determining where our education system will finally lie.”