Italian with an Azerbaijani soul - Francesco Banchini: an amazing story — from a humble neighbourhood in Naples to the director of the European Azerbaijan School [PHOTO/VIDEO]
Modern education and the upbringing of the younger generation are very important factors for the formation of a successful society and country. The task of the school is to provide every student with ample opportunities to choose their path, instill humanistic values, develop their thinking and emotional perception of reality, help to develop a holistic view of the world, and to create a citizen. Such tasks are at the heart of The European Azerbaijan School (EAS, European-Azerbaijani School).
We present to Trend readers an interview with the Executive Director of the European Azerbaijan School, an Italian citizen, Francesco Banchini, who, over the course of five years of working in Azerbaijan, has not only made a significant personal contribution to the development of education but has also fallen in love with our country with all his heart, so much so that he considers it his second homeland. He is a very good-natured and cultured person who leaves the most favourable impressions on all those he meets.
He is the chairman of the Caucasus and Central Asia Association of IB World Schools (CCAAIBWS), which includes international schools from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Council of International Schools (CIS). For success in the educational sphere of Azerbaijan, he has received several national awards, including “Yılın Starları Ödülleri İstanbul”, “Best of the City”, “Altın Zirve”, etc.
Francesco Banchini is an intriguing personality, who was born into a poor family in Pozzuoli and achieved everything in his life through his own hard work, step by step moving towards his goals. Pozzuoli is an ancient city that was founded around 531/520. BC e. and bore the name Dikearchia, which means - the city of justice. This port city is located about ten kilometres west of Naples, on the shores of the bay of the same name in the Gulf of Naples. In 194 BC. e. the city was renamed Puteoli, and later Pozzuoli. The city has many ancient sights. Due to seismic activity, a portion of this historic city currently lays underwater and is being explored by marine archaeologists.
Francesco Banchini's life began with music. Having mastered many wind instruments, especially the clarinet, he was destined for a brilliant musical career, but instead he dedicated himself to the educational field.
"From childhood, I had a great craving for musical art. At the age of 14, I began to study at the San Pietro a Maiella Conservatory in Naples. And at the age of 17, I created my own trio, and then the G.O.R. team, with which I performed for about ten years in various European cities, performing folk music with roots in medieval, Italian, Eastern European and Middle Eastern traditions. I composed music, released several albums, and created music for three films, among other projects. I also played as a guest musician with several groups. I performed with the La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra, the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. I also engaged in teaching activities following my graduation from the University in Rome and the University in Naples. During my studies, I worked in various fields to pay the tuition fees, as my family did not have the opportunity to support me financially," Francesco Banchini, began the conversation.
Francesco Banchini undertook research in 2010 in the field of modern education, which centred on improving traditional methods, and motivating and developing the creative abilities of both students and teachers. This research attracted great interest in the educational community of New York University and Drew University in New Jersey, and was presented at conferences of the International Society of Musical Education (ISME) in Scotland and the European Committee for Interoperability (ECIS) in Italy. By the will of fate, Francesco Banchini ended up in Azerbaijan.
"The name of my hometown of Pozzuoli is associated with the nearby Solfatara volcano on the Phlegrean Fields, which in Italian means "Fields of Fire", and Azerbaijan is called the Land of Fire. Naples and Baku are sister cities, and Italians and Azerbaijanis are very similar in character and honour family traditions. To be honest, in recent years I feel more like an Azerbaijani than an Italian. I am sincerely in love with Azerbaijan and consider it my second homeland. I remember that in the first days in Baku I lost my mother and unfortunately could not return to Italy at this time. But how the teachers supported me here - I will never forget it! Then I felt the special warmth of the Azerbaijani people! Years have passed and I see that Italy and Azerbaijan have a lot in common, the difference is only in the language. I have always felt at home here. Being abroad, at various conferences and events, I always tell my colleagues and friends about this beautiful country, its culture and traditions, friendliness and hospitality. I advise everyone to visit Azerbaijan. I even show and teach them the national dance "Yalli". And wherever I am, I always miss Azerbaijan. This is true and comes from a pure heart and soul!
Before coming to Azerbaijan, I worked in Switzerland. I already knew something about Azerbaijan and its culture, but was keen to discover more. From the beginning, I liked the performance of Brilliant Dadashova's "Bayatilar", after which I began to study Azerbaijani music, mugham and folk songs, and fell in love with your art. At this time, I headed the school's art department, taught music, then was appointed coordinator of the PYP and IB programmes. Following these roles, I was promoted to become the Deputy Director, and have been the Director and CEO for the last four years. I have participated in many international projects, presented speeches and articles on modern education and leadership, and published several books and manuals. And today, I feel the same as I always have: I get a great deal of positive energy when I see smiles on the faces of schoolchildren and teachers. I do what I do with the aim of strengthening education in Azerbaijan: introducing innovations, paying special attention to the issues of revealing and developing the creative abilities of students, encouraging effective teamwork, and making independent decisions. We prepare youngsters to be productive members of our global society whilst also upholding Azerbaijan's national values, traditions, and culture. We intend to develop a new educational model for Azerbaijan's future that matches high international standards. "We place a high priority on the formation and development of each child's personality, their creative talents, research skills, critical thinking, analytical skills," stated Francesco Banchini.
The European-Azerbaijani School, founded in 2011, is an international private school recognized by the Ministry of Science and Education of Azerbaijan, a member of the Council of International Schools (CIS), an organization providing quality international education.
The EAS educational programme is a balanced programme that includes both the requirements of the national curriculum and those of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme, offering three IB Programmes (The Primary Years Programme, The Middle Years Programme and The Diploma Programme). The school operates in two modern buildings equipped with cutting-edge technology. The school has Olympic-standard sports complexes, laboratories for scientific research, excellent information technology facilities, libraries, and a large congress hall. EAS graduates with high scores are admitted to a variety of high-ranking universities around the world.
"From the first days of working here, I tried to change the mindset of those around me, to direct them in the right direction in accordance with the requirements of the modern educational system, and I gathered a team around me to strive towards our shared goal. All of us - teachers, administrative staff, students and their parents are like one family, and all our efforts are aimed towards the benefit of the younger generation, the implementation of their ideas in life, and their ability to pursue a successful career. The eleven years spent at our school should be remembered with the brightest emotions and the highest level of education. We give school children not only knowledge, but also teach life skills so that they can apply them in any situations and solve problems that arise in the age of globalization. Therefore, the International Baccalaureate (IB) is necessary, being an educational programme through the framework of which graduates receive not only the knowledge and skills necessary for admission to the best universities in the world, but also master the skills that allow them to develop and improve themselves throughout their lives. Successful implementation of this programme yields tangible results, as proven by statements from our students studying in the United States, the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, and other countries. This programme also shows that each of us, regardless of ethnicity or religion, are equal and global citizens; we must think about the next generation, educate and create," said Francesco Banchini.
He also founded and leads the Caucasus and Central Asia Association of IB World Schools, which includes schools in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
"Teachers and students from different countries should be in close contact, support each other, and exchange experiences. Therefore, the creation of such an association is very important for successful interaction, cooperation and further development of the education of countries. Moreover, as part of the activities of the Association, we want to create an accreditation council that will help all schools in Azerbaijan and other countries to introduce modern education. I enjoy my job and am thrilled when I can make a positive difference to the lives of children and teachers, fulfilling my dreams of seeing everyone succeed in their professional and personal lives. For me, this is very valuable! At the same time, professionalism in the educational field, the well-being of teachers and charity events, and the implementation of projects with the Ministry of Science and Education, and other schools in the country, remain a priority in our activities. In particular, I would like to mention the project "Seeds of Light" supported by the Ministry of Education and Science, which is being implemented and will continue in the regions of Azerbaijan. It has already has a positive impact in schools in Barda and Aghdam regions. In this manner, we think not only about our schools, but also about students from other educational institutions in the country. A crucial component to our approach is our Leadership School programme for teachers throughout the republic."
The second international IB conference of the Caucasus and Central Asia Association of IB World Schools will be held in December at the European Azerbaijan School.
"The first IB conference was extremely successful with the participation of about five hundred local and foreign experts. This was not only a great experience for us, but also an opportunity to show the world the level of development of education in Azerbaijan. It was a fantastic opportunity to exchange experiences in the field of education. This year, more than 500 guests, including heads of various international schools, and representatives from various ministries of education and educational organisations, are expected to attend the second conference. Teachers and school employees will attend training and seminars. Our main goal is to improve the educational system and find ways to solve various problems caused by modern requirements. By making various contributions at the international and local levels, we want to share our experience with teachers and students, and present methods for improving the educational experience for all. Only by working together can we change the world of education for the better, harness the potential of each student, and put ideas into action for the benefit of the country and the whole world," added Francesco Banchini.
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