From 20th to 23rd October, Wellington College China held its third annual Festival of Education, which promised to outdo even the great success of previous years. With more than 40 education expert speakers delivering over 90 diverse speeches and workshops across the four-day event hosted in three different cities – Shanghai, Hangzhou and Tianjin – everyone agreed that this year’s event lived up to that promise.
The Wellington College China Festival of Education has its origins in the founding school’s festival in England, which has run for seven years and is recognised as a benchmark international educational event. For the past three years, the festival has also taken place in China, where it has enjoyed similar success in attracting thousands of participants to discuss the most relevant and important questions facing modern education. Dr Stephen Jacobi, festival director and head of culture for Wellington College International Shanghai, said: “The Festival of Education represents a continued commitment to thinking about, exploring, and encouraging debate about what education is and where it might be headed. More than ever, teaching and learning must be dynamic and keep up with the demands and challenges of a fast-shifting world.”
Exploring education together
This year’s festival focused on four core themes: Early Years Education, Wellbeing (stress, body image, and mental health), the evolving relationship between Chinese and British education, and “Exploring Education”, which challenges accepted teaching practices with the aim of encouraging continual experimentation and improvement. A growing strength of the festival is its ability to get all participants actively talking about what works in current education and what doesn’t, rather than just letting them simply sit back and passively absorb the presentations and keynote speeches. At all times, attendees were encouraged to consider how education can be made better: to connect, debate, celebrate, explore and learn.
International speakers from across the world led in-depth explorations of all four themes using different ways of encouraging audience participation. From Q&A sessions, to attendees enjoying some spirited dancing as part of Shonette Bason’s “Permission to be Happy” talk and singing in the early years music workshop, festival goers were more involved in the discussion this year than ever before.
One teacher remarked: “Plenty of parents and even some sixth formers seemed eager to contribute their thoughts and opinions in each of the sessions. This is highly encouraging as it ensures that all stakeholders’ views are properly represented in the discussion, rather than simply leaving educators to continue it in isolation.”
The debate continued on Saturday in Wellington College Bilingual Shanghai, where a series of dedicated bilingual workshops presented an ideal chance for Chinese parents and educators to contribute alongside those of international backgrounds. Given that two of the core themes of this year’s festival were to explore early years education and the relationship between British and Chinese education systems, these sessions were both highly relevant and extremely popular with the wider community.
On Sunday 22nd October, the Festival moved to Hangzhou for the first time ever. With the scheduled opening of Wellington College Bilingual Hangzhou in August 2018, this was an opportunity for the Hangzhou community to engage in the relevant debates and discussion on the future of education that make the Festival of Education so well regarded. The Hangzhou session of the Festival of Education took the form of WellingTEN Talks. Four speakers took the stage with talks on topics ranging from educational excellence, to the evolving relationship between British and Chinese education systems and the role that the A-Level plays in this relationship. The talks were followed by a panel discussion, where parents were given the opportunity to engage in the discussion, resulting in lively interactions between the speakers and audience.
The final leg of the third annual Wellington College Festival of Education China took place in Tianjin. Mr. Julian Jeffrey, Master of Wellington College International Tianjin, delivered the opening speech for the Tianjin Festival. He said, “We have come together in this forum to share ideas and learn something new. If education is a journey, then it must be a journey that rewards the traveller. ”
With the accelerated pace of education, educators and parents have paid increasing attention to the educational convergence between China and the West. Dr. Yang Yang, the Deputy Headmaster, Wellington College International Tianjin, and Mr. Paul Findlay, Head of EAL, Wellington College International Tianjin, discussed the implications of bilingual education and the merging of eastern and western methods. Paul Findlay said, “I believe that when differences occur in eastern and western educational methods, the two sides must come together and find a middle way. We should emphasise our similarities and not impose anything on other cultures. For me, the middle way is about building a bridge, and if we can do this, then we will achieve a truly international style of education. But that bridge can only be completed if it contains one crucial component – trust.”
Continually pushing the boundaries of progressive, holistic education
The Wellington College China Festival of Education is all about developing new and improved theories and practices for schools. It’s also a great opportunity for parents and pupils to have their say in how education should be delivered. It’s vital that these opinions are heard and discussed, so educators can see more clearly what they are getting right and where they may be going wrong. With this in mind, the festival organisers were thrilled that so many Wellington parents and sixth form pupils chose to attend this year’s event.
The organisers of the festival would like to express their sincere thanks to all the speakers and attendees for their contributions to the critical debate regarding modern education. This also goes for the sponsors and exhibitors who gave their full support to the festival: it would not have been such a great success without your much-appreciated efforts.
While plenty of fresh perspectives and ideas were shared throughout the course of the festival, the evolution of education is a constant process that is always being revised, reviewed and renewed. The debate will continue in April 2019.