Education in China has a long and deep history, originating before the time of Confucius. This long journey has established an education system that is renowned for quality, rigour and equity. A child’s educational experience culminates in the famed Gao Kao that determines their university destination. The process generates pupils with a very strong foundation in the core subjects of Chinese, mathematics, science and increasingly English. This is recognised through international assessments such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). The outcomes for pupils in Shanghai, for example, have for many years exceeded those of other nations. Indeed, education in China now serves as a model for school systems around the world.
Education across the world, however, is changing due to technological, economic and social transformations. The landscape in China is not static. Policy makers and education leaders are seeking to implement reforms to reflect these changes; this includes promoting a broader curriculum experience through a renewed focus on the arts and physical development. There are also developments that encourage creativity and critical thinking through project-based learning in high schools. This is reflected in the comprehensive professional development that supports the Chinese education system.
Nevertheless, parents in China increasingly seek an alternative educational experience for their children. An education that is child-centred, holistic, bilingual and one which also provides access to international universities. This appetite for an alternative education has fuelled the rapid increase of Chinese private schools that offer a more international educational experience. The most popular reference point for these schools is the education system from the United Kingdom. The reason for the relative success of UK branded schools becoming established in China could be because education in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has a strong reputation for being holistic and child-centred, especially independent school education. In England, teachers are trained and schools held to account for the performance of each and every child and not just the cohort. The education itself is holistic, not simply by the many subject options available to pupils as part of the core curriculum, but also due to the commitment to co-curricular opportunities. This is most evident in the independent school model. Moreover, education in England is recognised for its rigour and for the qualifications it affords which are valued across the globe.
Huili Education seeks to bring together the best of both Chinese and British education systems in an intellectual way. To achieve this, the Huili Education Institute of Learning has been founded to support the Wellington College China and Huili Education schools in becoming the leaders in the cities in which they serve pupils, perhaps the leaders in China and potentially across the globe. To realise this aim, it is essential that the group is progressive and innovative.
All schools and school groups draw on best practices, guidance and policy from external sources. For instance, research conducted in universities informs policy or initiatives that, in turn, drive development and improvement in schools. This is sufficient to create great schools, but not sufficient to be the leader. At Wellington College China and Huili Education it is our intention to move away from being informed by research, initiatives and best practice from institutions in other parts of the world. Instead our aim is to be the generators of research, initiative and contextual best practice. This direction has been set because of the following:
- Much of the research that informs policy and practice is not conducted in a comparable context to bilingual or international school education
- Policy and practice must to be contextualised before it can have an impact on learning and teaching
Moreover, if sufficient high-quality research content is generated, this could influence policy makers and universities to engage with research that is contextually appropriate. This challenge has been embraced fully across the Wellington College China and Huili Education group of schools and we are fully engaged in research that include the following areas:
- Comparative analysis of leadership in Chinese and international schools
- The impact of pedagogical approach on pupil engagement; drawing on the application of AI technology
- Language acquisition in a range of bilingual models
- Exploration of how reasoning and problem solving can be developed through a bilingual mathematics programme
- Strategies to support pupils with special educational needs in learning Chinese
- The impact of a specific focus on wellbeing and involvement on pupil learning and development
- To strengthen research work undertaken, the Institute of Learning has established cooperation with Durham University, the leader in the UK for education, along with working alongside prominent universities in China.Importantly, the outcome from these research projects will have a powerful influence on the strategic development of the schools and what is understood about education in the international and bilingual context of China. The educators undertaking the research projects will present their findings at conferences in China and beyond. The strongest research projects will be published in a journal developed specifically for research conducted by schoolbased educators and reviewed by professors at the school of education, Durham University.School-based research methodology has been taken beyond the Wellington College and Huili family of schools and is now being led in Europe and the Middle East along with East Asia. Together, the Institute of Learning is aiming to create a research movement designed to strengthen education in China and across the world. This may prove to be the progressive and innovative approach needed to be the leader in a competitive market and help realise the aim of most effectively bringing together the best of Chinese and British education systems.Aiming to provide professional learning solutions that empower educators and leaders, Huili Institute of Learning is holding a series of educational workshops in cities like Hangzhou and Tianjin.
- Four kinds of topics will be introduced and discussed in the following workshops, which are “Middle leadership: leading learning”, “Research Methods: Leading research in a school context”, “Excellence in Early Years provision: The role of the adult” and “Effective strategies for English language acquisition”.