Inspiring debate and the sharing of knowledge and ‘best practice’ in education.
Now in its fourth year, the Wellington College China Festival of Education gathered together educators, progressive thinkers, innovative practitioners, and numerous experts at one of the country’s leading forums for education, thought leadership and debate. When welcoming attendees to the event, the Festival Director and Director of Culture at Wellington College International Shanghai, said: “The 2019 festival is an event designed to provoke debate, encourage the sharing of knowledge, and prompt reflection about the purpose and intent of education”.
Exploring innovative approaches to education
The 2019 festival offered five distinct strands: Early Years, wellbeing, ‘A Developing Romance’, Exploring Education, and Multilingualism. These strands allowed the most relevant questions and challenges facing modern education to be meaningfully explored. The festival encouraged attendees to connect, debate, celebrate, explore, and appreciate the pace at which modern education is evolving and shifting.
Festival-goers had the opportunity to engage with and gain insights from leading experts and pioneering voices in contemporary progressive education. Eminent intellectual, Shakespeare scholar, writer, and broadcaster Professor Sir Jonathan Bate presented on the importance of literature in current society. Writer Lenora Chu, author of the book Little Soldiers, explored the differences between Chinese and western concepts of education. And Professor Jian-Wei Pan, Academician, Chinese Academy of Sciences and The World Academy of Sciences and Vice President, University of Science and Technology of China, led a session on the possibilities of incorporating emerging technologies into modern education.
This year, the wellbeing strand was a prominent theme. Mental health has become an essential part of the educational experience, symptomatic of the widespread push towards carefully defined targets and the behaviour required to achieve them. the Festival Director and Director of Culture at Wellington College International Shanghai, remarked: “It’s probably fair to say that education has become more complicated in recent history. As it adjusts and shifts its position, persistently adapting itself to a fluid global context, so all of its constituent elements are reconfigured and reshaped. Wellbeing, for example, has been thrust into the limelight and it is here accorded due respect. In the future, even the near-future, other pressures will be brought to bear on education. The important thing is to discuss their possible effect and work out whether they are worth accommodating within our schools.”
Festival sessions featured prominent names from across the spectrum of creativity, education, mental health and wellbeing, literature, and academia. The renowned television presenter, comedian and mental health campaigner Ruby Wax presented her audience with insights on the nature of humanity and asked questions about the things that make us truly human. In addition, the inventor of the Leuven scale, a measurement for emotional wellbeing, Professor Ferre Laevers, offered his perspectives on what it means to be properly involved with life.
A commitment to progressive, involving and forward-thinking education
As the 2019 Festival’s predominant theme, ‘wellbeing’ reflects Wellington College International Shanghai’s commitment to a balanced and holistic education.
In response to the keynote speech by Professor Sir Jonathan Bate on ‘how poetry can keep you sane’, Eleanor Prescott, Principal of Wellington College International Shanghai, commented: “Professor Bate’s talk was both deeply moving and incredibly thoughtful, what a wonderful way to open the festival.”
Meanwhile, the multilingualism strand of the festival has close links to Wellington College China’s commitment to bilingual education through its Huili schools. The Huili Nursery Shanghai and Huili School Shanghai represent a marriage of Eastern and Western practices and philosophies within the framework of the Chinese national curriculum. Stella Zhou, Principal of Huili School Shanghai, remarked: “Huili aims to foster the creation of Chinese pupils with a global vision in the context of the integration of Eastern and Western cultures.”
Keeping education relevant and effective in a rapidly–changing world
The Wellington College China Festival of Education has its origins in the Festival of Education at Wellington College in England, which is now recognised as a benchmark international educational event. Since its inauguration in October 2015, the China festival has enjoyed similar success in attracting large numbers of participants to consider and reflect on the most relevant and important questions facing modern education.
Given that the world is changing so quickly, education must face the challenge to adjust and keep up. This is no small task. It requires the combined input of educators, parents and pupils to continuously plot the best route. Accordingly, the Wellington College China Festival of Education focused on developing both theories and tangible practices, while offering a great opportunity for parents and educators to engage in the ever-evolving conversation around education. Not only did this approach allow for a variety of perspectives to be considered, it also encouraged audiences to engage with one another and share their own unique experiences. Attendees were inspired by the presentations of the various speakers, while also having ample chances to become involved in hands-on workshops and connect with other educationalists, teachers and parents.
The evolution of education is a process that is constantly being revised, reviewed and renewed, and the Festival of Education aims to remain a relevant and effective part of that process. Following two successful celebratory days in Shanghai, the festival will continue to Wellington College Hangzhou from 14-15th April, and then to Wellington College Tianjin from 19-20th April.