Wellington College China held its annual Festival of Education, bringing 84 thought leaders in progressive education together with over 1500 attendees at its three campuses in Tianjin, Shanghai and Hangzhou. Taking place over two weekends, the Festival featured a series of stimulating and informative talks, panel discussions and workshops. Wellington College China’s Festival of Education is one of China’s leading forums for educators, parents and general enthusiasts who seek insights on everything from career development to cutting-edge theories and new methodologies.
“This marks the fifth year that we have run the Festival here at Wellington College China and it is an important milestone,” Festival Director Paul Rogers says. “Last year, we cancelled this annual event to protect the community and help prevent the spread of COVID-19. 2020 presented many challenges to the education industry across the globe, and being able to resume the Festival in 2021 was not only a powerful expression of optimism about the state of education, but it was also an opportunity to think seriously about its future. It also gave us an opportunity to present an online virtual component of our Festival, which took place from 18 – 23 April. This enabled an audience of over 7000 people from around the world to participate.”
Festival director Paul Rogers delivers an opening speech on the first day of events
The theme of this year’s Festival was ‘Interpreting the Future of Education.’ Speakers and attendees explored this theme through five key strands: Future Schools, Early Years Education, Bilingualism, Wellbeing and Mental Health.
The Festival commenced on Saturday 17 April at Wellington’s Tianjin campus, where the Wellbeing and Mental Health strands figured prominently. Sophie Zhang, The Tianjin Juilliard School’s Administrative Director of Pre-College led an insightful discussion on why art and music education are important in promoting wellbeing. Tianjin Experimental High School Principal Jingwu Yang explored how to build a comprehensive mental health model for secondary school students.
Yet the discussions were by no means limited to just academics and the arts. Christy Cao, Chair of Powerhouse Gym China talked with attendees about the benefits of physical education on mental health. Neither did presenters limit the conversation to the wellbeing and mental health of our pupils. Bella Lin, a trainer in Parent Effectiveness, offered participants some invaluable advice on managing anxieties around being a parent.
The Festival continued the following weekend on Saturday 24 April at Wellington’s Shanghai campus. Here, the Future Schools strand took centre stage. Jane Zhao of East China Normal University shared research from her school’s Learning Science Centre that provided new perspectives on China’s classrooms. Ben Somner and Peter Mackey of Broadway Malyan and Chapman Taylor, respectively, envisioned what the learning spaces of tomorrow might look like. Feifei Qian, Senior Sales Director of LEGO® Education China, also discussed the importance of inspiring tomorrow’s builders and facilitating their success.
Julia Yu of Cambridge Assessment International Education delivers a speech on how teachers can be learners
Bilingualism was another salient strand on the day. Speech-language pathologists from the ELG, discussed the difference between language differences and language disorders. Additionally, Julia Yu of Cambridge Assessment International Education, shared with audiences the many ways in which the teacher can be a learner.
In keeping with this strand, the day’s events finally came to a close with a speech delivered by Joy Qiao, Wellington College China’s Founder and Chairman. In it, she remarked, “This is the century when East meets West. At Wellington China, we hope to educate future global leaders who are natural bridges between China and the rest of the world, fostering deeper understanding and collaboration. This is becoming all the more important, given the increasing challenges in international relations.”
The Festival concluded on Sunday 25 April at Wellington’s Hangzhou campus, where the Early Years strand was the key focus. Kirsten Hunter and May Li of the UK-based children’s education centre Maggie & Rose contributed to the conversation with a talk on inspiring creativity in young children. Xiaojing Wang of the UK Department for International Trade explained how the UK government is raising standards in Early Years education. Also, Shanchuan Li, Chairperson of the Shanghai Youth Language Development Centre, explored the strand from the perspective of Chinese language education.
This year’s roster featured more Chinese-speaking presenters, which enabled Wellington to bring these expert insights to a wider, more multicultural audience within China. Even more remarkable, however, was the Festival’s ability to reach an audience that was unable to attend in person. For the first time, Wellington hosted a ‘Virtual Festival’ every afternoon from 18 – 23 April. This online event featured talks with world-renowned educators like Ian Warwick, Founder of London Gifted & Talented; researchers like Sir John Jones of Lancaster University; and even television personalities like Johnny Ball, who popularised maths and science for a generation of children in the UK.
Says Paul Rogers, “By employing the same remote learning technology that so many educators had to use throughout most of 2020, we have been able to connect with a wider international audience from within and outside of China. Bringing a portion of the Festival online was an innovation that we will continue to explore in the coming years.”
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.
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