Wayne Brown, Headmaster at Whanganui Collegiate School in New Zealand, has recently returned from Hefei in China as part of a New Zealand delegation of educators.
There is no doubt that education and schools over the past three years have seen an enormous shift. Teachers, students and families have all learned to adjust and find new solutions to learning. School leaders have had to deal with many policy, framework, and legislation changes just to keep going and provide the best learning opportunities possible. We also know that today’s students are the next generation of business, political and community leaders. It is our responsibility to shape the way in which they understand, prepare for, and respond to the world’s challenges both now and into the future.
I have recently returned from Hefei, China, as part of a New Zealand delegation of educators. Hefei, around a 2-hour fast train from Shanghai, is an impressive city of 10 million. It is a dynamic city. Open, very modern and clean, it is moving towards becoming the leading science and technology knowledge and learning centre for China.
Whilst our trip included a strong emphasis on school visits, there were several meetings with the Hefei Education Bureau and the Secretary-General for Friendship with Foreign Countries. As a governing body for education in the city, authorities are very focused on the global opportunities they want to pursue to develop knowledge and character for their students, staff, and school leaders. They are very keen to explore these opportunities.
International recruitment is in demand within China, and for us here at Whanganui Collegiate School in New Zealand, we can use these opportunities and connections well for our students and staff. Yet so can other schools. I visited several excellent Schools in Hefei, and whilst large in campus size and number, with some campuses with 5000 students, there was an explicit move towards the development of the whole person, not just the academic. Whilst there is still a solid academic expectation, the philosophy of developing the entire person, including performing arts, sport, and culture, along with developing a sense of service and leadership through a global outlook, shone brightly.
Whilst they do not specifically call it Character Education, there is a definite movement to the development of the whole person as a global citizen to contribute to their communities, which will bode well for China and our global future.
There is a definite movement to the development of the whole person as a global citizen to contribute to their communities, which will bode well for China and our global future.
Top 5 reasons why I would recommend a visit like this to school leaders:
1. It is significant for personal and professional development.
You can gain so much from meeting and spending time with school leaders. The collaboration is strong, and you will come back with ideas of possibilities.
2. Hefei will be a strong leader in Science and Technology in the coming years.
The infrastructure being put in place for schools and universities is staggering. Our students need to be at the forefront of these opportunities, and we can develop these partnerships for their future now.
3. Hefei education has a focus on the whole person.
As noted, whilst not explicitly calling it Character Education, the focus, direction, and outcomes are all there.
4. There is a demand for international focus.
Leaders in Hefei want to hear from the world, students, teachers, and school leaders. This focus will only enable Hefei schools to develop further relationships with like-minded global thinking schools.
5. Finally, have the courage to explore.
Schools can be very inward-looking, yet creating opportunities to look outwardly is important. We tell our students to take a risk to get outside their comfort zone. In pursuing real learning, you may find yourself on edge, yet nothing ever great was achieved in comfort, nor by taking a shortcut. Enjoy the challenge, as this will only pay dividends to you as a leader, the school and community you lead and ultimately, your students.
Are you interested in joining a delegation to Hefei? The Global School Alliance are taking school leaders on a Leadership Delegation to Hefei in October 2023. Places are extremely limited so register your interest today to find out more.