The 7th China EdFest empowers learners for a connected world

SHANGHAI, April 23, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — The 7th China Festival of Education was yet another resounding success. Wellington College China in partnership with Wellington College International welcomed 800+ guests and around 50 thought leaders in education, mental health, wellbeing and technology with a goal of ‘Empowering Learners for a Connected World’.

As ever, the emphasis lay heavily on the word ‘Festival’. This was not just a professional conference. It was a celebration, a gathering of passionate and likeminded practitioners. It was an opportunity to gain deeper insight into the current state of education and how we can have the greatest possible impact on young minds. But it was also an opportunity to unwind, forge friendships and, of course, have fun.

The Festival of Education is a rapidly growing global community of events. Supported by Wellington College International and EducationScape, inaugural Festivals took place in Bangkok and the USA in fall 2023, with second editions planned for later this year. The 14th edition of the original Festival of Education, held at Wellington College UK, will take place in July, with over 5,000 educators attending. This growing community has helped enable the China Festival to invite more international speakers than ever before, to join the debate.

“The world grows more connected by the day,” said Julian Jeffrey Chief Executive Master of Wellington College China. “Yet, in many ways, the spaces between us have never seemed wider. It is, therefore, incumbent upon us as parents, educators and leaders to empower a new generation of bridge builders, globally minded citizens who value our common needs over our individual interests.”   

This sense of mission set the tone for the day as participants explored topics like wellbeing, Early Years education, the art and science of teaching, the future of education, bilingualism and so much more.

Future-proofing our learners and our teachers

In a thoughtful keynote address, Mr Wan WeiChief Executive Master of Shanghai Pinghe School, discussed the importance of equipping our children for the world of tomorrow. “Preparing our children for the future is not just about imparting knowledge, but also about equipping them with the essential skills and talents to thrive,” he explained. “By increasing the trial experience, focusing on quality matching, pursuing ‘deliberate amateurism’ and ‘deliberate amateurism’ and uncovering hidden potential, we empower them to be adaptable, creative generalists who can confidently navigate the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.”

Teachers must be ready for the future too. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already proving to be disruptive technology across a broad swath of industries. It looms especially large in education. Darren Coxon, Founder and CEO of CoxonAI, therefore, proposed ‘Three Design Principles for the AI School’. Coxon argued that AI can be a force multiplier in productivity and efficiency. Meanwhile, teachers can leverage the technology’s analytical strengths and position it as a collaborative partner in the creative process.

The art and science of teaching

But, as Roger Sutcliffe, Director of the education consultancy DialogueWorks, illustrated in his presentation, education is not enhanced by technology alone. He demonstrated how applying his framework of ‘Thinking Moves’ can help students develop greater metacognition skills by distilling thoughts and actions into simple, concrete classifications.

‘Both Not Half’

A highlight of the day was the session with Jassa Ahluwalia. While more immediately recognizable for his roles on hit television programmes like Ripper Street and Peaky Blinders, Mr Ahluwalia has also gained recognition for a viral 2020 TEDx Talk and the award-winning BBC One documentary Am I English? He is also the author of the upcoming book Both Not Half: A Radical New Approach to Mixed Heritage Identity. His EdFest talk was a poignant reflection on what it means to straddle two worlds and how we can foster more inclusivity and understanding between cultures.

These sentiments dovetailed especially well with what Nini Li and Lisa Li of Wellington College Tianjin Bilingual Nursery had to say about bilingual Early Years education. Bilingual teaching aims to integrate the culture of the language being taught with the culture of the learner’s first language, they explained. Respecting the values, customs, traditions and beliefs of both cultures is therefore essential to the enterprise of bilingual learning.

Doing well means being well

Of course, we cannot separate our relationships with others from our relationship with ourselves, which is why wellbeing is a perennial topic of discussion at EdFest. This year, Mooney Niu, a licensed mental health counsellor at Shanghai’s Mindspring Clinic, shared her insights on how all of us — pupils, parents and teachers alike — can make peace with difficult emotions rather than pushing them aside. 

Self-esteem is another important component of wellbeing, and Christopher Scorer of GL Education argues that we cannot underestimate the role that writing ability and literacy play in it. He shed some much-needed light on this issue with his session titled ‘Literacy: Are we seeing the whole picture?’

Additionally, Wellington College China’s Dean Clayden explored the topic from the perspective of the educator. In his talk, he emphasised that teacher wellbeing is a precondition for student wellbeing and shared practical techniques for incorporating the principles of Positive Psychology and coaching in team leadership.

Looking ahead to next year, The China Festival of Education aims to widen the aperture even further, inviting an even greater diversity of thought leaders from around the world to join the debate. It is an integral part of Wellington College China’s commitment to nurturing young minds, developing quality teachers and shaping the future of education.

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