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Opportunities for holistic development in Secondary School

24 Jun 2022

If you were to ask somebody what a school provides to its pupils, the first answer that comes to mind is education. Do we define education as something academic? Do we consider a pupil’s graduation examination results a fair reflection of the years they spend in school? At Huili School Shanghai, we consider education under three principles – ‘United’ ‘Progressive’ and ‘Well-rounded’.  



‘Well-Rounded’ individuals  



In this article, we will showcase how Huili School Shanghai develops pupils holistically to ensure they are well-rounded individuals when they leave school. This is especially important for pupils to develop the skills to thrive independently in different cultures. 

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Many of our pupils will opt to study abroad, where they will face challenges that they are unable to truly prepare for. As such, holistic education can help them to develop the skills and confidence to face these challenges through the teaching of metacognitive skills (in basic terms, learning how we learn).  



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This year, we launched the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award for our grade 9 pupils. This is the world’s leading youth achievement award and takes place in schools and further education centres around the world.  
The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award was founded by Prince Phillip in 1965. He received an education in Gordonstoun which aimed to develop the whole pupil, not only academically but their independence and preparedness for the future. We share Prince Phillip’s vision that our pupils can develop the metacognitive skills to handle whatever comes their way. This award will help them to achieve this. 

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The award helps children develop a range of skills and attributes which help them to become well-rounded individuals. These skills are often stated as highly valued in top universities and colleges. 

The Award will ensure that our pupils develop to flourish and thrive in an ever-changing world and become ‘World Ready’. The Award operates in 130 countries worldwide and over one million participants are presently signed up to complete their bronze, silver and/or gold award. 
Award applicants must complete four sections: 

Physical Recreation  

The Physical Recreation section of the Award encourages young people to participate in sport and other physical recreation for the improvement of health, fitness and wellbeing. 


Encouraging healthy behaviours has benefits, not only for participants but also for their communities, whether through improved health or active participation in team activities. This section specifically aims to improve the team skills, self-esteem and confidence of participants, which in turn can help improve both their physical and mental health.  



The Skills section of the Award encourages the development of personal interests, creativity or practical skills. 

This section provides the opportunity for a participant to improve on an existing skill or to try something entirely new. As with the other sections, a level of commitment is required over time to progress a skill. It leads to a sense of achievement and wellbeing and improved employability through the development of life and vocational skills. 


Voluntary Service 

For the Voluntary Service section, participants are required to give service over a set period of time. This enables them to experience the benefits that their Voluntary Service provides to others in their community. 

Service is the opportunity to look outwards in helping others. This could be through community service but ultimately demonstrates social responsibility. 

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▲Programme team of Huili Educational Farm Partner 

One of the key opportunities we offer in terms of Voluntary Service is the Huili Educational Farm Partner Project, which is led by my fellow housemaster, Ms Shirley Yuan.  

This involves pupils independently managing, maintaining and producing ecological products and educational services on the 3F roof garden. Pupils are guided to design logos and slogans for the farm, while others focus on how to promote the project through articles and videos. As the project progresses, pupils gain leadership skills. 



The programme features CEOs, CMOs, product designers, financial managers and a marketing department. Pupils have so far developed three project proposals and outlined how they would raise funds for the projects. The project provides pupils with the opportunity to experience the process of building an enterprise structure and to contribute to the community.  


Adventurous Journey 

As the award is non-competitive, it encourages pupils to think independently and set clear goals using the SMART target format. Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound goals will challenge the pupils and ensure that they develop each section of the Award and themselves. 

During our Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award CCA, we prepare pupils for the Adventurous Journey section. As part of a small team, participants plan, train for and undertake a journey with a purpose in an unfamiliar environment. 


The journey can be an exploration or an expedition and must be a challenge. This section aims to provide participants with the opportunity to learn more about the wider environment, as well as to develop their self-confidence, teamwork and health. Participants are taken out of their comfort zone but kept within a safe and secure setting, achieved through suitable training and supervision.  

The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Team helps pupils to prepare for this with training in navigation, route planning, camp craft, nutrition, cooking and setting goals. 


These are weekly sessions during our CCA programme to ensure that pupils develop confidence and problem-solving skills. Our expeditions will take us to Changxing Island, Moganshan or Chongming Island. In light of the recent postponement, we are planning to take these expeditions in Autumn 2022. 


Pupil testimonies   



Michelle   Grade 9 ·Hui House   

“The three activities that I chose are Chinese drama, Huili Ecological Farm Charity and athletics. Every week, I complete the targets I set at the start of the semester and upload my progress on the Online Record Book. Through continuous practice, my skills have gradually improved. The award gives me a chance to focus on my learning process and help me become more self-disciplined.”  

Samuel   Grade 9 · Xian House 

“From learning how to organise a rucksack, to planning a nutritious diet and boiling an egg, everything I have learnt during Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award has enriched both my personal and collaboration skills. These skills are not only crucial for achieving the award but are also fortunes for life.” 


Oscar   Grade 9 · Li House  

“By participating in the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, I have gained a lot of new skills, such as preparing for camping and navigating with maps, all of which I would never have a chance to learn in my daily routine. Also, I have found new hobbies, like cycling with friends, which have enriched my weekends. Finally, I have developed the skills I already have to another standard, and I am more motivated during my practice.”

Maggie   Grade 9 · De House   

“For the award, I chose jogging as my physical goal. I really disliked exercise, but as I am aware of the benefits doing sports can bring to me, I try to use this goal as a weekly reminder. When I think of this goal, I push myself to exercise, and this increases my physical capability. For someone who was not good at sport, The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award is a great challenge and an opportunity for personal development.”