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Implementing the principle of inclusiveness in education

17 Apr 2018

Being inclusive is one of the five identities promoted by Wellington’s philosophy of education. The interpretation of the nature of inclusiveness varies in different contexts. For Wellington College pupils, being inclusive means developing the moral values and social conscience necessary to serve others and do good in life, learning to appreciate the differences in people and diversity within society itself, as well as obtaining an international and global perspective. Inclusiveness is, in some ways, a pattern of thinking that allows people to benefit and get inspiration from differences and diversities. It is essential in terms of ensuring quality teaching in an increasingly globalised world because inclusive educators are able to compare Western and Eastern models of education, better understand each of them, and learn from the strengths of both.

Finding the right balance

Our rapidly developing society values people who are resilient, adaptable and able to deliver excellent performances under pressure, making it necessary for schools to offer well-rounded education that promotes multiple abilities. Education gives pupils vital knowledge of the world around them. However, in a traditional class, teachers focus mostly or even solely on imparting knowledge and skills, rather than emphasising the process of learning nor inspiring pupils to discover effective ways of learning. Pupils’ emotions and attitudes toward learning are paid little attention. Parents are more likely to ask what children learn at school instead of how they learn and how they feel about learning. Education at school must not only impart knowledge but also cultivate the ability of learning among other abilities. Western education emphasises how to learn, which echoes a Chinese saying: give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; teach a man how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. Living in the Information Age has made acquisition of knowledge much easier. Pupils have instant access to the kind of information that would take the previous generation weeks to assemble. However, this technological advantage also brings new challenges, as pupils must learn how to search for useful information, as well as how to select, analyse, comprehend and use what they find to solve real problems. Pupils’ easier access to information doesn’t mean that building fundamental knowledge is less important, because a strong foundation of knowledge largely determines the depth and breadth of learning. Imagine if a pupil is unfamiliar with the multiplication table, how can he or she possibly manage the reduction of fractions to a common denominator or solve more complex physics and chemistry problems? Multidisciplinary teaching has been a hot educational topic over the past a few years, with STEM and STEAM being promoted in many schools’ curricula. Exploring a theme from the perspectives of different subjects of study allows pupils to gain a deeper and broader understanding, while connected learning of different subjects helps to establish a well-structured knowledge system. Throughout this process, a solid acquisition of fundamental knowledge and skills must be a focus of all schools, as a weak foundation makes it difficult to build links across areas of learning. Multidisciplinary teaching mustn’t overstate the importance of building cross-subject connections and overlook the connections within a subject. The principle of being inclusive in education demands that we strive to find the right balance, avoiding leaning to either extreme.

Celebrating diversity of talents

Educators have long been exploring the challenges and opportunities combining the Western and Eastern education models would bring to pupils. A successful combination isn’t necessarily an equal-parts mixture of two models; it needs a cultural environment that promotes exchanges between them. As language is the carrier of culture, an educational provision that offers bilingual immersion creates great opportunities for these exchanges. We value every pupil as a unique individual and promote a personalised education tailored to their different needs, rather than providing an identical education for all. Many years ago, the UK government encouraged all pupils to choose academic programmes, eliminating their options to receive workforce education or study at community colleges, causing tremendous harm to a generation. In China, academic achievement remains the foremost way to assess a pupil. However, recent educational reforms in the UK led to the design of new technical qualifications called T-levels for 16 to 19-year-olds, which are planned to foster pupils’ abilities in many areas other than academic. While in China, promoting the essential skills in the 21st century lays a new framework for developing the skills and aptitudes of pupils. The core of school education lies at providing a wide range of choices to support pupils to progress not only academically but also in other important aspects, giving them the keys to open the doors of a successful future. Practising combining these two educational models encourages us to think about how best to define and assess talents in a broader sense. Though the assessment of pupils is still based mostly on exam results, many schools start to focus on well-rounded development by offering subjects like drama, design and technology. When recruiting new undergraduates, colleges and universities value pupils’ overall development, for instance, in painting, stage performing, sports, communications, wellbeing and service to others, in addition to their exam grades. This approach shows that talents of many different varieties are being celebrated and valued. Wellington College is mindful of this and ensures holistic development of our pupils to help them thrive during their higher education and subsequent careers and life choices. Adaptability and flexibility are crucial soft skills in life after school. Pupils are expected to plan for their future during school time, rather than simply attending classes and sitting in exams. Exams are not the only way to assess them. They must be encouraged to choose their way of living and take responsibility for their choices, as this is a prerequisite for becoming adaptable and flexible individuals. At Wellington, we believe a quality education means more than a well-designed curriculum; it also requires a commitment to explore and innovate for better educational provision. During the exploring journey, we expect to hear diverse opinions and feedback. We will show the spirit of inclusiveness to listen to and think critically about such ideas and reflections, in the common interest of all pupils, parents and staff. We believe that when more educators join us in reflecting and improving current educational provision standards, we are better able to keep the momentum of continuous development going.