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Think Globally, Act Locally

07 Jun 2018

In 2017, AlphaGo amazed the world by defeating all human Go players. A few months later, AlphaZero emerged. Genuinely starting from zero, it defeated all other AI-based Go and chess programmes, let alone human players, just after a few hours of training with its input of rules. In 2018, SpaceX sent up its Falcon Heavy carrying a Tesla Roadster and then succeeded in recovering two of the three boosters. Its amazing payload, stability, low cost and reusability have made space travel a lot more affordable. In short, we are living in an era of rapid change. Technology is significantly advancing and transforming our way of life. In this era, education, especially science education, faces unprecedented opportunities and challenges. Wellington College has a very proud tradition of educating for the future, which means that as a group we are extremely well placed to capitalise on these opportunities and overcome said challenges. Thinking globally while acting locally, our science education faculty has endeavoured to design and implement science education that is especially suitable for bilingual learners.

International Framework Integrating Chinese and Foreign Curriculum Standards

Science may be the most challenging part of bilingual high school curriculum development. China’s 2011 Compulsory Education Curriculum Standards include general science subjects and specific subjects like biology (life sciences), physics and chemistry. Schools in different regions can pick subjects to meet their circumstances. Usually the three specific subjects are offered to different grades, with different starting times and durations. After a period of curriculum reform, Shanghai now adopts an integrated curriculum. General science subjects are offered to Grade 6 and Grade 7 pupils, and specific subjects are offered to Grade 8 and Grade 9 pupils. 1Like Shanghai, most developed countries and regions in the world, such as the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia, Singapore, and Hong Kong China, also offer general science courses. Bilingual schools like ours need to design our own curriculum to suit our own reality, considering our appropriate regional and pupil characteristics. We must first try to understand international curricula and then determine the coverage, depth and difficulty of each science subject as it is actually needed. This is a meticulous and creative process for schools and their curriculum developers.

Science Curriculum of China, Shanghai and Some International Schools For example, one subject matter is covered in general science subjects but does not come in any specific science subject under the national science curriculum. This subject matter is highlighted in the UK’s general science curriculum and even more so in the United States’ Next-Generation Science Standards (NGSS). This particular subject is Earth and Space Science. 2,3We need to recognise the uniqueness and importance of this subject matter, understand its place in current science courses, and decide how best to teach this subject matter according to our own actual resources (such as whether or not to offer a separate geography course) and the pupils’ development needs. Our curriculum development team started to compare Chinese and British science curricula two years ago. Based on their comparison process, we’ve outlined a unique science curriculum for Huili School, proposing short-term and mid-term plans with specific goals accordingly. We’ve also developed an appropriate assessment system. Teachers with years of teaching experience are also involved in the curriculum development process, which helps ensure its validity and overall purposefulness.

Huili School’s Curriculum Development Process

Developing scientific inquiry and engineering design skills through project implementation

In Demi-gods and Semi-devils, the martial arts novelist Jin Yong depicts a strange “master” who knows about almost all schools and skills of martial arts but has no chance of winning any real fight. That “master” is a lady called Wang Yuyan. She could earn very high marks in any standardised test of martial arts, so to speak, but she cannot really fight. An important competence that Huili School Shanghai wants its pupils to acquire is “independence.” Through science education, we will not only give our pupils the necessary science literacy to pass standardised tests at home and abroad, but also to learn necessary scientific skills, understand the process and methodology of scientific inquiry and engineering design. Furthermore, they will develop meticulous thinking abilities and harness the scientific spirit of innovation, which will allow them to solve scientific or engineering problems independently. The enthusiasm and competence for scientific inquiry have become the common goal of science education at home and abroad. The 2011 national compulsory education curriculum standards and Shanghai curriculum standards place scientific inquiry before science literacy teaching, noting that scientific inquiry is not only an objective but also a key method of science education. 4Science education in the UK prioritises the concept of “working scientifically”, emphasising that pupils should be disciplined in terms of scientific attitudes, experimental skills and investigations, analysis and evaluation, and measurement. 2The United States’ Next-Generation Science Standards define “scientific and engineering practices” as one of the three key dimensions and adds “engineering design” to help pupils address social and environmental issues. Although they differ in some details, scientific inquiry and engineering design share the same basic underlying beliefs and methodologies. 3Many publishing houses in the UK and the USA incorporate these beliefs and methodologies into textbooks for children aged from kindergarten to grade 12.

Three Dimensions of Next-Generation Science Standards

To promote scientific inquiry and engineering design, Huili School Shanghai has established a fully equipped and resourced laboratory that teaches the best international practices. Our teachers do not only facilitate our pupils to complete mandatory experiments required by the national curriculum standards, but also organise regular “science fairs” to help pupils define topics of interest from real life and complete the scientific inquiry process. This will hopefully encourage interested and capable pupils to participate in domestic and international science and innovation competitions. The inquiry process can help pupils build up self-confidence, discover their potential and maximise their strengths, gradually forming their own learning methods while cultivating a strong sense of responsibility and determination.

Global Citizenship Awareness Focusing on the Relationships between Technology, Society and Environment

Science and technology have two sides: They can benefit people on one hand and harm the society and the natural environment on the other. Huili School Shanghai is committed to holistic development. In addition to helping our pupils acquire literacy and pass tests, we pay more attention to improving their overall growth and allowing their potential to blossom and bear fruit. Since the 1980s, the United Kingdom and the United States have embarked on a programme of “science, technology, and society” education (STS for short), and later expanded this concept to become “science, technology, society, and the environment” education (STSE) in the first decade of the 21st century. The influence of science and technology is now ubiquitous, while the environment has also become one of the key social issues impacting on education and politics today. It is not only high on the agenda of international gatherings and initiatives, it also makes a significant impact on people’s daily lives. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) will include a Global Citizenship and Global Literacy Test in 2018. Science teachers can review the history of science and technology and offer interdisciplinary instructions to guide pupils to discuss major issues related to society and the environment. Global citizenship and global literacy can be developed further in this way.

PISA Test of Global Citizenship and Global Literacy

Differentiated teaching and active learning

Albert Einstein once said, “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by the ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Huili School’s curriculum is pupil-centred and cares about each pupil’s experiences, learning habits, hobbies, personality traits and other development factors. According to their individual characteristics, we will guide our pupils to learn actively through differentiated teaching. We will ensure that each pupil will not only develop their competences in a balanced manner, but also comprehend their unique advantages. In order to better carry out differentiated teaching, the contents of the science curriculum were carefully decomposed into “core” and “extended” elements, and the curriculum standards and teaching objectives were accurately graded according to British curriculum standards. Different pupils may pursue objectives at different levels such as what they “must”, “should” or “could” master. Supported by our rich curriculum resources, our science teachers can pick different learning materials for different pupils and make assessments and feedback on an almost real-time basis. As a Chinese classic saying goes: “I hear, I forget; I see, I remember; I do, I understand.” In the 1960s, Western pedagogical scholars expressed this concept as: “Tell me and I forget; teach me and I may remember; involve me and I will learn.” Essentially, this concept means that the difference between active and passive learning determines the memory retention rate, which underlies many educational practices across the world.

Active learning and passive learning and the memory retention rates

At Huili School Shanghai, our science education department will create situations where active learning is encouraged to help pupils master knowledge more efficiently, practice basic skills, consolidate learning outcomes and learn to collaborate. We will strive to provide pupils with an inspiring learning environment to stimulate their curiosity and guide them to actively explore and develop habits of inquisitive thinking and lifelong learning.

Bilingual immersive environment integrating content and language

At Huili School Shanghai, Chinese and Western teachers cooperate in planning and teaching courses, which helps to balance content and language learning and creates an immersive bilingual learning environment for children. Our science department actively explores “content and language integrated learning” (CLIL), which aims to improve the language proficiency of pupils while teaching science courses. In this approach, language becomes a tool for learning science knowledge and yet it becomes easier and more natural to learn language skills. We attach great importance to the concerted efforts of schools, families and the community. We believe that this powerful synergy can provide pupils with a good learning environment and help them integrate into the community. Our science department will tap into the local and national resources for science education, such as museums and science exhibitions. Through science education, we will improve the environment for learning in schools, families and the community. We also welcome parents with professional science backgrounds to participate in our science education programme. As the proverb goes in Africa: “It takes a village to raise a child.” Today, this village is composed of families, schools, communities, cities and countries. It is a “global village” of which we are all members.
  1. Explanations of Shanghai Junior High School Science Curriculum Standard (Trial Version)
  2. Department for Education, Science Programmes of Study: Key Stage 3, National curriculum in England, September 2013
  3. NGSS Lead States. (2013). Next Generation Science Standards: For states, by states. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
  4. Pre-university textbooks development committee, Ministry of Education. Interpretation of Physics Curriculum Standards for Compulsory Education (2011 edition), Higher Education Press, 2012 edition