We have started the new school year at Huili School Shanghai with more than twice as many pupils as in our founding year.
The continued demand for places is very high. That means I meet many parents who are looking to send their son or daughter to Huili. One of the questions that I am often asked by these parents is ‘what makes a Huili pupil
We like to talk about what we want a Huili pupil to become: which we call the Huili identity
We want pupils to be inspired
by life and by learning, and to be ready to inspire others. They should be intellectual
: excited by learning and willing to dive deep into a subject, not limited by syllabuses or exams. Our children should gradually become independent
of their parents in life and of their teachers in learning. We encourage pupils to be individual
by being proud of who they are and the values they hold. We hope they will have learnt to be inclusive
of those from different backgrounds, many of whom may have fewer opportunities.
We want our pupils to have success at 18; but becoming the best adult you can be at 28 is even more important.
Parents, however, want to know what we are looking for from our pupils now. What personal characteristics would encourage us to offer a place at Huili to a child?
We are looking for potential rather than achievements
: not ‘how much English do you know?’, but ‘how good is your English given the opportunities you have had to learn it?’ We want children who are excited by learning: not just to please their parents and grandparents, but because they love discovering knowledge and developing skills
. We want Huili pupils to have other passions
, perhaps for music, or drama, or technology, or a sport.
An interesting question, that I am occasionally asked, is ‘how is a Huili pupil different to a Wellington pupil?
It is tempting to say that there is no difference, as we are trying to engender the same values and identities in all. However, there is one significant difference.
As an international school, Wellington is working with a community of children from all over the world. It focuses on internationalism and a mutual respect for their different cultures.
Huili pupils are almost all Chinese nationals. They are learning in a bilingual school, in both Chinese and English. They will go on to complete international qualifications, but first they are studying the Chinese national curriculum.Most will go abroad to university and college, and we want them to develop an international outlook, with the confidence and skills to lead in Chinese and international businesses, trading and working in the world economy.However, we want them to be proudly and knowledgably Chinese, to be highly effective communicators in written and spoken Chinese, and to be fluent in English as well as, rather than instead of, Chinese.
Some Chinese children go abroad at 11, 13 or 16 to go to English or American schools. The danger is that the quality of their Chinese gets stuck at that age level. For many, even if they attend top overseas schools, they will find it hard to return to China as graduates at 22 and compete with peers who have had a world-class high school experience in Shanghai.
Ten years ago, that may have been a risk worth taking, as there may have been better career opportunities with US or European firms, but now, such has been the success of China’s economy, it would be foolish to ignore the attractions of a career with one of China’s thriving corporations.
A Huili pupil will be proudly Chinese, skilled in Chinese and English, and ready to succeed in China and all over the world.