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How can we prepare children for an unpredictable future? (II)

17 April 2020

Among all the ways to get to know a school, it one of the best and most direct is to hear the thoughts and ideas of current parents. Hence, we interviewed Yinuo’s father so he could share with us his experience of selecting a school for his child and his perspective on education. After graduating from a renowned private school in the city, Yinuo is now a sixth grader at Huili Junior High.

 

The interview was edited by Huili marketing dept.

 

1. What were your thoughts about Yinuo’s studying performance after he gradually settled into Huili’s learning environment?

Frankly speaking, as parents, we also experienced a transition period considering that we selected a school very different from the one he previously attended. However, if we still had expected school to constantly increase the difficulty of courses and assign plenty of exercises to pupils for the sake of learning in advance, we would not have selected Huili for my child. We were anxious at the beginning when we realised that Yinuo fell behind his peers and usually he was at the head of his class. So, we all had to adapt to this new reality. Then we asked ourselves why he needed to follow his previous learning tempo. Advancing his learning aimed to save more time for his preparation for entrance into a higher school, which went against our initial intentions around entering him at Huili. We hope our children can do more meaningful things which benefit his future career and life by making full use of his current precious learning time. We believe this is better for him overall. Education is about teaching and nurturing. At the same time, teaching is not restricted to teaching, but the combination of teaching and learning. Obviously, parents have diverse anticipation about teaching. I think Huili’s educational philosophy matches with what I want for my child.

 

 

First, the school wants to give pupils a more comfortable transition from a Chinese learning environment to the bilingual environment, which is the basis for its immersive learning mode. Compared with unified teaching mode, character-based mode shows respect for pupils and their uniqueness. Although his learning did slow down in the initial stage, Yinuo was able to find his own appropriate tempo. This kind of adjustment has liberated Huili children from the uniform learning schedule and enables them to have free time to play instruments or sports. Eventually, they will identify the various learning possibilities of themselves by utilising these times effectively. It is always a shame if children feel they have to suppress their true thoughts and feelings because of the pressure of the college entrance examination. After years of study, it seems that they are all produced from the same mould without their own characteristics. It’s only when they go to college, that they may come to realise that they need to find out their own personal strengths, what they want to do in the future and what kind of people they want to become. However, at Huili, children are encouraged and motivated to discover multiple facets of themselves as early as possible. This is an important aspect that I appreciate most. It may be more accurate to say that we do it in the correct timing rather than in advance. I have worked for a foreign company for many years. Many of my international colleagues like to go to pub to relax after a whole day’s hard work. They are all versatile and have their own hobbies. They are glad to perform on the stage for other customers. Two or three of them can form a band to sing several songs, whose happiness affects everyone present. Contrarily, Chinese colleagues are hard-working but shy. Most of them are reserved under such circumstances because we were all educated by the same system. I think the difference lies in that we lack a passion for life relatively speaking. On a training held by our company, we were asked what we would like to do after retiring. I never seriously thought about this question and touring around the world was the most common answer given by my Chinese colleagues. Nonetheless, all kinds of answers were given out by my international colleagues. Even though their positions  are highly professional, someone who likes carpentry and music said he wants to make wooden guitars and even open a store to sell guitars that are all made by himself. Therefore, I hope that Yinuo can bravely discover and try different things to find his own hobbies and interests at the current transformation stage, leaving no regrets for the future.   2. What do you think about the change of learning methods when Yinuo studies at Huili? Huili provides many platforms and tools which all respect differentiated leaning. If you want to learn Spanish, you can use Duolingguo. If you want to have a large vocabulary, you can use Memorize. You may use AR technology to amplify your reading experience. I have been against issuing schoolchildren a large amount of repetitive work that can be easily replaced by machines. It is meaningless for pupils to spend so much time on learning these repetitive tasks. However, doing exercises can also be regarded as a way to strengthen acquired knowledge rather than a complete repetition of the same task. Some knowledge can be mastered by pupils through repeatedly doing related exercises, which is necessary. The precise amount of exercises is hard to define because apparently it varies from parent to parent.   3. What is your opinion on your child’s academic performance? At Huili, tests are not designed to give pupils their specific scores and rankings. Rather, it is a way to know to what degree pupils have mastered the knowledge hared with them. This does not mean that the school plays down the importance of tests. On the contrary, it is inclined to use formative evaluation to observe a pupil’s progress, and shortcoming, offering supportive programme for the next stage. The 12-yearschooling system ensures the consistency of Huili’s education and pupils can focus on their study without any outside distractions.

 

 

We want to see the outcome of education in the long run and that is why we eventually chose Huili. It does not matter if it may take a long time. Yinuo has begun to experience the Project Based Learning (PBL). He needs to finish his project by himself, record the process and adhere to it. This training will cultivate many of his key soft skills. I hope my child will be able to go to a higher education institution which has a world-leading discipline that he favours most if it is compared with a top-ranking comprehensive university. We hope he can develop a specific hobby and have his own ambitions. Thus, we care more about his ability to form his own independent thoughts. Moreover, we want him to be physically and psychologically healthy and attach great importance to developing his soft skills, including willpower, emotional resilience, positive thinking patterns, teamwork as well as his moral character. These will all have a great impact on his life. Many things that are considered correct today will not necessarily remain correct in the future. Thus, we are determined to give him more freedom to thrive, although this also will bring him many uncertainties. Take the PBL for example. I have asked each instructor to write down their remarks on Yinuo and other participants’ performances, which are attached to the printed slides used in classes. The project is conducted twice a year and I will keep all these files archived from he joined grade 5 until he graduates from high school. These true records of what he has achieved will be useful for him to apply to his ideal university. It may be a big plus for him if the admissions officers admire his perseverance in undertaking increasingly large and difficult projects year after year.   4. Yinuo had taken on leadership roles in his previous school for many years. Does he want to assume a similar position of responsibility at Huili? When Yinuo started to study at Huili, I asked him whether he would like to apply for a leadership role and his housemaster also sent email to us, encouraging him to try. However, his has reached an age where he has his own thoughts and priorities, which is something we respect and admire.

 

 

Yinuo is a cautious child but we believe that he is willing to try after some all-round observation and preparation. He may consider applying in the next semester when he fully adapts to the new environment. At that time, we will encourage him to give it everything he has.   5. We know that Yinuo is a member of school football team, something you have supported him to achieve. Why do you strongly support his extra-curricular activities?  Football is Yinuo’s favourite sport and he was thrilled about being selected for the school team. To help him pursue his interest, we made some compromises. We often find it hard to make this kind of decision because of contrasting needs, but we think it is a responsible way to help him develop and he is able to balance his study and interest wisely. Parents’ anxiety often comes from their children excessively concentrating on their studies. We resort to holistic education to help Yinuo balance his study and personal interests without focusing to heavily on either aspect. Only through equal emphasis on these two parts can we truly fulfil this concept.   I remembered that the football team once needed to compete outside of Huili and Yinuo was absent from his Chinese class in the afternoon. As Chinese is a core subject, pupils seldom choose to be absent from it. More importantly, he had tests a few days later. We knew that he truly loves playing football and there were options to apply for make-up examination. Therefore, we allowed him to participate in the competition instead of putting the class first under such circumstances. We felt the true happiness shown by him after the competition as he really enjoyed himself. Yinuo also understood that he should prove to us that participation in matches would not adversely affect his study. He put his whole heart into his studies the following week. So, I believe that hobbies or development of other areas will encourage him to use his initiative in during his studies. It is not necessarily true that your engagement in hobbies will adversely affect your ability to study. Compared with forcing him to make promises that he will not lag behind, this kind of positive motivation is more beneficial for him. Our philosophy is: “We support you and want to communicate with you like we were friends.” This will ultimately develop children’s lifelong ability to self-motivate. In addition to football, Yinuo has stuck to practising baseball for years. His weekends are mainly occupied by these two sports. In my opinion, boys need to engage in team sports where they experience cooperation and confrontation. Whether they win or lose, they go through all these emotions and life lessons together as they try their best to win as many matches as possible. This experience is definitely something that goes beyond daily classes.

 

 

Sometimes, he plays football for the entire afternoon or joins in four competitions in a single day. When he comes back, he is too tired to study. But we think what he gained is no less than finishing three exam papers and we find that sports has made him a healthier and more optimistic person. I will continue to support his efforts in team sports. At the same time, he can develop his interest in individual sports. This will be done by respecting his personal preferences and willingness to explore new things. If he is eager to participate in these activities, we believe he can achieve a good personal balance.   6. What is your opinion on home-school partnership at Huili?  In my view, home-school relationship is cooperative and based on mutual support, whilst both sides have their fundamental stances. In the school’s case this is that its pedagogy cannot be influenced by parents. It would be devastating if the school always compromised because of the suggestions of the parents’ committee. Members of committee can change and I think both sides are good at listening to and respecting each other’s viewpoints. The parents’ committee acts as a bridge between the school and families, helping to communicate with those who are not familiar with the school while coordinating school events. The parents’ committee will give school valuable suggestions, but the ‘red line’ is that they are not allowed to intervene in the school’s education policies. We need to trust the school to give its pupils the top-quality education that they are trained to deliver.

 

 

The home-school partnership enables parents to use their resources to extend pupils’ leaning at school. For example, Yinuo’s mother works at a customs office and once held a workshop for pupils. Her beautiful customs uniform motivated pupils to explore different occupations. She also shared some practical information with them, telling pupils what kind of items bought overseas will be taxed or put you in prison. Even many teachers participated in this workshop, asking her questions about buying agents and the defined goods quantity. This example shows that parents’ resources and experiences are valuable learning tools.   7. What do you expect to see when Yinuo finishes his studies at Huili? Selecting Huili means that we abandoned the established leaning path and have further expectations of him. We put much emphasis on cultivating his cognitive system, all-round competences and correct values, which will help him to face the uncertain future, playing down the importance of specific goals such as test scores, rankings and target universities. I believe that many parents may have the same opinions, hopes and expectations for their own children.

 

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