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Looking forward, we will keep marching on

12 June 2020

The efforts and breakthroughs our children make along the way as they grow up never cease to amaze us. They always fill us with hope and expectation, while driving us to work harder in the study and improvement of education itself. Education continues to become ever more tolerant and inclusive with each new innovation and reform, making it possible for the younger generations to choose diversified and individualised ways of studying, instead of thinking that there is one single path that leads to university and beyond. We are increasingly respecting and valuing the inherited traits of pupils as individuals, empowering them based on their interests and inspirations, and their willingness to realise their self-value. Often used as the setting of many science fiction films in previous decades, 2020 is a year full of optimism based on the advances being made across a wide range of technological sectors. However, with a beginning full of distress and chaos, 2020 has started in an unexpected way. Globally, the situation is changing constantly, and the general world order is in a state of flux. Around us, every aspect of our lives and the development of the education industry has been changed or even overturned entirely. Despite our constant efforts to analyse what is happening, the world our children are going to face as they grow up is still hard to envision and predict. In a time when ‘black swan events’ are commonplace and variables become constants, as the protectors and educators of their children, parents can cope calmly and become role models only if they can remain unaffected and stay clear-minded. We may feel a little relieved as our children can finally return to the classroom, but it is natural to still be worried about the future, as uncertainty prevails around the world. However, if we can change our way of thinking, focus on outcomes and backtrack the process, we may realise that, ultimately we are merely being confused temporarily by a few minor distractions. When we imagine the future and look at the challenges our children will encounter at university, or when they enter the job market, it is essential that we keep analysing the benchmark of current educational practices and then adjust them accordingly to best fit the future needs of our pupils. In this rapidly developing society, we also have to remind our children to always keep their most important goals and aspirations in mind, so that they may have the best chance of completing the life goals that matter to them most. 1.The ability to learn and improve is most needed when we are young “Education is what survives when what has been learned is forgotten.”—— Educator B. F. Skinner ”What survives here is the ability for independent thought and learning, the ability to learn by analogy and to be self-taught. According to a survey by Microsoft, only 10% of the knowledge that its employees know today came from previous learning and working experiences; the rest of it was acquired after they joined the company. Therefore, what matters most is how they learn and what they retain, not just ‘what’ they learn. It is the development of the ability to think independently and to reflect and review that is the most important consideration in any educational context. In a world increasingly overwhelmed by data, knowing the best and most reliable sources of information is now the foundation of a healthy attitude towards independent thought, research and analysis of any given subject matter. To be able to carry out these independent actions successfully, appropriate methods of thinking are necessary. The knowledge systems our young people will have gained during their ten-year-long study of mathematics, foreign languages, philosophy and computer science are ideal tools for the job.  The study of mathematics can improve their sense of logic; foreign languages, a more flexible mindset; philosophy, better critical thinking; computer and internet science, comprehensive exploration of knowledge and information. It needs to be acknowledged that the study of these subjects is not merely a stepping-stone to higher education for our children, but the creation of a set of essential learning tools that will be useful throughout their entire lives.Studying from home during the outbreak of COVID-19 was not just a practical response to the disease in the narrow sense. Longer term, it has served as a full-spectrum practise, test and review process for our pupils’ independent studying capabilities. In contrast to the routines of school, such learning patterns and mindsets are a good example of how important it is to be able to learn throughout one’s life. At Huili, we value the development of study tools and habits, and help pupils maintain the momentum and the ability to keep learning after they finish our timetabled curriculum. Continuous study is helpful in widening horizons and enabling pupils to confidently deal with challenges in the future while firmly grasping potential opportunities. This is what we call ‘constant empowerment’ – when a pupil has successfully developed the ability to keep learning.   2.About future directions In the future, similar upheavals may occur when we are least prepared, testing the resilience of the individual, the country and  human society as a whole. The duration and impact of COVID-19 has gone far beyond what we initially expected. What now needs to be considered is how we can help our pupils cope successfully with the ever-changing world by fostering a consistent enthusiasm for studying. As technology-driven innovation has become a constant factor of the era, the nature of innovation and technology development will inevitably give rise to changes and will in turn accelerate them. To be a specialist in a certain field or a generalist who knows something about everything, the choice largely depends on one’s career plan, as both options have merit in today’s society.

  • If one’s long-term goal is to be excellent in one field, further study in that area will be the natural choice.
  • If the long-term goal is to be innovative or if one is unsure where a career path lies, then it will be more appropriate to become engaged in different professions and positions immediately  after higher education.

To be a specialist or a generalist is not a simple choice. To become excellent in one field, a cross-disciplinary knowledge base is essential. To address this, Huili School Shanghai focuses on guiding its pupils  to gain understanding of different subjects throughout their schooling, encouraging a breadth of knowledge across the social sciences, humanities, arts, philosophy, history and politics. Before a clear career plan is set, our pupils should try to become generalists, to learn more about the world and keep looking for opportunities. They should maintain their curiosity towards emerging events and start to study further once their career direction is eventually determined. Ultimately, we should all embrace change, as it represents both challenges and opportunities at the same time, especially for the younger generation. The current situation caused by COVID-19 has had a global impact that has not been seen in centuries, but such drastic change may also prompt the beginning of a brand-new world order. From a historical point of view, such a new world order will be largely determined by young people’s responses to current events. 3.The changes in the future function of professions Recently, the application of AI, big data and 5G technology has become increasingly widespread. The ability to discover and realise the value of AI and big data technology is becoming increasingly important.   01Artificial Intelligence After years of preparation, AI is now becoming more commonly used and is having a dramatic impact on various professions that involve coding. However, AI cannot do everything; there are plenty of tasks that are much better suited to the intricacies of the human mind. While it is important to be aware of emerging technological trends, we should not let our pupils become lost in them. We need to be aware that AI still cannot perform tasks that rely heavily on perception and creativity, such as interpersonal communication, invention and individualised services; nor can it replace researchers in humanities, top executives or multidisciplinary specialists to conduct analysis and projections without the support of big data. Machines can never have the same appreciation of aesthetics, beauty, love, affection or empathy as humans, and cannot experience unspoken forms of communication between minds. Supporting the choices of our children must start with nurturing their genuine interests and innate talent. 02Developments in cross-disciplinary subjects We have also seen significant developments in cross-disciplinary subjects. The combination, utilisation and abstraction of knowledge from various fields has enabled the emergence of influence and changes at the border between these fields that will drive the further development of both subjects involved. This is a place where potential and value are more likely to be found. More often than not, a future career has little to do with a major in university, as this will only be an influence, rather than a defining trait regarding the way one thinks.Working hard in the early years will build up the knowledge base of the individual pupil, expanding their horizons and enable their comprehensive development. As they are growing up, these pupils need to have clear self-recognition and self-belief; they must do what they are really interested in and immerse themselves in their chosen fields to achieve their goals. Only the most proactive people can grasp the best and most fleeting chances offered up in this rapidly changing society. Consequently, at Huili, we value the unique traits each pupil displays. Working together with parents, we are committed to discovering these traits, then teaching the children accordingly, so that they will be motivated, their traits well developed and their potential fully realised.   4.What to do in a world filled with excessive information The problem we face today is not about the mounting volumes of information. It is a question of knowing one’s own mind, one’s sense of judgement, choices and values, that is the most important. Information is just modulated data, it is how we use this data that counts. Outstanding people are invariably effective information processors themselves. Again, what is most important here is the logic framework and thinking models used by the individual to successfully process information. At Huili, we pay particular attention to the development of children’s logical thinking. With established systematic methodologies, the value of redundant information will plunge, the efficiency of information screening will improve, and the decision-making process be further informed. This will infinitely benefit pupils in terms of discerning right from wrong, gaining insights into the world and understanding their own minds. We guide the children in our care to focus on information that has stood the test of time. Irrelevant information will be sifted out over time, and what remains is often valuable. Children should be guided to look at the people and organisations that have been proved very successful over a long period, rather than examples of short-term success stories. The shorter the period being examined, the more distractions or aberrations could be involved. They will eventually become individuals who have independent opinions and unique personalities.Children are participators and shapers of the future themselves. Theywill keep exploring this unknown realm. Growing up is like a marathon, and we are willing to accompany and support every child along the way. By looking ahead and thinking deliberatively, we will help them set their own pace to reach their goals, while overcoming many obstacles and distractions on the road ahead.  

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The Huili School Shanghai Community is committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of its pupils.