2019 Global Education and Skills Forum: Russell Hazard, Xueqin Jiang, Jinghuan Shi, Yan Wang, Dun Xiao Speak

Known as one of the top gatherings of educational experts from around the world, the Global Education and Skills Forum is an assembly which brings world leaders to share, debate, and shape education to transform our world for the better.

Now in its seventh year, the Global Education and Skills Forum recently invited over 2,000 international delegates, including scholars, teachers, education ministers, policymakers, and EdTech entrepreneurs to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on March 23rd and 24th, 2019.  

The theme of the conference was “Changemakers” – or people bringing about educational transformation to make the world a better place.  

This year, one of the expert panels spoke on the topic: Educational Insights from China. In this one-hour symposium, a panel of leading educators discussed what it is like to go to school in the country with the largest education system in the world. The expert panel was convened to discuss the Chinese educational landscape with key insiders from public education, private education, higher education, and the educational technology industry to help the outside world understand Chinese education, as well as discuss points they might use to improve their own systems.

After setting the goal of uncovering ten insights for the rest of the world to glean from education in China, Xueqin Jiang, who is a Harvard Global Education Innovation Initiative researcher, educator, and writer, began the panel discussion by suggesting that posing the question to Lily Yan Wang, a Chinese public school teacher and experienced teacher trainer, “Why are Chinese teachers so respected?”.

“I think this is part of our Chinese culture. We believe knowledge is power, but it is also because teacher development is really professional and critical in China,” answered Yan Wang. She also stated that “There are so many strategies in place to make them (teachers) better at what they do.  And, because they’re so well trained, that in turn leads to a higher level of motivation, which leads to better teaching performance”.

While cultural features and teacher training programs have generally led to respectful classrooms and high regard for teachers, the high respect toward education in China has also been generated explicitly through integrated efforts from the government.

Elaborating further on the subject was Tsinghua University Dean of Education, Professor JinghuanShi.  

“China issued what we call the Education Modernization 2035. It’s a long blueprint for the country to build up these modernized education systems, including lifelong education, pre-schooling and quality basic education, enhancing vocational education, and developing more competitive higher education,” said Professor Shi.

For example, in China, the government and academic institutions work in collaboration to bridge the gap between privileged and disadvantaged students; focusing not only on the top students but also finding ways to help underprivileged children achieve academic success.

Professor Shi ended with: “I think these integrated efforts of government, of institutes working together, plus the historical respect toward education make China work”.

The panel discussion moved forward with questions posed to Russell Hazard, Director of the Aidi School Teaching, Learning, and Innovation Center in Beijing.

Russell Hazard went on to explain the dynamic educational backdrop that must wide-ranging context from wealthy city centers to the families of migrant workers and under-resourced remote rural areas, “We’ve got the public school system. Then, there’s a very robust private school system where students who want to be exposed to foreign curricula have the opportunity to do that. That’s supported because society wants to move towards a knowledge-based society. And then you’ve got the higher education and EdTech systems working with them both, and I think they all play a significant role in China because the country itself is so diverse. Along with that is the fact that it is a highly experimental educational environment. There is a tremendous amount of crosstalk between sectors. Let’s just take the private school system. It is so competitive that my entire role is just going out into the world, spending time with top educators all over the world, bringing the ideas back, working with teams, as it’s a very collaborative process to create something that fits the context, testing it with action research. This works here… This doesn’t work there… Then we have our friends from the public schools and we do work with the public schools… That is actually an incredibly dynamic kind of ecosystem, which is exactly what we want”.

Dun Xiao, a creator of an EdTech unicorn company that now serves students all over China, including in remote villages with little alternative education infrastructure, added a cultural dimension saying, “I think this view of the student as not just as an individual, but also as a part of the society… you’re part of family… you’re part of the class, you’re part of the school, you’re part of the country, part of your race, and we are all part of the human system. I think this idea of harmony between people and to relationships between people, leading down to self-discipline because you need to be responsible, and not just for yourself… I think this is really important for me”.

Russell Hazard’s final point in the panel discussion was one that can be applied to education systems in every part of the world, “Everyone needs to be a bit more humble about their own system and take a look around the world. That’s something that I love about this event, as we’ve got people from Asia, Africa, people from India, and there is something to learn from everywhere”.

There is no one solution to helping students, young and old, to gain the knowledge, skills, and attitudes they need to be fulfilled and successful. In this period of rapid change, it pays to communicate, be collaborative, creative, and use critical thinking for problem-solving. These are considered core capabilities for students, and our education systems should lead by example in demonstrating them.

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