Starting in the same year as the founding of Wellington College International Shanghai, the Festival of Education is an annual event dedicated to encouraging open and dynamic debate as well as fresh, engaging ideas about the purpose and practicalities of education.
Every year, Wellington brings together teachers, parents, pupils, industry experts, academics and even non-educationalists with unique perspectives, in order to discuss the current and future needs of education, both here in China and internationally.
In preparation for the 2019 Festival of Education, the festival’s director, Dr. Stephen Jacobi, discusses the evolution of the event, while also outlining a little of what we can expect from its latest and still evolving iteration.
2019 will be the fourth Festival of Education. How has this annual event changed since its inception?
For the first year or so, the College didn’t have as much of an identity other than its newness, and its ties to the Tianjin and UK schools. This led to the first festival being fairly provisional, as we based the various strands and talking points on the challenges we were encountering from day to day. Now, four years on, we have a much firmer sense of Wellington College China’s identity. Our experiences during this time have allowed us to think ahead and decide what is appropriate and useful to discuss together, both as an international and as an inclusive community.
Naturally, the festival has also grown significantly in scope and attendance. We aim to keep building this momentum by engaging with topics that really matter and by introducing a wide range of speakers who will inspire productive debate and the sharing of knowledge.
Looking ahead to the 2019 event, what are some of the key strands that will be explored?
The world is changing very rapidly – that’s a reality we cannot afford to ignore. So instead of just discussing today’s challenges, we’re also trying to predict what the school will need to successfully adapt. For example, we’re increasingly interested in the future of how technology will influence education in the next 10, 20 and even 30 years. This will be one of the new strands in the 2019 festival and something I hope to develop in subsequent events.
The evolving nature of bilingualism in education will also be a strong feature. It is particularly relevant to talk about this, given that two Huili schools, in Shanghai and Hangzhou, have just opened. It’s increasingly appropriate to talk about the current challenges and future opportunities of bilingual education as models of delivery.
Alternative styles of education is another area I’m particularly keen to explore at the festival. One of the speakers attending is Ian Marchant, a novelist and non-fiction writer who has recently written a book about counter culture. I hope he will prove to be a very interesting and provocative addition to the list of speakers.
Finally, wellbeing is another essential stand for 2019. As pressure builds and top universities become increasingly competitive, there’s evidence that greater numbers of schoolchildren are suffering from mental stress. We have to be attuned to this reality and keep looking openly and honestly at how we recognise and address these problems.
What is it about technology that makes it such an important factor to discuss in terms of its impact on education?
Schools are generally behind other industries in terms of adopting technological trends, often by years or even decades. Their practices are subsequently out of date but as we all adapt to being very capable with personal technology, there is a much greater pressure being put on schools to move with the times and think deeply about how they can make the best pedagogical use of emerging technological tools.
This extends beyond thinking about the devices that pupils and teachers use. Educationalists need to be thinking about how to design new schools from the ground up to be suitable for the integration and daily use of technology. Understandably, this is a difficult process, but it can be done.
You’ve already mentioned Ian Marchant, who else can we expect to see attending as speakers?
The list is coming together nicely, hopefully with more confirmations coming in the next few weeks. Ian Warwick is one of the returning favourites, as parents are always interested in hearing what he has to say about stretching the aspirations and abilities of their children.
The principal of The Guildhall School of Music and Drama will be attending, potentially as a keynote speaker, to discuss the value of an arts-based education. We also have several speakers exploring various elements of bilingualism. And we hope to have a greater mix of Chinese as well as English speakers, in keeping with our exploration of bilingual education.
There’s also the first ever graduate from Wellington College China, Patricia Zayan, who graduated from Tianjin. She will be talking about the experiences of third culture children in education. I’m hoping to involve children and young adults from other schools to create a discussion panel around this topic.
The previous Festival of Education was hosted across multiple Wellington campuses. Will that be the case again this academic year?
Yes, the touring element of the festival is another example of how the event is expanding. We will begin here in Shanghai, before we move on to Hangzhou for two days, and finally, at the end of the week, two days in Tianjin.
Another big change is that the Shanghai leg of the festival will be hosted or part-hosted by Huili School Shanghai rather than just the international school. The new facility has plenty of space but, more importantly, it serves as an appropriate location to inject fresh perspective into the strand of bilingualism, which is at the centre of Huili’s life.
What do you hope attendees of the festival will take away with them?
A sense that education is changing as the world does, though not necessarily quickly enough! Hopefully, we will inspire a lot of new ideas and debate on how we can be a positive part of making the necessary changes required in all schools – not just our own.
The Festival of Education offers organisations the opportunity to engage with an influential and progressive education audience in a relaxed and welcoming environment.
We have many sponsor options for April 2019, from exhibition space to partnership packages. All offer a platform to network and promote your organisation to educators and the Hangzhou expat and local community involved in all areas of the education sector.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to receive the partnership proposal.
Thank you to our Festival Partner
Thank you to our Festival Support