This week’s article in the We Are Huili series is by Ms. Ke, whose daughter, Hanni, is in Grade 8 at Huili School Hangzhou. As a member of the Huili community, Ms. Ke shared her thoughts on why they chose Huili, and discusses Hanni’s growth as an individual during these past two years. It is also worth mentioning that Hanni’s little brother will be joining Huili Nursery shortly.
A Shared Choice Between Parents and Children
When we were selecting a Junior High school for Hanni, we were seeking a school that cares about children’s mental and physical health. Few schools in Hangzhou were strong in this area at the time, so our choices were limited.
In 2017, we learned from our friends that Hangzhou would be home to a Huili school soon. We immediately followed the school updates, attended several information sessions and gradually learned about Huili’s educational ethos and curriculum. It turns out that they were a perfect match with our expectations. Although the school’s buildings were still under construction, we learned that its sister schools in Shanghai and Tianjin have already been quite successful. This instilled confidence in us and we decided to trust the school and apply for a position. The most important factor came later during the admissions process, because it was Hanni who truly wanted to attend the school as a result of several delightful meetings and encounters with the Head of Junior High and the teachers during the admissions process. Choosing Huili was thus a shared choice between Hanni and us.
Huili Identities and Values
As parents, we ask ourselves constantly what kind of person we want our child to be when they grow up. To this question, my answer is that I want Hanni to be joyful, happy, confident, and strong. Life, however, is unpredictable. So, the kind of person our child will become in the future depends largely on the education they receive along the way.
I am deeply touched by Huili School Hangzhou’s Values and Identities. Although many schools promote such concepts, in other schools the values appear to exist more on paper and are not often instilled in the pupils. This is where Huili School Hangzhou stands out, as the school ensures each Huili pupil exhibits their school Values and demonstrates the Identities.
Being independent is a Huili Identity that I would like to share about in more detail. We as parents experienced a sense of loss when Hanni started at Huili. Hanni’s teachers in Primary school used to bombard us with WeChat massages, so we were used to having constant communication and knowing everything about Hanni at all times. Once Hanni joined boarding at Huili, communication became more focused on essential information, rather than every single detail of her life. Hanni’s teachers were no longer contacting us on WeChat regularly. In Huili, pupils record their homework assigned by teachers and finish it by themselves; no parent involvement is required during this process. Sometimes after class, teachers assign homework via email, and pupils are free to write to teac
Parents may not relate to this if they are not clear about Huili’s educational philosophy. We learned gradually that by this approach, the school develops their pupils’ problem-solving and independent learning skills, which outweigh the alternative of simply imparting knowledge. Life for children who lack these skills will be difficult when they go abroad for senior high or university by themselves.
Another Huili Identity that impresses me deeply is being Individual. When music teachers arrange various stage performances in which every Huili pupil is encouraged take part, they do not look for pupils with the best academic performance or best piano skills. They look for pupils with individual talents, passions and interests, and encourage the pupils to demonstrate them on stage. Hanni was going to quit piano after six years of practice because of her increasingly demanding school schedule, but thanks to the resources at Huili and teachers singing with passion at the Summer Carnival, she now has a new understanding of music.
Hanni is the first one on the left.
Bilingual Environment with Diverse Culture
Hanni’s English listening, speaking, reading and writing skills have improved greatly since she started learning at Huili School Hangzhou. Now she is confident when speaking with Western teachers in fluent English, and her English vocabulary continues to expand. What surprises me is that Hanni is not only learning English as a language, but wielding it as a tool when expressing herself while studying European history, reading and writing, debating, singing, and drama. Language learned this way is vivid and dynamic. Hanni is indeed fortunate to be in such an immersive English learning environment with native English-speaking teachers.
Chinese learning is joyful and meaningful at Huili as well. Hanni used to dislike Chinese reading comprehension because there seemed to be a fixed answer for each question with no room for her own ideas. At Huili, however, rather than guiding pupils to find fixed answers to questions, teachers encourage pupils to analyse articles with an open mind, cultivate their ability to convey their ideas in proper Chinese, and appreciate the beauty of literature, thereby sparking the children’s interest in Chinese learning. Hanni now enjoys her Chinese lessons much more than she did in the past.
I believe learning Chinese well is a must for a Chinese child, regardless of whether or not they will live abroad or at home. Mandarin is fundamental to all Chinese people.
Character and Mindset Growth
Huili boasts a wide range of extracurricular activities. Children need to spend a large amount of time on sports competitions, performing arts and music. One of the noticeable changes we have seen in Hanni is that she now displays a strong ability to manage her own time, with a better balance between her study and hobbies. Huili’s consistent expectation for Hanni to complete her homework independently has increased her learning efficiency, allowing more time at her own disposal.
I am glad to see that Hanni recognises and accepts herself and others better than before. Today, she appreciates and holds an inclusive and positive attitude toward others. Huili teachers do not judge their pupils merely based on their academic scores; test results are private in Huili and pupils are not ranked either. Instead, teachers focus on the pupil’s individual progress and encourage each child to explore where he or she shines. This atmosphere has helped Hanni recognise the strengths of others and appreciate them.
I am growing with my children under Huili’s influence, too, learning to overcome anxiety and let Hanni go, and allowing her to make mistakes and attempt to do things she likes. Now we are striving to provide an open space for Hanni to grow at her own pace.
If I could select a word to describe a Huili education, I would choose “inspired” because the school’s educational philosophy and pedagogy inspire their pupils’ way of thinking. When Hanni graduates from Huili, no matter where she goes, she will be equipped with the Huili mindset. I think this is the most precious gift that a Huili education provides a pupil.