Preparing children for a global 21st century

Europe’s first English Chinese Dual Language Early Years and Prep School will open in London early 2017.

Kensington Wade School will open its doors in 2017. Chairman Professor Hugo de Burgh explains how the school can prepare pupils for Common Entrance and also be fluent in Chinese.Now that so much international business is conducted in Chinese, being able to mix in that world is a precious asset. China is the most important trading partner for more than 120 countries around the world and is set to be the world’s largest economy by 2020. China also happens to be the most advanced in the use of digital media, with more new media users than any other country and more netizens than India and the USA combined.British ministers such as former Chancellor George Osborne and former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan have been actively encouraging Chinese language teaching in British schools – and 17 per cent of state and 45 per cent of independent schools now have some kind of provision. Many argue that French should be replaced with Chinese as the obligatory foreign language, and that, as an intellectual exercise, it is at least as instructive as Latin, which most English elite schools still teach.

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Maths Mastery

A consensus has emerged that we have a good deal to learn from Chinese schooling. One of the main proponents of this has been the Schools Standards Minister Nick Gibb who is driving the initiative to introduce Chinese-based Maths Mastery into schools and encouraging English headteachers and maths specialists to go to China to find out why children do so well.Chinese children learn mathematics better and faster than children of the same age in Anglosphere schools; if the PISA test results are to be believed, Shanghai children are the world leaders. This is not because of ‘rote’ learning; rather the opposite. A team of UK maths teachers that went to Shanghai found that their peers have more time to prepare classes, give fuller feedback, inspire collaboration between advanced and laggard pupils and are better at getting their students to focus. The Department for Education has set up 35 specialist teaching centres to spread Maths Mastery techniques and now plan for 8,000 primary schools to re-introduce whole-class teaching ‘the Chinese way’.Bilingualism itself is of immense benefit. Experts enthuse about its contributions to cognitive development and how bilingual children learn subsequent languages with greater ease. Around 450 bilingual schools have started up in the USA, of which 25 are bilingual with Chinese. Many employ the immersion method that Kensington Wade will apply, where children are fully immersed in English and Chinese on alternate days and all subjects are covered in both languages.

Cognitive benefits

There are further advantages when the other language is logographic rather than alphabetic. At the most basic, it is stretching the memory; by the end of a Chinese child's elementary school career, s/he will have learnt 3,000 Chinese ideograms as a foundation. So Chinese children learn to memorise rapidly and, as did our forbears, tend to have a well-stocked repertoire of poems, songs and data that they can draw upon because of that early memory training. Moreover, because the learner is drawing pictures rather than recording pronunciation when they learn to write Chinese, scientists have identified special cognitive benefits.China is a mighty big country and, unsurprisingly, you can find every kind and quality of school there. Just as in England, the leading ones combine a knowledge-based approach with opportunities to reflect and discuss; they also balance the academic with the practical and creative.Kensington Wade will take the best of both systems. We are proud of the English genius at encouraging creativity and enterprise and balancing school work with sport, crafts, dance, music and social service. But we also want to see our children flourish thanks to lessons from China and learn to communicate in the world’s most spoken language – in writing, digitally and face to face. This combination makes for a curriculum that really does prepare children for the 21st century.

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