Report on the 2nd Sino-International Schools Forum held at Dulwich College, London, 1st to 4th April 2006


Conference Purpose & Delegates

The conference was organised by the China Europe Education & Research Consortium (CHEER), funded by the government of China, with the purpose of “Establishing connections and broadening horizons; increasing Chinese-Western education cooperation”.


More than 75 Principals and their assistants from High Schools in three main centres attended: Shanghai, Beijing and Wenzhuou. There were colleagues from British schools and a Principal from Australia, who had already had experiences of links with some of these High Schools, and a British delegate from Holland. The Deputy Head of Brighton School, wrongly credited in the press with being the first UK school to introduce compulsory Chinese for students, was also present. I was the only delegate from Spain.


Conference Programme

After an ice-breaker Thames River cruise on Saturday evening, with music by a trio of Y13 students from Dulwich College, the conference proper began the next morning with an opening speech by a representative of the Chinese Embassy in London.


The keynote speaker was Sir John Bond, Chairman HSBC Bank. Sir John was passionate about the importance of a change in attitude in Western schools.

  • As a person close to retirement he challenged those educators present to reflect on whether our schools have changed the languages we teach.
  • HSBC is promoting UK/China links of teachers and students, collaborating with British Council, and their work has helped to establish Chinese language teaching in 150 schools in the UK.
  • A graphic example of Chinese trading strength is that one third of all ties sold in the world are made in one city in China.
  • He reminded us that China, population 1,500 million, has now overtaken the UK and is the world’s fourth largest economy.
  • His concern is that too many schools are still teaching the same languages which were taught when he was a schoolboy.


Ten more speakers followed throughout the day. The most significant school represented was the High School Affiliated to the Renmin University of China, Beijing. A video showed a modern campus equipped to the highest standards, offering an education for the three years preceding university entrance to 4,000 students.  This school is widely regarded by the other delegates as the top school in China. I spoke to the Executive Vice Principal and his assistant several times during the weekend. They have regular contacts with British Council in Beijing, and will happily welcome our group next February.


Mr. Graham Able, Master of Dulwich College outlined plans for a joint venture school which will offer selected Chinese candidates a course leading to six A levels, with a view to entry to Ivy League USA and UK Oxbridge universities.


On Monday 3rd the whole conference party travelled to Eton College. After an introduction by Mr Tony Little, Headmaster, seven more presentations followed, including a speaker from the UK Girls’ Day School Trust, with a video presentation in Chinese language, and Dr Barbara Kennedy, admissions tutor at Oxford University.


On Tuesday 4th I joined the group at St. Paul’s Girls’ School. There were more opportunities for establishing contacts over lunch, and the Chinese delegates were able to tour the school premises and present their questions to the Headmistress.


The Chinese Delegates

The Conference provided a clear indication of the interest of the elite schools in China in making links with schools overseas. A number of the schools represented have already established twinning arrangements, student visits and teacher exchanges with UK schools. Some schools have arranged performance tours in Europe with their music students.

Selected school representatives showed great interested in Spain and Spanish language. Some schools already teach Spanish; two principals asked for help in contacting native Spanish teachers to join their staff.


Helpful advice

The Principal of Pembroke School, Australia has an established twinning arrangement with a school in Shanghai. His advice was to make very definite arrangements from the outset, and to keep to a finite range of tasks.

Two colleagues from Altrincham School for Girls have had very satisfactory experiences with schools in Beijing, including the High School Affiliated to Renmin University.

All the UK contacts insisted on the success of their student exchange programmes with schools in China.