Recently, I was invited to speak to representatives of the Shanghai Peoples’ Committee for Education. This Committee has responsibility for K-12 schooling in a city of 22 million people with over 4.6 million children in schools. The Chinese Government is committed to improving the quality of their schools to ensure that all students are prepared to contribute to making China an economic powerhouse.
I was asked to talk about the nature of learning and teaching in the 21st century – in particular the work I’ve been doing in my jurisdiction around driving change and innovation into the system. The Chinese curriculum construct is very narrow in the sense that there is a focus on core skills of mathematics, Chinese and English and a pedagogy that is still largely instructional in nature. There is a realisation however that working in a knowledge economy provides new challenges to the existing paradigm.
The interesting thing for me wasn’t the focus on the nature of pedagogy in the 21st century but more on how you change a culture that has been prevalent for so long. The discussions we had on this were very interesting and certainly opened my eyes to the dramatic change that has taken place in China in recent years; their willingness to embrace western approaches to their thinking and doing.