Day 1 of the Bashu Summit, which brought together educationalists from all over China. Some of my scribbles:-
- Now I know what it feels like to have a translator chatting away to you through an earpiece, rather like I’d seen on the news. I have massive respect for the translators – though it made me miss my translator friends Jebril and Shaima from my UAE experience last month.
- ‘Innovation’ Bingo: it was mentioned 37 times during the morning’s presentations before the tea-break. After that I gave up. The sub-title of the conference is ‘Assessment Innovation: A Drive to the Future.’ If someone can bottle what ‘innovation’ is and deliver it in a classroom, they’d want for nothing.
- The first key-note speaker, Professor Xu from Beijing University, gave a startlingly forward-thinking address about the need for China to take on what I think we would call ‘soft skill’ competencies: critical thinking, citizenship, collaboration, self-respect etc.
- These, he argued, together brought about innovative thinking. What was curious was a repeated reference to the ‘feelings of children’, which suggests China has, up until now, given this short shrift.
- Then, Richard Li, from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), presented a number of interesting charts from their PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) analysis. The conclusion was that students needed to be happy and like their subject in order to succeed. We felt that the graphs actually showed the opposite, but there you go.
- This PISA phenomenon is following me around the world. I remain concerned about its influence on policy-makers.
- Matti Rossi, Senior Education Advisor with FICEA (Finland-China Education Association) spoke with great clarity about his educational beliefs, and how they had been applied to assessment in Finland, particularly Science. There was real ideological rigour to his presentation, with added credibility given the success of Finland’s education system over modern times.
- He was a classic ‘expert’. In England, he would have been burnt at the stake, two or three years ago.
- I loved his ‘flipped classroom’ idea, highlighting the importance of older students presenting and teaching younger students. Expert or not, he clearly trusted teachers and they in turn trusted students. His prospectus for future development was impressive, and it is not surprising that the Chinese have turned to the Finns as they seek to develop 21st Century learning skills in their classrooms.
- Note to all UK teachers. The only standardised, national test for Finnish students is at the age of….18.
- Miss Ma, the school principal (our partner school) showed how Bashu School had developed its assessment systems, and was introducing far more self and peer assessment. Her school is at the forefront of educational development in China, without a doubt.
- After lunch, we got stuck in a lift for twenty minutes. This was a lifetime’s ambition fulfilled.
- Having climbed down the lift void to get out, a group of staggeringly talented pupils played strings and piano to calm our nerves.
- The afternoon workshops were fascinating, again highlighting the strides Chinese schools have taken in developing formative assessment, inching away from the ‘all or nothing’ summative examinations. We were in a pretty advanced school though, and this may not be typical across the country.
- I delivered my speech, taking time to say how proud I was to have been stuck in a lift. I think it was mildly interesting, and certainly, in terms of educational belief, struck the same tone as Professor Xi and Matti Rossi from the morning, if lacking their gravitas and rigour.
Later, we were taken for a rooftop view of Chongqing, a huge city of bridges and rivers. The scale of this city is unimaginable. In its city and wider region, there are more primary schools than in the whole of England. It is immense.