The New British Schools in Beijing

By Collins, Michael | Contemporary Review, October 2005 | Go to article overview
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The New British Schools in Beijing


Collins, Michael, Contemporary Review


BRITISH school education has achieved a worldwide reputation for quality. British schools overseas annually welcome many thousands of students from all over the world and the numbers are increasing. It is no surprise, therefore, that there are now three British Schools in Beijing.

British educational traditions have developed over decades and centuries, led by some world-famous independent schools, like Eton, Harrow and Winchester, and encouraged and monitored by the government. British education is renowned for concerning itself with the development of the whole personality. Learning is important, but not enough in itself. Young people need to develop their potential to explore and discover the world around them, to think for themselves and form opinions, to relate to others, to develop their bodies through sport and physical education, and to gain experience in taking responsibility. Hence British education, while firmly rooted in the European traditions of scholarship and learning, nevertheless enthusiastically embraces these wider objectives. Some overseas schools, however, while teaching in English and promoting themselves as 'British schools', do not follow the National Curriculum for England and Wales, which has a clearly defined series of academic and other objectives at every level, known as the 'Key Stages' with attainment measured by standardised tests. At the same time, many schools that do offer a British curriculum prefer to be known as 'International Schools' to reflect the large number of nationalities among their pupils. In either case, parents who choose a British School anywhere in the world that follows the National Curriculum can be sure that the standards will be comparable to the UK, where government monitoring guarantees quality.

As for the schooling itself, however, British education outside the UK is exclusively in private hands as the British government does not run or support any schools (except for the British Armed Forces in some places and for officials of the European Union in others). Thus there is a wide variety of British schools worldwide, large and small, some primary, some secondary and others all age schools. Some have been founded by companies, others by individuals, while yet others are owned by parents or teachers. The British government plays no part whatsoever in authorising or monitoring these schools, although they may be supervised to varying extents by the authorities in host countries.

Until recently, there was no British international secondary education available in China's capital city, but three British schools have now opened in Beijing--The British School of Beijing, Dulwich College China and Harrow International School Beijing. Offering similar though distinct environments, they all provide expatriate children of many nations a British-style education geared to the English and Welsh National Curriculum and delivered by British-trained teachers, supported in many cases by native English-speaking Teacher's Assistants. Class sizes are 15-20; and the number of non-native English speakers per class is limited.

Situated in the diplomatic quarter, the British School of Beijing was opened on 4 November, 2004 by the British Ambassador, HE Sir Christopher Hum KCMG. The school is a member of the King's Group, a family of six schools located in the UK, Spain and China, and as such is wholly British owned and managed. Perhaps the best known school in the King's Group is St Michael's College, Tenbury Wells, UK. The school is registered with the Department of Education and Skills and is approved by the Education Commission of Beijing. The school is also a member of British International Schools Worldwide, the Council of British International Schools in the European Community and the East Asian Association of British International Schools.

Dulwich College China started its first school in Shanghai, and in 2004 opened another for 500 students in magnificent purpose-built premises in the fast-growing Chaoyang district of Beijing.

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