Learning Challenge Curriculum in Shanghai

International Education Consultancy in… Shanghai

I recently went on the most amazing adventure.

When Linda emailed to ask whether I would travel to Shanghai to provide international education consultancy and introduce the Learning Challenge Curriculum into a primary school there, my brain didn’t have a chance to catch up to my fingers as they wrote ‘YES!’

The school I visited was a brand new international primary school set just outside the main city. When I say brand new, I absolutely mean brand new; in fact, they were still building certain parts of it as I delivered the training. The fact that the building is having the final additions added did not prevent parents from enrolling their children, mainly, I think, owing to the excellent reputation of the Dulwich College chain.

Social Media

One thing that I didn’t factor in was the lack of communication using my favourite social media tools, which are, of course, not used in China. Not being able to Tweet about the fantastic things I was experiencing was frustrating!

The headmaster arranged a car to pick me up at 6.30 am, and I travelled through a very unfamiliar landscape to the college. Minhang was not what I expected at all – very green with gated residential areas off a main dual carriageway.

The college was spectacular. A stunning building both inside and out, with an Olympic-sized swimming pool, sports centre, theatre and more space than I would know what to do with. Talking to the new teachers, they recognised how very exciting the prospect of this brand new space was, having worked in a variety of places like Kuwait, Thailand and Beijing, sometimes in buildings lacking space and amenities.

Shanghai School

The philosophy behind the Learning Challenge Curriculum

The training I delivered over the two days was to introduce the new staff team to the philosophy behind the Learning Challenge Curriculum. The teachers all came from entirely different starting points. Some had been working out of the UK for several years, some were from other countries like New Zealand, and some were straight from the UK but from an independent school background. The beauty of the Learning Challenge is that it is an approach to the curriculum – one that will give children autonomy and responsibility for their learning. We talked a lot about the qualities we want children to have, including independence, resilience and persistence and how staff can promote these qualities through everyday teaching. What was really interesting for me was putting the Learning Challenge Curriculum into the local and national context. Staff who live locally became the ‘local experts’, ensuring children learned about the Shanghai area and Chinese figureheads. I was particularly interested in looking at some of the suggested challenges from the point of view of China’s history. I realised the different perspectives teachers must adopt to give children the information they need.

Unpicking skills, knowledge and understanding

Shanghai School

On the second day of training, we really started to unpick the skills, knowledge and understanding the children would need and how to bring learning to life through ‘wow’ starters and ‘hands-on’ experiences. Several other challenges presented themselves – some of the teachers are subject specialists and will only teach Spanish or science, for example. This was an exciting opportunity to look at the continuity of learning from class teacher to subject specialist. We also explored how the Learning Challenge Curriculum will be used for children and young adults from 11 to 18. We concluded that children and young adults aged 2 to 18 will benefit from the same values and approach embedded in the philosophy of the Learning Challenge.

I have asked the staff to keep me informed of how the Learning Challenge Curriculum unfolds over the next 12 months and have been invited to return to review the curriculum and to look at the next steps in curricular development.

I took my daughter along for the adventure and we had five days to explore after the consultancy was completed. Here are some highlights!

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A boat tour

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Lots of different things to see at Tesco

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An Ancient water village

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A visit to one of the many temples

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Sampling the tea

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Continue the Conversation

To understand more about the Focus Learning Challenge Curriculum, click here, keep an eye on the Focus Education blog, find us on Twitter @FocusEducation1, or get in touch with the Focus Education office on 01457 821 818. If you are an international school and you would like a consultant to support you in embedding the Learning Challenge into your school, please head to our International Consultancy page.


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