A lesson in Chinese culture and history – and a lesson in life

Well, my visit to China – to Shanghai and to Beijing as part of the annual symposium and conference of the World Leading Schools Association – was excellent. I met many outstanding educators and was able to share with them, and learn from them, in a way that only ever happens when people come together with a common purpose, which in this case was clearly defined: to seek to improve cultural and educational relationships across our diverse world. With an especial focus on China, this was a particularly instructive first visit from my perspective, and I learned a tremendous amount about the Chinese education system, coming away with a deeper understanding of where its excellence lies, and where it is planning to develop and grow.

I learned, too, about Chinese culture and history in a way which, again, can only really be done by immersing oneself in the place and moment. This is a lesson in itself, which we would do well to remember – the students in our classes need to be brought into that place and moment in order that their imaginations are captured and their thinking stimulated. Whenever we can, we need to transport them – figuratively, if not always literally – to these points where their learning can take off.

Top of my reading for the summer: the sayings of Confucius. Confucius really is everywhere in China, underpinning vast swathes of thought and understanding, that I sense we must, if we want to understand this great and ancient country – and its very modern incarnation – make an effort to read and appreciate the thinkings of one of the world’s great philosophers.

And here are some thoughts, just to get us started:

Learning without thought is labour lost; thought without learning is perilous.

Ignorance is the night of the mind, but a mind without moon and star.

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do.

They must often change who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.


Happy reading and thinking this summer …

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