Seldon sets his sights on Confucius

19th February 2010 at 00:00
Independent head to bring meditation, resilience and 'flow' to three new branches of his school in China

A leading independent school head who famously brought "lessons in happiness" to his Berkshire classrooms has said he now wants to "bring Confucius back to China".

Anthony Seldon, master of Wellington College, said the most populous nation on earth has fallen out of touch with some of the teachings of the ancient thinker, which have been "insufficiently stressed".

Dr Seldon plans to bring his happiness agenda to three branches of his school in the land that gave the world the philosophies of the Tao Te Ching and the art of feng shui.

The timetable of the new schools will include meditation and lessons in topics such as "flow", emotional management and resilience.

The head, who has criticised Britain's results-orientated "factory schools" hopes the Chinese government will also be interested in introducing happiness lessons more widely across state education.

While it may seem at odds with a state that prevents free speech, the communist country is currently reforming its education system and often looks to Britain for ideas on how to move away from rote learning and promote discussion.

Dr Seldon told The TES: "This subject has never been taught in China, and Chinese education is intensely focused on examinations and academic achievement.

"What we are doing is bringing Confucius back to China. There are some aspects (of Confucian thought) that they are rightly very proud of, but there are some aspects, when he's talking about spiritual values, that are insufficiently stressed in their society and schools.

"To flourish in the knowledge economy of the 21st century, children need to have the confidence, strategies and skills to lead their own learning, and not be reliant on teachers to impart knowledge."

The first branch of Wellington in China is due to open in the northern city of Tianjin in September 2011 and will cater for 1,000 pupils. The buildings will be modelled on the college's classical 19th-century architecture in Crowthorne.

Tianjin - population 10 million - is the port for the capital Beijing and is set to become a major international commercial centre like Shanghai.

The school will cater only for the children of international ex-patriots, but it is hoped two further branches of Wellington will have permission to accept Chinese children.

The announcement comes as several other public schools are cashing in on an appetite for British education in the Far East.

Harrow School now runs international schools in Bangkok and Beijing, and Marlborough College plans to build a school in Malaysia.

Others have exploited the lucrative overseas market to boost numbers on British soil.

Confucian wisdom

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

- I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand

- Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves

- He who will not economise will have to agonise

- Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.

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