University of Chicago Center in Beijing
20th Floor, Culture Plaza
59A Zhong Guan Cun Street
Haidian District, Beijing
On June 30, as part of EdTalks Global Elite Universities Alumni Education Forum series on the pre-school education industry, “Little Kids, Big Future” was held at the University of Chicago Center in Beijing. UChicago Beijing Alumni Club is one of the organizing alumni clubs. The forum, which targeted key issues in pre-school education, invited 3 speakers and 5 other roundtable discussants to share their views, and brought together about 40 people to the Beijing Center. Representing the hosting clubs, Nancy Zhao, President of the Northwestern Alumni Club of Beijing, gave the forum introduction, as well as welcomed and thanked participants.
Elizabeth Walker Sobhani, Managing Director of the Family Learning House Education Group, delivered a speech that focused on virtues-based education, which can be extended to character and social emotional education, a new model of education that the Family Learning House Education Group has developed. She explained that the elements contributing to character and social emotional learning development in a school include school ethos, physical environment, and teachers modeling good character, among others. Her group’s day-by-day character education curricula for 3-7 year-olds include truthfulness, courtesy, gentleness, responsibility, and cleanliness. Ms. Sobhani also introduced the Family Learning House Kindergarten, which has 2 campuses in Beijing, with one expected to open in Hefei in September 2019.
Vivien Wang, Chairwoman and CEO of Etonkids, then gave her speech. Etonkids is an advocator and practitioner of Montessori education. Etonkids values Montessori education, because it fully respects the personality of children; helps children to develop excellent character, perseverance and independent personality; and guides children to gain the ability to attain happiness.
Ms. Wang elaborated on some of the Montessori ideas, such as children have the ability to learn; teachers are not instructors, but should observe and be assistants to children; and children between age 0-6 years old will experience 31 sensitive periods. If the environment meets the requirements of this sensitive period, the child learns very quickly, and may develop certain traits, interests, or so-called talents. Ms. Wang shared some of her thoughts that adults should give children encouragement, not praise, because praise deprives children’s of their desires and needs. Her advice to working parents is for them to arrange their work reasonably and to accompany their children, in order to enjoy parent-child time. Ms. Wang said she will continue to promote Montessori education with her team, be a transmitter of love and education, and contribute to the early education development in China.
The third speaker was Dr. Xiao Lu Lin Zi, President of the Uncle Sam Education Group. Dr. Xiao Lu brought his organization’s key message: Citizens of the world, growing naturally. “Citizens of the world” encompasses the concepts of a generation with a mission to the world; of a generation thinking about individual contributions to humanity, respecting different cultures and values; and reflecting on the relationship between the individual and the world.
Dr. Xiao Lu emphasized naturalism education, the goal of training is a "natural person", protecting children's innocence, and letting their personality develop fully. She thought children should take the initiative in their own education and growth. She also provided an overall picture of the Uncle Sam Education Group.
The speeches were followed by two roundtables, moderated by Nancy Zhao, and a Q&A section. The topic of the Roundtable I was "Do you really know your children? --How can Kindergarten Education help Children Aged 0-6?” Dr. Xiao Lu Lin Zi, Gao Wenqing (Teaching Director at Etonkids), Elizabeth Walker Sobhani, Levi, and Yao Nana (Vice President of Beijing Preschool Education Association) served as panel discussants. The discussants attached importance to developing connections with children, educating parents, developing children’s concentration, and letting children make their choices.
The topic of Roundtable II was “Versatility or single-point breakthrough? Discovery of Young Children’s Interests.” The discussants were Yao Nana, Yang Shuang (Director of Pperations, Sunshine Guava Children Gym), and Zhang Fei (Course Design Director, Tsinghua University Lifelong Learning Laboratory). Yao Nana put forward that Go is a treasure of Chinese traditional culture; Yang Shuang believes that sports make a better future for children; and Zhang Fei focuses on children’s creativity development.
In the Q&A section, the audience brought up such questions as “What to do if kids do not like to eat?” and “How to choose between public schools and private schools?” The discussants gave patient and professional answers. Some audience members also joined the discussion. After the meeting, the participants said they benefited a lot from the forum.
The forum was organized by the MIT Alumni club of Beijing, the Northwestern Alumni Club of Beijing, the UChicago Beijing Alumni Association, the USC Alumni Club of Beijing and supported by some other university alumni clubs. The forum was the first one of many EdTalks Global Elite Universities Alumni Education Forum series. There are more forums to expect.