Principals from around the world gather for elementary education conference


International educators attending an international conference held at East China Normal University in Shanghai have called for the development of a high quality, holistic elementary education system with equal opportunity to access.

International educators gather at a conference in Shanghai addressing global elementary education issues. 

Ma Yun, former Alibaba Group CEO, delivers a keynote speech during the convention.

Themed “Connecting Leaders and Creating the Future”, the Oct 23 to 25 conference was attended by 1,500 primary and middle school principals from 50 countries.

During the opening ceremony, Alta van Heerden, president of the International Confederation of Principals, praised the education system in China, calling it a progressive system that is “built on solid research and which demonstrates a willingness to face global changes”.

“I encourage attendees to use this international environment to communicate with like-minded professionals how they can improve in teaching and learning experiences and find solutions for common challenges while creating the future we desire for students,” said Heerden.

Weng Tiehui, vice minister of the Ministry of Education in China, stressed on the significance of equal access to elementary education in a country, noting that over 99.9% of children of schooling age are able to receive education in China, and that the country has been working on providing quality education for children in impoverished areas so as to foster greater equality.

“Principals are key to reaching these goals,” she said.

The role that principals play in the education sector was also highlighted by former Alibaba Group CEO Ma Yun during his keynote speech during the convention.

“The world should encourage the most excellent people to be teachers,” said Ma, who is also the founder of the Jack Ma Foundation.

Founded in 2014, the foundation aims to improve education, environment, public health and personnel development through philanthropic initiatives.

“No matter how the world changes, education has always been a stabilizer that keeps the world steady and acts as a critical path for human beings to obtain knowledge and thrive. The quality of education depends on principals,” he added.

Ma, who celebrated his retirement in September and received the Forbes Lifetime Achievement Award last week, also said that he would now be dedicating his time and fortune to education and philanthropy.

He stressed the education system will need to evolve for children to stay relevant in a digital age where creativity, imagination and independent thinking abilities are the most highly sought-after qualities.

“We also should cultivate children to learn to face failure, to tackle problems and to explore the world,” he said.

“As such, principals should be equipped with abilities not merely in teaching, but school management and allocation of useful teaching resources. Countries should make elementary education a priority as it is during this phase that children develop their interests, core values and basic abilities,” he added.

Among the attendees of the conference was Ji Xiaonan, a student from the high school affiliated to Renmin University of China who shared her thoughts about elementary education. Ji spoke about the discussions with her international peers about the future of elementary education during her exchange program in the United States this summer.

She recalled that a peer from the United Kingdom told her that the schools can improve their e-learning offers so that educational resources can be more updated and efficient. Meanwhile, a student from Japan said that schools should shift their focus from exams to having a global citizenship education. A student from South Korea also suggested that schools should allow students to go home earlier as long school days can be overly stressful.

“I call for school leaders to build a diversified, professional educational environment that respects each student’s interest and personality, nurtures their leadership and critical thinking ability, as well as brings happiness,” said Ji.

Established in 1990, the International Confederation of Principals organizes annual gatherings for school leaders around the world to network, collaborate and share practices that will initiate positive change and enhance outcomes for students across the globe.

Source: China Daily


East China Normal University