The Power of Thought, the Light of Ideals. The “KingLead Global Leading Principals” series aims to discover leading principals worldwide. Lead the development of the industry with the ideological power of leading principals. Ignite the passion with the belief of leading principals and cultivating more innovative talents. Promote social progress and promote human development!
Time flies, but human thoughts are immortal. Things change, but ideals remain forever.
Following is an exclusive interview with Wenping Li, Executive Principal of Tsinghua International School.
第三件事，是在“未来已来”的AI时代，寻找到AI赋能教育，赋能课程设置和学生发展的路径，培养面向未来的学生。国际部在今年5月邀请了相关领域的专家和大咖，针对“AI赋能教育”的主题召开了研讨会，共同商议学校、家长和学生如何应对AI所带来的机遇和挑战。在校内，我们有学生自主开发了“AI Note taker”的应用程序，老师们自主成立了“人工智能委员会”，也已经开展了针对人工智能和教学的相关研究和培训。通过积极拥抱AI，我们希望培养学生的好奇心、自主性和创造力；同时，我们也将眼光聚焦在学生的身心健康上，加强学生们的社交能力和内心的韧性，培养他们成为“德才兼备”的卓越人才。
I. Teaching Students in A Positive Way
Character Building is
the Root for Future Success
Wenping Li, Executive Principal of Tsinghua International School： Some things are just meant to be. I didn’t dream of becoming a teacher in high school, but when I graduated from teacher-training and became a teacher, I realised that I was particularly suited to being a teacher. No matter what my worries were, as soon as I entered the classroom, I was “revived” and happy as I can be.
I grew up from a front-line teacher to a headmaster. As I grew up, I never asked to be a headmaster or any other position, because when people recognised my feelings and passion in the work and recognize my ability, they would give me the post of headmaster. A leader once told me that a headteacher affects a class of students; a leader of the grade affects a whole grade of students; and becoming a headmaster means that the whole school benefits from the headmaster’s ideas. This is how I grew up, and I have always had a constant love for education throughout this process.
Wenping Li, Executive Principal of Tsinghua International School: We always say that the obligation of a teacher is imparting knowledge and educating people. I have always enjoyed imparting knowledge and educating people, especially educating people. When I was a teacher, not only did I never shout to my students,, also willing to encourage them, see their sparkle and letting them grow up in happy and suny phenomenon. In my opinion, teacher should be in passion, because teachers’ passion can infect students and also help them grow up, do not always focus on their weakness. We do appreciation and recognoze their worth through learning.
In my opinion, being a person is the first priority. More than ten years ago, I was the head of the junior high school teaching and research team at Tsinghua High School. An event that occurred at that time, in preparation for the class meeting, several students in the class went to the library and brought back a pile of newspapers. They placed the newspaper around my workstation, but it collapsed and I had to step over it to sit on the workstation. Moving newspapers is a good thing, however, I cannot accept that they pile them up so disorderly that I need to step on them to enter and exit the workstation. Later, I invited whole class students visited my office as groups, who were responsible for moving newspapers also reflected upon it. After that,I taught the children that being a person is the first priority, not always asking about grades, but to do things well first, and to become a model for everyone in character and behavior.
In my opinion, basic education is to feed students’ whole life. It is essential to build them characteristic and personality. I am working for build their personality. having empathy ability, thinking about others, having good reliability are required ability for students future development. We have a lot of students got offers from famous universities adn colleges. We did not do much advertisements, for me, I pay more attention to their growing processes. We wish to see their development.
I believe that basic education is more important than anything else in cultivating students personality. I pay attention to shaping students’ character. In a team or group, your degree is not necessary, students with empathy, the ability to think for others, and the ability to do things reliably. Those who take these qualities have an excellent future. Many of our students are admitted to prestigious schools, but we rarely promote them, because in our opinion, the growth of students is the most important thing, and what we want to see is their growth.
Wenping Li, Executive Principal of Tsinghua International School: The principal is a key figure in leading a school forward, and the principal must first stand tall and have a forward-looking vision. Education is future-oriented, and principals must be able to see what others cannot see and be good guides for school development. For example, ChatGPT is developing rapidly, it brings many opportunities and challenges to education, and how to make artificial intelligence empower education is what I have been thinking about recently. On the one hand, I have asked teachers interested in ChatGPT to set up a research committee on AI and education, and on the other hand, I have invited industry experts in AI into our school to brainstorm with our teachers and students on what the new generation of AI means for education, what kind of changes our school needs, and how we want to cultivate future-oriented students.
At the same time, principals need to have leadership that empowers their teams. Empowering, some call it Enabling, means that leaders are to be liberators, motivators, discussion initiators and participants. “Easy to understand that I’m good at putting a system together that makes you ‘able’ because you have a unique endowment that will work in this enabling field.” My years of experience working in the international education field have convinced me that the role of a leader is to provide support and service, in addition to leading, rather than putting myself on a pedestal. I am an emotional person, and I bring this warmth-filled appeal to my management. In school management, I like to find ways to stimulate the potential of my team, to achieve together with everyone, and to strive to make the team self-decision-making, self-driven and self-growing. Before making any decisions, I always listen to the opinions of front-line Chinese and foreign teachers, first from the bottom up and then from the top down, so that everyone feels respected and empowered. Therefore, the annual theme of this year’s International Department and Qinglanshan is Empowered Growth.
At the same time, in an international school, the principal also needs to have international understanding, which means cross-cultural communication skills. In communicating with foreign teachers, sometimes it does not matter who is right or wrong, just that we have different backgrounds and philosophies and approach things from different perspectives, but our goal is the same which is to make the school better. If we don’t respect foreign teachers and understand them, they won’t agree with us from the bottom of their hearts. Therefore, I will communicate more with foreign teachers and gradually build trust in each other, although this process will take some time.
Principals need to have the ability to lead the development of teaching and curriculum. Principals need to have a deep understanding of teaching and curriculum development and be able to drive innovation and improve the quality of teaching and learning. In THIS, I have spent a lot of energy on curriculum and teaching supervision, constantly optimizing the curriculum, frequently going into classrooms to listen the lessons and understand the actual situation on the front line and the needs of teachers and students in order to better support refinement and ensure a high level of quality education and teaching.
II. Rooted in Chinese Culture,
Protecting Students’ Curiosity
and their Thirst for Knowledge
Wenping Li, Executive Principal of Tsinghua International School: Tsinghua International School is a small but sophisticated school. In the past 14 years, our school is very well accepted by parents and we have a particularly good reputation among them.
Each school should develop its own unique characteristics. Running a characteristic school means always keeping their school’s vision and mission in mind, and designing the education system according that. Our educational mission is to cultivate students who are rooted in Chinese culture and become international outstanding talents with independent thinking ability and innovative spirit.
One of the key points in our mission is the rooting and nurturing of Chinese culture. We have done a very solid job in this regard. In terms of language literacy, we use the same language teaching materials as public schools, and we have activities such as Chinese debating competitions, Chinese newspapers and Chinese writing workshops. The enthusiasm our students hold and the effort that they put made me so proud, and they have won the crown in Chinese debating competitions alongside public school students.
When recruiting Chinese teachers, we also place great importance on their Chinese accomplishment and their guidance and training of students. In addition to language classes, Chinese history, geography and oriental art classes all help students to understand Chinese language and culture and the history of China. By systematically building up a trinity of language, Chinese history and oriental art, we develop students’ literacy that is ‘rooted in Chinese culture’.
The deep integration of Chinese and Western, and the dual mother tongue training of Chinese and English have become the most prominent features of the International Department. We want our students to go out and tell the Chinese story, and come back and adapt to the Chinese society and be comfortable in both cultures. Our students have not only won first place in the World Scholars Cup in English, the gold medal in the British Biology Olympiad, and the U.S. Academic Decathlon China championship, but have also won numerous competitions in Chinese drama, chorus, and debate.
In addition, as a Tsinghua school, the school spirit is positive and the school spirit is strong. I remember when I first arrived at the international division, the school was establishing various rules and regulations, and when I was greeting the students at the entrance of the school, I saw that some students came to school wearing slippers. “I asked him how he could wear flip-flops to school. The student told me that because we are an international school, we can wear flip-flops. I said at the time that because we are an international school with the words ‘Tsinghua High School’ as the definitive word, we can’t come to school in flip-flops, and that we have to establish rules from hair to dress code.” It is this constant balance and friction between Chinese and Western cultures, public and international, that has shaped the simple and down-to-earth school spirit and strong and rigorous academic style of the students in the international department now.
Wenping Li, Executive Principal of Tsinghua International School: In terms of curriculum, we incorporated STEAM courses 10 years ago because we need to develop students’ innovation, Integrated interdisciplinary skills, hands-on skills and collaboration.
In terms of teaching methods, we encourage students to be innovative, to be different, and to express their unique ideas, and we want to protect students’ curiosity and desire to learn. Sometimes, in Art Class, teachers also assign innovative assignments in which students create a fusion artwork of two irrelevant objects and state the significance of doing so as they create something new. For example, one student once combined the front half of a fish with the back half of a pen, meaning that he, as a student, wanted to show the serious problem of ocean pollution through the pen. Encouraging students to be creative means not setting up standard answers, encouraging students to ask questions, and protecting children’s creativity.
We build opportunities for students to grow, empower them and encourage them to do things on their own. To do everything for children would be to cruelly deny them the opportunity to grow. So, we deliberately leave things undone and give students the initiative to do things for themselves. We also encourage students to develop on their own and get their drive going so that they know what they want to do. Many parents say that after a few years in Tsinghua International School, children don’t need to be forced to learn. This makes us very proud.
Wenping Li, Executive Principal of Tsinghua International School: While students come first, the team of teachers also comes first because without good teachers, how can we have good students?
We have high standards for teacher selection. Whether we are recruiting Chinese or foreign teachers, we look at their educational background, teaching experience, and also whether they care about the children and have enough respect for them. Therefore, we ask teachers this question in the interview session: give us an example of a student they have helped. For a teacher, teaching is as simple as teaching knowledge to the student; but to “lift” the student, the teacher needs art, wisdom, love and patience.
We take teaching and research very seriously. Every Wednesday afternoon, we spend nearly three hours doing teaching and research. We have plenary meetings, primary section meetings, secondary section meetings, teaching and research leader meetings, grade leader meetings, and PBL training … We do curriculum planning, data analysis, reflections and so on in our teaching and research.
We also have individualised teacher growth programmes. Each teacher needs to listen to other teachers’ lessons and after finishing, they need to write down their summaries, the good aspects that they found and shortcomings that need to be improved. Because of these, teachers can self-reflect constantly, summarize, improve and overpass. We have also set up a platform where teachers upload their planning to the site. These plans can be both growth goals in teaching and personal and school development goals. School leaders will help teachers with their planning and support them along the way, and look back at the plans with them to see how far the goals have been achieved, what difficulties they have encountered and what support they need from the school … This works very well to promote the internal drive of teachers to grow on their own.
We have also set up a platform which is overseen by the academic principal and curriculum director: when teachers are working on a large unit, what are the core questions of the unit? At the end of the unit, will the children have acquired knowledge competencies that can be transferred to their future lives? With these as goals, teachers design assessment to test whether the goals are met, and design appropriate instructional activities …… Teachers upload these to the teaching and learning platform so that academic principals, curriculum directors, and other leaders can track teachers’ lesson planning processes and provide timely guidance.
III. Cultivating Innovative Talents,
Starting from solving practical problems
Wenping Li, Executive Principal of Tsinghua International School: The ability to identify problems and ask questions is the key. Just like the well-known question —— “Why can’t out school cultivate outstanding scientific innovative talents?” from Qian Xuesen . Children can do “from one to many” very well, but they are not good at “from zero to one”, that is, from nothing to something. Just like after the cell phone was invented, several cell phone brands emerged in China, but we did not do “from zero to one”. Therefore, it is important to protect students’ curiosity and thirst for knowledge, and let them boldly query, ask questions, and express different ideas.
It’s also incredibly important to have your own judgment and not to follow the crowd. Our mission is to help our children become better versions of themselves, not to become “someone else’s child”. We often hear parents comparing their children to other children and say that their children are not as good as other people’s children. At such times, I would show the parents what other parents look like. How can parents ask their children to become “someone else’s child” if they have not become “someone else’s parent”? We encourage parents to focus more on the unique growth path of their kids, to help students discover their own interests and keep working in that direction.
The school offers an Independent Research Project for twelfth-grade students, providing a platform for academically strong students to deeply explore topics of interest in depth. This program offers students an opportunity for autonomous development and helps them gain a clearer understanding of their future exploration directions. Under the guidance of mentors within the school, students develop project objectives, research questions, research plans, and assessment criteria. They regularly meet with their mentors to discuss the progress of their research plans and participate in project defenses. Each year, the Independent Research Project covers various fields. This year’s graduating class selected topics from biology, history, art, technology, social sciences, English language and literature, Chinese language and literature, etc., demonstrating the students’ diverse research interests and enthusiasm for scientific inquiry. Some of the topics researched by the students included the International Department’s carbon neutrality plan, the origins of quantum physics, behavioral economics in advertising, bioengineering and pollution, Egyptian aesthetics in mummy portraits, and facial recognition in the media, and so on.
Wenping Li, Executive Principal of Tsinghua International School: One of the things we want to do is to expand students’ knowledge and experience of various future careers. One of the problems facing society today is that some students don’t know how they should solve practical problems after working. Therefore, we are working on teamwork, problem identification, and problem solving skills through PBL and other methods so that students know very clearly what the problem is, what the reasons behind the problem are, and what support they need to seek to solve the problem …… Students should not only know this, but also be able to handle it in a very organized manner.
We will create career experience sites where students can go to factories, law firms, etc. We want to get students to travel more outside the classroom to learn, partly to experience careers and partly to understand what people in all walks of life are doing, so that theory is better connected to practice.
We have “invite in” and “go out” activities in terms of school-enterprise combination. For example, we have invited parents to campus and let them introduced to students about how a company works and how each position in the company works. In the future, we’re going to be more systematic in solidifying some great resources.
The second thing is breaking down the walls of learning. Not only are we going to move the disciplinary experience to the museum, but we’re going to develop a museum curriculum from a historical and Chinese perspective. There are many resources in Beijing that can support our museum curriculum.
Not long ago, the eighth graders went out to plant trees, and the students were very happy because they hadn’t been out to plant trees in a long time due to the pandemic. Learning at school is one thing, and hands-on activities like this are another. Such practical activities can pry students’ thinking in a certain aspect, and can pry students’ interests and specialties. Therefore, school-enterprise combination and career experience base … we will put these into practice as soon as possible.
The third thing is to explore the path of empowering education, curriculum design, and student development through AI in the era of “The Future Has Arrived”, cultivating students who are oriented towards the future. In May of this year, the International Department invited experts in related fields to hold a seminar on the theme of “AI Empowering Education”, discussing together how schools, parents, and students can respond to the opportunities and challenges brought by AI. Within the school, we have students who have independently developed an application called “AI Note Taker,” and teachers have voluntarily formed an “Artificial Intelligence Committee,” engaging in relevant research and training on artificial intelligence and teaching. By actively embracing AI, we hope to foster students’ curiosity, autonomy, and creativity. At the same time, we also focus on students’ physical and mental well-being, enhancing their social skills and inner resilience, and cultivating them to become “moral and ability” excellence.
审核 Auditing | Toni Dong, Wenping Li