Patron Sir Anthony Seldon Asks All Schools to Take China Seriously

Sir Anthony Seldon is Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, former Headteacher & author of over 35 books on contemporary history, politics & education. He was a pioneer in opening a dedicated Mandarin Learning Centre in 2012 to enable his pupils at Wellington, “to embrace China.” We are delighted that Sir Anthony is Patron of Engage with China.

In this video, Sir Anthony stresses the importance for “all schools … to take China seriously.” He continues, “like it or not, China is going to be the dominant country as [young people] go forward in their lives…” Sir Anthony is renowned for his contributions to the public debate on education. His insights into the importance, content and purpose of education, the ‘school journey,’ the role of pastoral care, the development of skills & the role of assessments are well-known. He is familiar with the mental health fall-out that can often accompany the student experience, exam & peer pressures & the ‘one size fit all’ methods employed in teaching today. Indeed, he was the first Head to introduce “happiness” lessons into the curriculum in 2006. His belief that, “all school leaders should ensure that you really do engage with China – both inside & outside the curriculum,” is validation indeed of the vision of Engage with China.

I was fascinated to read his book, ‘The Fourth Education Revolution.’ In it, Sir Anthony stresses the importance of educators to consider now how best to equip young people for a future that we cannot even conceive of yet due to the speed of change happening through AI. This means that educators must re-think what the right & relevant skills, knowledge, mindset and learning styles are to enable our young people to adapt, learn, re-learn & live fulfilled lives.

Educators will be familiar with the four categories of the educational framework as devised by the Center for Curriculum Redesign, namely:
1) Knowledge – what we know & understand – facts – around traditional subjects including maths & history
2) Skills – (how we use what we know, including creativity, communication & critical thinking)
3) ‘Character’ – (how we behave & engage in the world such as mindfulness, curiosity, ethics & leadership) &
4) ‘Meta-learning’ – how we reflect on what we learn, re-learn & adapt

We already know that secondary school pupils, and the primary school pupils to follow after them, will graduate into a world that is vastly different from today. We would argue that China should absolutely appear in the knowledge category above. Knowledge is power and, as the rise of China will play an increasing role on the world-stage, young people would be disadvantaged if they do not understand more about its characteristics and impact. But it shouldn’t just stop there.

COVID has forced us to fast-forward and examine the place, role, necessity and
effectiveness of online learning, the platforms available to use & the way that students can access & engage with them. AI, big data, climate change, terrorism, nationalism, the ramifications of Brexit, dare we dream it, a post-COVID world… all of these will shape the life experiences, motivations, aspirations & opportunities of our young people. This is where the other categories in the educational framework are so vital to consider.

If young people do not to discover something deeper of China’s ancient civilisation or its size and scale then we deny them the ability to compare and contrast different systems of governance, the culture of the Chinese people or to understand our role in its history. Looking at these will absolutely help in shaping their meta-learning. As they learn about China and reflect on their own national values and systems, they will hone skills around curiosity and critical thinking, courageous advocacy and encourage them to interrogate news and unconscious bias.

We believe that this fresh China learning, provided by Engage with China, that can be linked across all curriculum subjects, would prompt young people to think about what they can learn from the Chinese about resilience, social networks and a global outlook, for example. This in turn will develop their character skills as they discover more about themselves, the importance of communication, interaction & diplomacy. More than ever will our young people need to be ready to collaborate and lead as they contemplate & shape their place within this fast-changing world. We believe we need to start doing this now. We owe it to our young people.

About: At Engage with China, we believe that without understanding China, its modern context, its economic growth and its cultural mindset, young people will be greatly disadvantaged in their future lives. Our curriculum enrichment programmes build China literacy in order to enable young people to achieve fulfilment and success in a world where China will occupy a greater space in geo-politics, economic development (& recovery), the environment, technology and the global job-market.

Find out more about our extra-curricular enrichment programmes:

Published by H-J Colston

H-J is Joint CEO of Chopsticks Club and a regular speaker on China. Through training and events, she has been building cultural literacy about China from the boardroom to the classroom since 1993. She designed and delivered a “Doing Business in China” course at Pearson Business School. She was invited to meet President Xi Jinping during his state visit to the UK in 2015 in recognition of her work in building China-UK relations. She has a degree in Chinese Studies from the University of Durham. Find out more at and

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