Laurence Curtis, Primary School Principal at Tsinglan Shan School
How did you find this job opening at Tsinglan School?
Just online via LinkedIn. I was working back home in England at that time and have previously been to China once. I knew that I wanted to come back and finish what I planned to do, which would be influencing physical education in China.
What is the meaning of international education in Tsinglan?
A lot of these students are Chinese. They want to be embedded into this sort of international mindedness. This school teaches an international curriculum that focuses on Western missions, but we make sure that these Chinese students remember where they came from. Heritage and their motherland are vital to these students. However, we also cater to international students, and we enroll students from overseas. We have students with foreign passports.
We wanted to move away from an experimental school or a bilingual school. We like to see ourselves (the Tsinglan School) as a system that pursues international education, but we don’t meet the requirements of an international school.
Can you talk about the background of the “Huawei school?”
We have two stakeholders. One stakeholder would be Huawei, and the other is Tsinghua University. The education side is from Tsinghua, who fosters a lot of the teachers that graduated from Tsinghua. On the other side, we have Huawei, who are the investors of this school. They came up with the idea and concept and relocated their resources to this wonderful campus. The European town, which is well worth a visit, is about ten minutes away from here. A lot of the Huawei employees have been overseas, and a lot of their children were enrolled in international schools. They’ve been in Africa, South America, Europe… So, everyone is very accustomed to the idea and concept of international education. English is their first language, while they still have the cultural values of being Chinese. We call them third culture children.
When they first came to China, their parents may or may not have wanted to enroll them in a public system. Maybe the students’ Chinese level is not quite enough to be able to enter the system due to missing a lot of elementary or primary school Chinese education. Therefore, we put all these building blocks together and created a school of international education.
What’s the percentage of students that are kids of employees at Tsinglan?
I would estimate around 40 percent or more. It is continuously increasing as Huawei develops and brings more employees back. We need to have available seats for those employees who may need to enroll their children into our school.
How do you define the clients of the Tsinglan School?
I think that some of the parents are under the category of being wealthy because they have to be able to afford the tuition. With overall clients, the most important thing is retention. We don’t want to lose students. In the last few years, we’ve gone from 175 to 800 students, so there is definitely a market for this type of education. We want clients that value the Chinese program, but they may not want their child to sit through tough and stressful exams. After they undergo the whole education process, they may also want the opportunity to go overseas. At Tsinglan School, they have the opportunity to internationalize. We have that balance between the Chinese elements of things and certainly the international side.
Do you think there will be more schools by Huawei?
I think so. If you say we’re sort of a trial run and somewhat successful, then why not continue? You know, education is changing. We should be changing. In the 21st century, we’re looking at integrating technology into classrooms, especially since we’re supported by a tech giant here in China. It’s something I’m certainly proud of and I want to be immersed in this education shift.
Are you planning to stay at the Tsinglan School for a long time?
I hope so. My own philosophy of education is opportunity. If you want to be a sports person, we have sports academies. If you want to be an artist, we have art courses. If you strive for educational success in academics, our teachers can cater to the needs of those students.