July 03, 2003
Dulwich in Shanghai

In a rush to do my Education Blog duties I trawled through the National Press, which I try not to do too often, because this can get very boring, especially when it involves the impossible-to-answer question: Are Things Getting Better or Are Things Getting Worse?

Anyway, the most interesting thing I found was undoubtedly this piece from the Guardian:

Some of the most historic names in British education are cropping up all over the far east as public schools begin to tap the vast and lucrative markets of China, Malaysia and Thailand.

In two months' time, Shrewsbury School, alma mater to Sir Philip Sidney and Charles Darwin, will open its first international branch in Bangkok. Last week Dulwich College started work on a new Chinese franchise in Shanghai, adding to its Thai branch on the island of Phuket. It may also open up a branch of Dulwich in India. Meanwhile Harrow, whose former pupils include Winston Churchill and Pandit Nehru, has a franchise in Bangkok.

Students from the Pacific rim are also flooding into fee-paying schools and universities in Britain. While British politicians praise the whole-class teaching and high standards they see in Asian classrooms, many in the far east see a British education as offering tradition and status combined with a more liberal, humanistic approach than their own schools and colleges.

Day pupils at Dulwich College International, Shanghai, will have to pay more than £3,000 a term, for example, roughly the same as their peers in south London. Under Chinese law, only ex-patriate British, Taiwanese and Hong Kong citizens can enrol, but the school says it hopes the restrictions will be lifted soon.

This is classic globalisation. Imagine how easy it would (not) have been to run Dulwich College International, Shanghai, in the year 1900. And imagine how much easier it has recently got, now that there are emails and cheap international phone calls and cheap air travel. Ergo, it happens.

What's the betting that in twenty years' time, the best schools in the world (far better than British public schools in Britain) are the British public schools in the Far East? Not at all impossible. After all, the British run Government of Hong Kong was one of the world's best (and much better than the British run Government of Britain), until it was shut down. Why might not the same benign cultural interaction happen again, educationally. Our best teachers will go to these schools, because they will like the eerily good discipline. And their best kids will flock there, because they love the free and easy atmosphere, unlike their local schools where they get beaten to death for Looking At The Teacher In A Funny Way.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:49 PM
Category: The private sector