Planet Leadership Series
08 Jul, 2021
13 : 02
Our fast changing world is beset by numerous uncertainties. How can education embrace and respond to a rapidly changing future?
YCYW firmly believes that quality education can never be confined to just a classroom. Education really begins in the world beyond through expanding dialogue. This intimate connection between people and the creative collision of diverse ideas is something we welcome and treasure, as we strive to create a rich learning environment.
Our Planet Leadership Series was launched to move us in this exploratory direction. The inaugural talk was held at YWIES Shanghai Lingang on 10 March, a dialogue that connected a huge in-person and offline audience.
This is an ongoing adventure we embarked upon almost 90 years ago when YCYW’s unique brand of international education came into being.
Professor Yu Lizhong, the founding chancellor of NYU in Shanghai, was an excellent opening guest for the series, given his role as an education pioneer of great renown. Stepping down as President of East China Normal University in 2012, he welcomed a bold new challenge, to serve as the founding chancellor of the first international research university launched through Chinese and Western cooperation. Over the past eight years, NYU Shanghai has gained considerable attention – and popularity. Although Professor Yu has been involved in higher education for over 30 years, he has never lost sight of the fundamentals of his discipline.
He embraces multiculturalism and is a strong advocate for the younger generation to interact with broader cultural strands while deepening an understanding of local culture. Children must know their roots, he feels.
He suggests better off families should consider sending their children to study overseas in order to expand their horizons and appreciate a fuller view of the world. Students should come to the understanding that the most suitable education means the best for them.
According to Professor Yu, international education is not a ‘privilege’ for a select few as all schools have the responsibility to build a common humanity and competence to solve global problems.
"To succeed is to feel achieved and content"
"How we define success" was the first issue raised by Professor Yu.
Some anxious parents can get fixated on the ‘return on investment’. They focus on end results when sending children to assorted tutoring classes. They feel that the combination of money and effort is the foundation parents should invest for their children.
In Professor Yu’s view, this blind instinct overlooks the essential question: who are our children competing with? Well, they are competing against themselves. To better themselves.
He said parents must focus more on whether the children "gain a sense of achievement and happiness or realise the value of life" in the process of growing up.
Professor Yu spoke of two different mindsets – one 'fixed’ and the other open to ‘growth'. People with a ‘fixed mindset’ stay within their comfort zones. They avoid challenge, change, or criticism. They feel almost powerless. People with a 'growth mindset' welcome challenges and change. They seek opportunities – and focus on possibilities. They will attempt to change the impossible.
It is clear that people with a growth mindset value feedback, participate in active learning and face challenges in an optimistic manner. This is why they tend to succeed more often.
Parents play a key role in instilling this growth mindset in children through family education, especially at the foundational level.
Professor Yu pointed out that while knowledge, skill plus attitude, and values, are three equally important aspects of education, a child’s world perspective in these areas provides the basic motivation for any sort of progress. If we look at life as a marathon, parents participate in the critical formative period – the first one-third – of the journey.
As role models, parents need to nurture their children for the long haul and avoid focusing overly on instant benefits.
"International education is actually a journey of self-discovery"
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," wrote Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities.
It neatly described our current world in a relentless pandemic that confronts us with both unique challenges as well as inspired solutions.
Over the past year, newspaper headlines were dominated by calls to re-examine the value of sending children abroad to study. Many parents were hesitant.
Professor Yu argued that in an ever-changing world, change is the only constant. "I sincerely hope our students, and parents, do not easily change their choice for life."
From 1985 to 1990, Professor Yu lived in Britain. He gained his doctorate in geography at the University of Liverpool and continued to do post-doctoral research. The experience of studying abroad left a deep mark on his thinking.
"International education is actually a journey of self-discovery,"he said. Experiencing different cultures and learning methods in other countries, students can broaden their horizons, shape their global competence and improve cross-cultural communication skills.
He broke into a smile as he recounted his epic experience of cooking eight dishes for a throng of over 60 teachers and classmates. They all tucked in with much appreciation, chat, and laughter.
Professor Yu said students studying abroad would encounter cultural differences but "there are more similarities than differences in humans."
He believes that varied views and even cultural conflicts enable better understanding for future encounters.
"Curiosity is the fuel that keeps learning alive"
Education is such an important foundation for life that parents and schools should focus on four essentials, according to Professor Yu.
Safeguard children's curiosity and interest in learning.
Re-examine the definition of 'success'. It not only concerns the development of children but an entire family's sense of wellbeing.
Respect an education routine, and nurture good learning habits and methods step by step. This is more essential than mastering knowledge and skills.
Encourage children to realise their life pursuit and to strive for goals they set. A lasting motivation for a fuller life comes through world perspective, a philosophy of life, and strong values.
Professor Yu believes that at the stage of foundation education, the school should make students aware of the fact that "classrooms are limited; online is limitless; society is limitless".
Beyond the limitation of classes, if we can treat cultural experience and social observation as a big learning platform, students can acquire the awareness and true potential for life-long learning.
A wonderful feast of ideas, the first one-hour session of the Planet Leadership Series attracted over 25,000 people who watched online and at the venue. YCYW is honoured to have helped in the process of rethinking the meaning and values of international education.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Professor Yu for his support and wonderfully candid comments. His almost 'childlike’ innocence and charm as well as personal commitment touched the audience deeply, striking a personal chord with many.