By Anthony Coles
Dulwich College Beijing in China won the Pathways to Continued and University Education Award at the 2022 International School Awards. Here, Anthony Coles explains the initiative and its continued development since receiving the recognition.
For educators, our ambition should be to ‘make learning real’. Providing students with real-world experiences offers opportunities to connect their learning with the world beyond the school fence.
Dulwich College Beijing (DCB) launched the Worldwise Academy (WWA) in 2019. Our initiative aims to create connections between DCB students and the world of work. We want our students to be supported in exploring their passions whilst provoking thinking about possible future studies and long-term professional endeavours. This will in turn enable our students to ‘live worldwise’, which is DCB’s mission.
“It is helping our students explore their passions whilst thinking about possible future studies and long-term professional endeavours.”
The power of community for a collaborative platform
WWA is an inclusive platform that taps into the knowledge and resources of all the members in the DCB community. Every year, the WWA committee is composed of members selected from parents, teachers and students.
A programme of events is launched annually through a variety of approaches, including themed panel discussions that are followed by a series of supporting activities such as seminars, fireside talks, company visits, business-focused breakfasts and internships for students throughout the year.
The programme is designed to cover five broad professional categories: science and technology; business, economics and entrepreneurship; sports; arts and creative industries; public and international affairs, law and education.
Panellists within the discussions, and committee members (many of whom are parents), are industry leaders and business executives from a variety of professional backgrounds, including finance, architecture, technology, arts, law, public affairs and the medical field. Previous representatives have come from the World Economic Forum, the World Bank, Credit Suisse, Amazon Web Services, TikTok, Tsinghua University, Servier Pharmaceutical R&D, Sparks Education, and Hongen Education and Technology.
By sharing narratives of their personal journey, students learn about failing forward and how success is found. They provide invaluable advice and examples that allow students to be aware of choices, career possibilities and challenges in the world of work across these different professions.
The WWA programme was co-created with students, with a student positioned on each of the four WWA committees alongside four or five parents and one teacher. The student representatives are responsible for collecting expectations, interests and enquiries from other students, which are then presented to the committee for discussion and decision in sync with our annual theme. Once a theme is confirmed, the student representatives can also invite speakers, compile prompting questions, facilitate the event, moderate dialogue and give feedback.
Throughout this student-oriented process, all of our students can directly share their voice and have a genuine discussion with the panellists and the wider community.
We have also found ways to engage with the wider community to collaborate for some WWA events. For example, in 2020, the WWA’s annual launch event was co-hosted with X Museum, a contemporary art institute founded by a Dulwich College alumnus. And the 2022 annual launch event was co-hosted with the UPenn Wharton China Centre, where industry leaders, UPenn professors, alumni, and students and teachers from local schools were invited.
A sustainable and replicable framework
When designing this initiative, a key element was how to build an organic framework so that the power of our community could be maximised and sustained for years to come.
Traditionally, career days and professional seminars were one-off events that were detached from the curriculum and not responsive to changing expectations and the aspirations of students. To address this challenge, DCB identified relevant resources and created more formalised links between the curriculum and the student journey to strengthen engagement with and within the parent community. The framework includes a mission statement, an organisation map, and roles and responsibilities.
With a strong purpose, a comprehensive organisational structure and clear responsibilities, an adaptive model allows for a variety of themes and event formats. WWA provides a clear blueprint of why, what, how and with whom to collaborate, enabling the school community to have a practical and replicable approach.
Team collaboration has been the key to success. The WWA initiative is led by the DCB government relations and public affairs team, while other teams, including the college leadership team, senior school teachers, university counselling, the EdTech team, marketing, and communications, are all deeply involved and contribute.
Tips for other schools
- Always consider a way to encourage student agency and share student voice to make the programme relevant to student expectations and truly benefit the students
- Motivate the power of the community
- Make it real – creating a link between the curriculum and the real world of work to expose students to the professional setting
- Assess the sustainability of your programme and craft a framework that is inclusive, replicable and sustainable
- Form a collaborative team force with designated members from various departments and clarify the mission, goals, roles and responsibilities