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A Royal Education in Tianjin

September, 2011
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Wellington College International Tianjin, a brand new international school in central Tianjin, has opened its doors to welcome their first group of 200 students for the first day of school on August 22nd.

As the partner school of Wellington College in the UK, the highly prestigious independent school founded by Queen Victoria in 1859, Wellington College International Tianjin is committed to providing the highest possible standards of education to students aged 3-18 years.

With a purpose-built campus in the centre of Tianjin, Wellington boasts impressive facilities designed in the distinctive classical style of Wellington College in the UK, including fully-equipped interactive classrooms, a library, a sports hall and range of outdoor pitches and courts, a swimming pool and a modern 500-seat theatre. There is everything required for academic and extra-curricular excellence in 21st-century international education.

After the exciting first week of school, the Founding Master, David Cook, talks to LittleStar Magazine about the values and unique education Wellington Tianjin has to offer.

LittleStar:Wellington College International Tianjin has just undergone a successful opening and seen its first group of 200+ students. As the founding Master, how are you feeling now?

Master David: This is the third school that I have opened during my career, and it is easily the most fulfilling and the smoothest. Having all the construction completed helped greatly, but we were able to recruit a great team of teachers and our students are second to none. Everybody has entered in the Wellington spirit – fortune favors the brave – and I feel very proud of what we have all achieved.


LittleStar: How about the other two schools before Wellington College International Tianjin?

Master David
: Prior to coming here, I was the Founding Headmaster of Repton School in Dubai. It was an extraordinary experience. In five years we took Repton from a patch of ground in the desert, albeit a very big patch, to a thriving internationally renowned school of 2,000 students. It was all very rapid, which is the Dubai way, if perhaps in retrospect a little too rapid. Nevertheless, we came a very long way in a very short period of time. For instance, we received IBO authorization for the Diploma Program in a term and a half, rather than the normal three years. Before that I was also the first Headmaster at Qatar Academy.

LittleStar:What are the ethos and values of Wellington College International Tianjin?

Master David: Our ethos and values are based on the fundamental belief that all students can achieve, succeed and thrive – and it is the mission of everybody at Wellington to ensure that this happens for each and every student. At the heart of the Wellington curriculum, both inside and outside the classroom, is the Eight Aptitude model of education, developed by our partner school, Wellington College in the UK and based in part on the pioneering studies of Howard Gardner on multiple intelligences. We develop and enhance the following aptitudes which are found within all of our students:

- Linguistic and Logical

- Social and Personal

- Cultural and Physical

- Moral and Spiritual

Each of these aptitudes is embedded in Wellington life, providing direction to the development of individual education. In this fashion the whole child is prepared to manage self, manage relationships and manage their own learning, work and performance.

LittleStar:What is unique about Wellington education?

Master Cook
: The most obvious difference from the other schools in Tianjin is the partnership with the highly prestigious Wellington College in the UK. From top to bottom, there are the strongest of links between the two schools, or more precisely between three schools, not forgetting Eagle House, Wellington’s junior school, with the curriculum, uniforms, house names, school language and status as a royal foundation. We welcomed the Duke of York to Tianjin last September for the Inauguration of the College and he is now our Visitor to the College. This is unprecedented amongst international schools.

We can highlight three other areas where the partnership is highly visible and productive. There are two Wellington UK members on the governing body, including Dr. Seldon, the current Master. We have followed Wellington UK in adopting the Eight Aptitudes model of education, including the now-famous happiness or well-being lessons. Finally, we have brought Wellington teachers to Tianjin.

We also have the best teachers. They are all fully-qualified teachers, native language speakers, coming with experience of top British and International schools, and they are all totally committed to the ethos and values of the College. Wellington College International Tianjin is the ideal place to teach with small class sizes, wonderful facilities and resources, motivated students, supportive parents and considerable professional development opportunities.

LittleStar: Can you please tell us more about the Wellington Tianjin teachers; how strong is your team?

Master Cook: As I said earlier, Wellington has a great team of teachers. One parent recently told me, “You have very, very, very good teachers.” That’s a lot of verys! It is easier to recruit people to work in a school that has an internationally famous name and Wellington in England is one of the world’s leading schools, so people are keen to come and work here. People know that if they work for four or five years at Wellington in Tianjin, it will add a great deal to their CVs and resumes.

Wellington is a not-for-profit school and the bulk of the school’s annual expenditure will go towards employing those teachers, with contracts designed to keep them at the College for a long time. So far they have shown tremendous commitment to Wellington, as indeed you can see from our extensive extra-curricular activity program or the weekly newsletter, “The Wellingtonian,” both of which appeared for the first time in the first week of school. 

So in a little more detail:

* All of the Wellington teachers are native English speakers, the majority being British, with the exception of the Chinese and Korean language teachers.

* They are all fully qualified and highly experienced, both in international schools and British schools.

* Perhaps most importantly, they all know what working for Wellington means in terms of commitment, motivation and passion.

* They all attended top British and US universities.

* They have taught at leading British and international schools.

LittleStar: As a partner school to Wellington College in the UK, what are the links between Wellington Tianjin and the royal school in UK; and how will this link benefit the students here?

Master Cook
: There will be links and connections at every level between the two schools. To begin with, the buildings here imitate the buildings in England. It is easily the closest replication of a school that has ever been done anywhere in the world. Second, the curriculum is modelled on that in England. The rich heritage and tradition of Wellington UK define the ethos and values of Wellington College in Tianjin. The decision to adopt not just the IBDP but the MYP as an alternative to GCSE will also spread here, meaning that Wellington will always attract the very best in educational thinkers.

Moving on to pastoral care, we have the house system at the College in Tianjin and the houses will have the same names as those at Wellington in England. Each house has various characteristics which distinguish it from the other houses, beginning with their names, drawn from famous figures, who fought in the Napoleonic Wars, such as Orange, named after the Prince of Orange from the Netherlands, and Blücher, a Prussian or German general.

The two school uniforms are virtually identical and, specifically for our students, there are already plans in place for a series of exchanges over the next year. We aim high at Wellington and we know the College in Tianjin will become the leading international school in China. All our students are encouraged to pursue their goals with self-belief and ambition, while seeking out those areas in which they can excel, supported by the highly committed staff and the outstanding facilities at their disposal.

LittleStar: What do you think of the huge popularity of British education in China?

Master David: British education has an excellent reputation around the world, not just in China, for academic excellence and rigor. Perhaps most importantly, it is known for developing the ideal characteristics of self-discipline, responsibility, tolerance, respect and independence.


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