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Wellington Celebrates Artistic Diversity at Annual Arts Festival

April, 2015
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“Do we truly understand the purpose of education? Do we really think that going to school is only about achieving good exam results?”

Sir Anthony Seldon, headmaster of Wellington College in the UK recently published a piece in Create – a journal of perspectives on the value of arts and culture published by the Arts Council. He expressed his frustrations with the secondary role the arts play in British education.

The article, which made a large impact in British press, highlighted the value of the arts, the confidence it instills in young people, the physical and mental discipline it requires, and the experience of being a valued team member.

Sir Anthony Seldon’s article was published only weeks before Wellington College International Shanghai launched its very first Arts Festival. This is in effect a month-long focus on, and celebration of, the arts. Organized by Dr. Stephen Jacobi, the IB Coordinator and Director of Culture for Wellington in Shanghai, the month has seen a collection of workshops, talks, performances and productions filling the school with energy and excitement.

wellington_arts-festival41Launched in Wellington’s impressive theatre with the gripping story of Electra, a Senior School production of the Greek tragedy in which Sophocles tells the story of a daughter who wants to avenge her father by killing her mother, the Arts Festival was soon in full swing.

Workshops included creative opera lessons, drama classes focusing on comedy, storytelling, graffiti workshops, stand-up comedy tutorials, film studies, Manga sessions, and talks ranging from poetry readings to the psychology of madness and comedy.

With this year’s festival focusing on comedy, pupils had the opportunity to laugh, learn and explore humor in various ways – an opportunity often missed in many schools, but crucial to a child’s wellbeing, which is of particular interest to Wellington.  

Dr. Jacobi observed that, “While most schools pay some kind of lip service to the arts and their importance in forming character, this school has actually backed its stated ethos by bringing in participants and experts from Britain and other parts of the world. The break in pupils’ routines, the offering of different kind of educational experience, and the chance to meet people who aren’t teachers in the conventional sense of the word but are nevertheless prepared to teach them – all these have to be good things.”

The broader community was also involved, with parents and friends of Wellington invited to attend concerts from the Shanghai Baroque Chamber Orchestra, who work closely with Wellington’s music department, as well as exhibitions and talks that were hosted throughout the festival’s duration.

“You can teach students to do well in exams without teaching them in any depth. Students can achieve top grades but know little and understand less about the world and their role in it, or how to be happy.

“A good education should be a preparation for life. It requires the development of the whole child, not merely their intellect,” explained Sir Anthony Seldon in his article.

With a culmination of the Eight Aptitudes, a model used centrally by all of the Wellington community, and a focus on so much more than simply exam results, Wellingtonians are well equipped for the exciting and unknown challenges the future holds, not just in China but in the world, and after this month of arts, they will certainly be able to face it with a knowing sense of humor. 


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