Teachers around the world are undergoing a truly challenging time as they have to prepare their students for the future that is getting increasingly difficult to define. Technological innovation is so rapid that by the time their students graduate, they will face a world of work that is totally different from what we see today. It is against this backdrop that Dulwich College, which was founded in London 400 years ago, came up with a new approach, dubbed “Graduate Worldwise.” This concept, according to Graeme Salt, headmaster of Dulwich College Seoul, puts emphasis on human qualities as well as academic achievement. Salt says the development of character strengths and such core skills as the ability to understand and work with other people is a better way to prepare students for the future than teaching them adult work skills. The headmaster explained the prestigious school’s new philosophy and some of the interesting activities planned to mark its 400th anniversary in a recent interview with BusinessKorea. The following are excerpts from the interview. – Ed.
What is the vision behind the concept of Graduate Worldwise? Why did Dulwich initiate this new philosophy?
While Graduate Worldwise embraces a number of key themes for us, the core message represents our commitment to preparing students for a future that is undefinable. This means shaping our curriculum and range of co-curricular activities, alongside our provision for student wellbeing, to build character strengths and skills that will stand the test of time. We do not believe having students learn adult work skills now (such as the latest coding program) will be as effective as building core skills that business futurists are highlighting. These include the ability to work with others effectively in teams; to be able to problem solve; to be able to make brave, creative decisions that are often right; to carry on strong in the face of disappointment or temporary failure; to genuinely seek to understand other people. The "Graduate" element of the statement implies our commitment to students through their school career with us to build these qualities. "Worldwise" is a play on the term "streetwise" capturing the non-conventional qualities that we attribute to those who will be confident of making their mark on the world in future.
Today’s world is not the world our children will inherit. It is changing faster than ever before. At Dulwich College we help students prepare for a future that is undefinable.
How is this approach different? What differentiates it from other philosophies?
It is different in its emphasis on human qualities running alongside academic achievement. Success by students too often is defined in terms of short-term achievements without consideration of a longer-term view. I believe this has the chance to lead young people into blind alleys. The world is changing faster than ever before with conventional qualifications not keeping up with the needs of employers or new flexible, technology-rich working environments. Too many young peoples’ futures are being shaped simplistically by qualification systems that measure the academic qualities for jobs that machines will soon replace. We believe the development of core skills and character strengths embraced by Graduate Worldwise will enable Dulwich students to face uncertainty with confidence and opportunity.
What are some of the benefits students receive from this approach? How does it prepare students for their futures?
We are using the values statements currently in our mission to emphasize our intentions. For example, we use the term "Pioneering Spirit" to drive innovation in students and staff. We use "Kindest School in the Universe" to drive empathy and genuine interactions with other people. We use "Building Bridges to the World" to drive an outward looking approach developing the qualities of being "Worldwise." We use "One College, Many Campuses" to drive collaboration between students and staff across the Dulwich group of schools (currently 12 in Asia with our parent in London) to the betterment of our students’ experience and preparation for Graduating Worldwise.
How have the students accepted this approach? Has it been a smooth transition?
This has not been a radical step change for students but they will have noticed: an increase in opportunities for critical thinking (through new philosophy classes); increased opportunities for decision-making and choice in the direction of their learning (personal engagement and creativity); more meaningful leadership opportunities (for example the leading of all Senior School assemblies now lies with senior school students); opportunities to access funds for personal project work.
Is it used by all Dulwich Schools? How many Dulwich schools are there internationally?
There are 12 Dulwich schools in Asia and our parent school in London. Yes, ‘Graduate Worldwise’ is used to shape student opportunities across all schools.
I understand that this is a special year for the school -- the 400th anniversary of the school's founding. Please tell us about some of the interesting activities you have planned over the next several months to celebrate.
Dulwich College was founded in London in 1619. We have a copy of the original signed charter at school. The first Dulwich school to open internationally in the group was in Shanghai in 2005. In 2015, all schools held an Olympiad of sporting and cultural activities in Beijing, as a lead up to the momentous 400th anniversary we will be celebrating this year. All schools will have students travelling to London in late March to engage with each other in the fields of sport, visual arts, music and drama. We have a party of 60 students travelling from Dulwich College Seoul to take in competition, ceremonies, concerts, a sports fixture at the Olympic stadium, a play in a West End theatre and many other activities to explore London. Our hotel is next door to Tower Bridge and the Tower of London so students will be immersed in a historical part of London.
What are the preferred universities for Dulwich graduates? Are there graduates who enter universities in Korea? What are the most preferred fields of study for Dulwich graduates these days?
Our graduating students are mainly split between the United States and United Kingdom with others attending universities in Canada, Hong Kong, mainland Europe, Australia and Japan. We have students at Ivy League, Oxbridge, top U.K. and U.S. universities, including Dartmouth, Smith, Wesleyan, RISD, Oxford, Imperial, UCL, and HKUST. This year we already have offers including MIT, Caltech and Tufts and a host from wonderful arts colleges. It is important to emphasize that our curriculum enables entry to elite universities in the United States, United Kingdom and around the world, but it is our duty to advise students and parents about the importance of "right fit." The world’s universities are very diverse in teaching approach, size, location, price, employment prospects and we hope they will choose an institution that allows them to carry on ‘graduating worldwise’. We do not have students in Korean universities yet but I hope opportunities for them will open up more often in future, especially as Korea will soon be experiencing a serious demographic drop off in the number of potential students.
In Korea, multiple-choice tests are extensively used to assess students’ academic achievements. But many multiple-choice tests do nothing more than assess students’ ability to memorize certain facts and details. They also make students test-savvy. Therefore, many experts argue that school tests should take the form of essay writing to help students build the power to think based on their own experiences and observations and assess their abilities more accurately. How does your school assess students?
I could not agree more. Multiple choice not only limits how students are assessed, more importantly it shapes what they are taught and how they learn. There is an inconvenient truth that multiple choice is a cheap way to assess but extremely limited in what it can assess. Over-emphasis on this approach limits students’ potential to develop the important core skills and character strengths required to be confident with an uncertain future. We believe more in the power of "formative" assessment over too much "summative" assessment. This means continuously improving how and what teachers feedback to students to help them learn better, and structuring feedback in a way that students, teachers and parents openly discuss improvement strategies rather than be overly pre-occupied by test results and grades.
Could you tell us how the Dulwich School network is governed? I assume that there is a board of trustees that controls the entire organization. How are board members selected?
Dulwich College Seoul has a board of directors responsible for its legal and financial operations. As the head of college, I rely on guidance about educational matters from an advisory board of employees from Dulwich College Management International based in Singapore and Shanghai to ensure alignment of approach across our group. We also have a board of trustees that advises on matters of local reputation. This board has appointed parent trustees as well as representatives from Dulwich College, Dulwich College Management International and the Seoul Metropolitan Council.
Is there anything else you would like to share about Dulwich College and its special year?
We won Teaching Initiative of the Year at the International School Awards in January 2019. This was reward for our innovations in Mathematics teaching, and the second year in a row we have won this award.
We are proud of our "Diversity" program whereby artists visit Dulwich schools through the year to provide opportunities for shared experiences as well as expert personal insight to their craft. So far this year we have hosted the Royal Shakespeare Company, a modern jazz quartet, dancers from the University of Auckland, a performance poet, a cellist, an artist-photographer and author.
Please follow our Facebook or Instagram sites to see a full representation of the wide number of experiences and opportunities Dulwich students have in our school.