City adopts global vision
Few cities in China are as forward-thinking and open-minded about their education system as Chengdu. It has four major international schools and several smaller schools, including kindergartens, and they are not only there to serve the foreign population.
The four international schools are Leman, Chengdu, Chengdu Meishi and Quality Schools International. A symposium about education reform heard that although Chengdu was very interested in filling up its world-class education institutions, it was also keen to learn from these schools.
After the symposium, the city moved quickly to create a working group dedicated to internationalising Chengdu's education system.
'The big advantage in Chengdu, ahead of any other part of China that I have seen, is that there is a subculture here that is different. The city is much more risk-taking, much quicker to embrace an idea,' says Leman International School principal Richard Mast, who spoke at the symposium last November.
International schools in Chengdu generally have two basic tasks: to provide incoming multinational companies and their families with the education standards and styles they are accustomed to, and to establish a dialogue with Chinese schools eager to share information and expertise.
'Chinese parents and educators are very savvy about their system and what they want for their children,' says Steven Dorgelo, primary school principal at Chengdu International School. 'They want an international education.'
The only Waldorf school on the mainland is in Chengdu. It has grown from a few students and one building eight years ago to a beautiful, sprawling campus with more than 200 students and a huge waiting list. Waldorf education integrates practical, artistic and conceptual elements. The school was recently granted a licence by the Ministry of Education.
The local government's embrace of international education, both in terms of schools for expats living in Chengdu and also for local schools, is part of an overall vision for the city and society.
Chengdu aspires to be world class in every way, embracing its business environment, cultural influence, liveability and education.