Peter Sturgess stars in our second installment of Principally Speaking (sponsored by Etonkids Educational Group). Below, the British Principal of Etonkids Peking House Campus tells us about the importance of remaining active in the classroom as a principal (rather than getting bogged down by administrative work); his thoughts on Montessori in China, and more.
How long have you been in Beijing?
Six months only! I arrived in August last year.
What brought you to China?
New career opportunities, and a wonderful chance to see a part of the world which was totally new to me.
Do you have children? If so, where are they now?
I have two daughters, aged 15 and 11, who are both at secondary school in the UK. My partner and I are also expecting a baby in July, which we are both very excited about!
What was your image of the school principal when you were a child? How do you describe your image now?
My first headmaster, Mr. Johnson, was a kindly man who just enjoyed being with children. The role now, particularly in the UK, has become much more of an administrative one involving lots of paperwork and spending less and less time in the classroom. I try to make sure that I visit every classroom each day to experience our students’ learning. It is by far the best part of my job.
In your opinion, what are some of the major differences between primary education in your country and that of an international school here in Beijing?
It is quite difficult to talk about strengths and weaknesses, as the contexts are so different. I worked in the state sector in the UK for 17 years. In that time there were many changes to the curriculum and school inspection framework, some of them good and others not so welcome. I certainly don’t miss government inspections, as they could often be harsh and judgmental, focusing too heavily on test scores without looking at the wider picture of student achievement.
It’s particularly refreshing to now work in a Montessori kindergarten, where we concentrate on the nurture and development of the whole child without imposing a rigorous testing regime upon them. I also love the amount of parental support and involvement I have experienced since I began work with Etonkids. A strong partnership between home and school is fundamental if a child is to be a successful learner, and here at Peking House we work extremely hard to ensure that this is the case.
What makes your school unique?
I have the most remarkable team of staff who work at Peking House. Their honesty, creativity, humour and determination to succeed are what make me happy to come to school every day.
What is your opinion of Montessori in China?
The word ‘Montessori’ can easily be abused by providers who see it as a marketing tool. However, I believe that Etonkids teachers provide our children with a real Montessori learning experience – one which encourages every single one of our students to learn and grow happily, developing levels of independence, creativity and innovation which will equip them to live successful lives.
This is the second in a series of posts brought to you by The Etonkids Educational Group, a collaboration of experts in the fields of education, research, and school management established by alumni of Harvard and Northwestern universities, with representatives of international Montessori organizations. Since its founding, Etonkids has utilized educational philosophies and models of successful school management from around the world to improve China’s early education sector. Etonkids Educational Group currently operates 50 bilingual Montessori kindergartens throughout China.