We conclude our three part Principally Speaking series (sponsored by Etonkids Educational Group) with Phil Farrier-Price, Principal of Etonkids Central Park Campus. Below, the British educator tells us about how students can benefit from having an approachable principal, the stark contrasts he has seen between Chinese and English parenting styles, and more.
How long have you been in Beijing?
I have been in China for 13 years, with 11 of these being spent in Beijing.
What brought you to China?
I wanted to experience a culture that was completely different from my own, and I thought the best way to truly immerse myself in the culture was to work here.
What was your image of the school principal when you were a student?
When I was a student in England, my principals all seemed very distant and disciplined. Now I am a principal myself, so I try to take a direct interest in every child and spend time in all the classrooms. That way, I’ll be a familiar and friendly face to the students.
How do most people respond when they find out you are a principal?
I think most people are surprised. Even though times have changed, being a principal in a kindergarten is still very much perceived as a feminine role. However, I think this has stood me in good stead in an international kindergarten, as we place a large emphasis on diversity and acceptance of all cultures and individuals.
In all your time as an educator, what is the most important lesson you’ve learned?
What I’ve learned is that it is always important to listen. It is only by listening to other’s stories and experiences that we can fully grow as educators ourselves.
What are some of the major differences between primary education in your country and that of an international school in Beijing?
In general, our belief in the UK is for children to be more independent and to experience things for themselves. Chinese families can be very overprotective of their children. However, one of the upsides of Chinese families being so interested in their children is that the fathers and grandparents often play a much more dominant role in their child’s education than in the UK, which is lovely.
As a principal, what fresh ideas do you hope to bring to the Etonkids campus?
Since starting at Etonkids, I have emphasized the importance of respecting and listening to people (whether they be parents, children or staff). Beijing is a melting pot of cultures and it is important that we embrace people’s individuality, so that they feel part of a community who are able to express their ideas.
If I were a parent, how would you convince me that Etonkids is right for my child?
I always tell parents that choosing a school is a very personal and individual process. Often, parents choose a kindergarten based on how they ‘feel’ rather than what curriculum is available. I would invite you to come and visit the school in person and experience what we have to offer. I would also ask what your needs are from a school and explain how we approach these areas.
This is the third 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.