At schools quite often some of the most valuable lessons and memorable experiences are learned outside of the classroom. That’s certainly the case for students at Dulwich College Beijing (DCB), through their experiences with the school-wide house system. All Junior and Senior students and staff are allocated to one of five Houses and remain with the same House during their time at Dulwich. Each House is named after an inspirational person who is somehow connected to Dulwich and/or China: Edward Alleyn, Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, Jesse Owens, Soong Ching-ling and Amy Johnson. More than 30 house competitions, mostly organized and coordinated by students, take place over the year that help to bring together students from across different year levels.
Rebecca, a Danish Year 12 student belonging to DCB’s Alleyn house, has forged such all-ages bonds on countless occasions, and cites an ongoing singing club as one of the best examples. “Anyone can join us at house singing, and that really helps to create links between all the year groups,” she says, adding: “The campus can seem so big when you first arrive, and kids in the younger years often need someone to talk to and someone to go to for advice.”
Klaudia Tomaszun, who hails from Poland and works as the assistant head of enrichment at DCB, agrees, adding that such mentorship “comes from our school’s ethos, which is respect and collaboration. We start allocating students to houses in junior school, and ensure that the senior students encourage them to join in activities as well. We want to give voice and ownership to students. So it’s their thing— they reach out and work together on their own, gaining mutual respect and understanding as a result.”
Below Tomaszun, along with Rebecca and numerous other DCB students, tell us more about the house system’s benefits: from mentorship to friendly rivalries, eclectic group activities to an instilled sense of independence, and more.
Johanna, Year 12, Wodehouse
When it comes to house events, there’s a lot of organization needed and many people have to be involved. It puts us in a position where everyone needs to get to know each other. That helps us build camaraderie, and make lasting friendships. And that’s especially true if you’re new. It’s a great way to get to know people.
Sarah, Year 12, Owens
I like the arts activities, mostly because I’m musical and creative. But it’s also great when people who aren’t musical or artsy join, and we all work together. That’s when you have fun. The older students instill messages like: “You don’t have to be good at it to be enthusiastic, and you can participate even if you don’t have the skills for it yet.” So no one is left out.
Kevin, Year 9, Owens
In the past, the British house system was famous for being all about sports. But these days we have so many other interesting house activities. There’s a lot of drama, a lot of music, and fun debate clubs, which is my favorite. These activities make everyone very enthusiastic, and they inspire everyone to contribute.
Rebecca, Year 12, Alleyn
There is a wide variety of activities in the houses. But that doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of sports events. There are some really fun friendly rivalries between each house’s teams, and that’s a great opportunity to create unity in the houses.
Elvis, Year 9, Alleyn
I love the friendly competition between the houses. In the end, it teaches us more about teamwork and sportsmanship than anything. There’s a heated rivalry, but it makes us come together as a student body, thanks to the guidance of the older students and the teachers.
Binyam, Year 12, Wodehouse
Living in the house system helps prepare us for university and living on our own. It develops our communication skills, and our confidence. We also get lots of leadership and organization skills from working on the activities together. Also, seeing the house spirit that everyone has is really inspiring.
Bernard D’Souza, teaches Year 5-13 mathematics, volunteers as head of house for Alleyn
The main point of the house system is to encourage student leadership, and to compel students to take on more roles. Also, all the activities help them step aside from the academic side of school. House drama is always a popular event. There’s also activities related to mathematics, geography, sports, and we even have house music video competitions. So they get to develop IT skills. It makes them enthusiastic, and gives them a balanced school life experience, so that they’re not always thinking: “I have to study, study, study.”
Klaudia Tomaszun, assistant head of enrichment, former head of house for Alleyn
I love the fun rivalries between the houses. The thrill on their faces makes my day. The students here are so involved, and so are the parents. Belonging to a community like this is important, because a happy student is a successful student. We really, really cherish that, it’s what we stand for— that house belonging. I just love it.
This is the fifth in a series of posts brought to you by Dulwich College Beijing. DCB is made up of over 1430 students from age one to 18, with over forty-five nationalities represented in its diverse student body. It is a British international school, offering an educational environment designed to nurture not only the intellectual and physical but also social and emotional development of students. The school takes pride in an excellent pastoral care programme, as well as superb IB results. The school’s house system is just one of its many attributes.
Photos: Uni You, DCB