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Chinese schools are typically characterised by rote learning and 10-hour school days, but Garmen Chan, spotted a growing appetite among parents for opportunities for their children to learn problem-solving skills in a freer, more discursive, environment.
In 2016 she developed after-school thinking clubs for children aged six-13 in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province under the name of Moonshot Thinking. The weekly topic-based after-school sessions cover social issues, news from papers, science, and any other topics that enabled the children to apply thinking skills. The venture with Thinking Matters, initially for a three-year period, will be separate from the after-school clubs and Garmen, who attended sixth form in Cambridge and has a degree in information science and business from Loughborough University, believes that the time is right to bring the thinking school approach to Chinese schools.
‘The ability to think and problem-solve is very important when you get a job. I thought, “How can we help children acquire the habit of thinking?”, says Ms Chan, who worked as a risk analyst for banking giant HSBC in Shanghai after graduating.
In October 2018 Garmen and her team undertook ten days of training with Thinking Matters. Thinking Matters’ trainer, Terry Williams worked with the highly motivated and insightful team that had recognised what TM could add to its well-established and successful programme of extra-curricula provision for children of primary school age. Many Shenzhen parents are beginning to understand that real opportunity for children depends as much on their capacities as independent thinkers and learners as on subject and grade success.
‘I believe that the foundation of a child being a life-long learner is to love questioning and thinking about the world. We also want to help them to build up correct and healthy values so that they feel fulfilled and positive in their lives.’
Shenzhen is a growing metropolis based on a thriving, high tech economy. It is a major city based in Guangdong, China's largest province by population, with over 100m citizens. It has over 10,000 primary schools and over 4,000 middle schools. Guandong schools are already inviting Ms Chan and her 13-strong team into schools to run thinking courses and workshops.
‘It’s the thinking culture that we want to bring to Chinese schools. Chinese people are already aware of the need for thinking and problem solving; they are ready. But they need to find people who can make it happen for them and how to make sure the whole school will have the culture of thinking.’
Thinking Matters will be working closely with Garmen Chan as her company expands. Richard Cummins, CEO, Thinking Matters is delighted with the partnership:
‘This is a fantastic opportunity to bring the Thinking Schools model to the heart of the Chinese education system. The Thinking School approach is firmly rooted in evidence supporting the impact of metacognitive approaches. But it has to be a whole-school approach, not one adopted by some departments or a few teacher enthusiasts.
‘Thinking Schools also equip young people with the skills they need to succeed in the world of the robots and AI. They drive the type of unique thinking skills and intelligent learning behaviours that we all need in an increasingly technological world.’
We are continually developing partnerships with like-minded organisations across the globe who believe in our approach and who wish to make a difference to future generations in their own countries.
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