At the end of May, Valerie and I were privileged to participate in the end of year arrangements at Dulwich College International Scholl in Shanghai where we were guests of Dr Colin Niven, currently Master of Schools in China. This visit was to coincide with the completion of Colin's work of establishing the School.
From the airport we drove to an extremely modern city. Everything was immaculately clean and spacious with tall, new, well-designed buildings everywhere, each with pleasant open spaces and with much building still going on. Despite this it was still startling to be confronted by the modern façade of 'Ducks', the kindergarten school for Dulwich College, Shanghai, specially created for the establishment of the Dulwich educational system. Over two hundred youngsters, dressed like the Dulwich Ducks, were to be seen playing in the attractive, spacious grounds. There were excellent facilities for drama and other indoor activities within the lower school building.
The Middle School is a street away from Ducks, in a superb new building. It should be pointed out that the most senior of the pupils in this building are, at the moment between thirteen and fourteen years of age. They celebrated the end of term with a performance of "Grease" which would have done credit to any of the Foundation schools in Dulwich, a remarkable achievement after such a short time. All seemed to be extremely talented; one of the 'stars' already held prizes for speech presentation in India.
All the children looked happy and excited to be at the School, and without exception were well-behaved and courteous. The fact that the students came from completely different backgrounds added richness. The School insists that every child in its care learns Mandarin.
On the equivalent of Awards Day, I was honoured to be present when Dr Niven, the Master of the School gave his address. He virtually built the School with the touch of a magic wand from an unpredictable number of pupils to seven hundred in two years. The newly created house shield was named after Dr Niven; he did not know this this was going to happen until an hour before the ceremony and was immensely moved.
One of the highlights of the eight-day visit was the Silver Ball held at the Shangri-la Hotel. This was a fitting tribute from the international community of parents to honour not only the retiring Head but also the inspiration behind the idea of planting a traditional educational system from Dulwich into a foreign country. We were also taken to Suzhou, a two hour drive south of Shanghai, where work has begun on the third Dulwich School in China (the second being in Beijing). There, we enjoyed a visit to a group of marvellous fifteenth century gardens appropriately known as 'Scholars' Gardens' and had traditional Chinese tea at the beautiful 'Master of the Fishing Nets'.