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Interview with Regional Education Director for the China Bilingual region


Christmas 2016, shortly after the great earthquake in Nepal, an 11-year-old Chinese boy arrived at his local school after their 3-hour ride on a dusty, bumpy mountain road. When he stepped out of the car, he was surrounded by more than a hundred students with smiling faces. Although there were no classes that day as it was a holiday, the shabby school was crowded with students and parents to welcome David and his mother.


The boy's mother, Ms. Jenny Chen, had just been appointed the Director of Bilingual Education at Nord Anglia Education China. She had been donating to Nepalese charity projects for many years, and it was the first time she had taken her son with her. They bought school uniforms, school bags, stationery and daily necessities to the children. In later years, Jenny and her son would hike in Nepal and raise money for orphanages in Katmandu. After hiking for several days, they would make the donation in the orphanage, celebrate the New Year’s festival and have dinner with the children. For these children, this was the most important ritual for the New Year’s holiday.

"As an practitioner of IB education, I am an advocate of global citizenship, and I always try to implement the concept with a broad international perspective." Since Ms. Chen came across the impoverished students in Nepal during a hiking trip in 2007, she has continuously sponsored them in many ways. She had given lessons in village schools, donated shoes, stationary, and clothes to the orphans, paid for their boarding, and celebrated the New Year’s holiday with them. Even when she could not travel to Nepal personally because of the Covid-19 pandemic, she donated computers so the children could have online classes, and interacted with them regularly.

What makes her especially proud is that over the years she has actively motivated the students and teachers of her school, her family and friends to participate in the charity projects. "Everyone should come out of their own small world, and see the big world we live in, make a contribution, and enrich their lives." For Ms. Chen, such experience and influence are what an international educator should have.


Taking all roles as an educator

‘Education is life, and life is education’ – this is Jenny Chen’s motto, and this year is the 27th year since Ms. Chen started working in the field of education.

In the mid-1990s, when international education had just started in China, she became one of the earliest adopters, teaching in all grades from kindergarten to high school.

"I still remember clearly how I played the guitar and sang for kindergarten children, with a huge baby bump under my shirt. Today, wherever I go, children love to come close and talk to me."

Twenty years of front-line education experience has connected Ms. Chen strongly to children from different backgrounds, and she strives to develop herself further in the field of education.

Therefore, when The British International School Shanghai, part of Nord Anglia Education, was established in 2002, Ms. Chen joined in the founding team as a veteran with 8 years of experience in international education. She built the Chinese department for the Pudong campus, which taught Chinese culture, language and literature to children from all over the world. She started from scratch with curriculum design, textbook design, classroom teaching, teacher recruitment and team building. After 11 years of intense work, Ms. Chen had fully established the Chinese department of the British school. The Chinese department at different Nord Anglia campuses developed a total of 23 courses that met the needs for non-native, near-native and native language education, as well as for international language assessment tests. In these schools, Chinese and Chinese culture became the first choice for their IGCSE and IBDP courses.

Around 2010, as people are increasingly aware of the advantage of international education, seeking higher education in high-quality foreign universities became the choice of many Chinese families. Bilingual education, which connects Chinese compulsory education with international methodology and pedagogy, began to thrive. Ms. Chen wanted to provide Chinese children with an international experience that best fits them. In 2013, Jenny moved into senior leadership, “the past 8 years have allowed me to truly work on the front line of an education that integrates Chinese and Western concepts, and give me the opportunity to personally explore and practice the innovative concepts of integrated courses. I also participated in the construction of a teacher development system that responds to future trends”.

From a teacher, to a curriculum designer, examiner, teacher trainer to school leader, Jenny Chen has taught students of different ages from primary to high schools, and has experience in all the roles that an educator can have. Returning to Nord Anglia Education as the Director of Bilingual Education means she will lead her team to shape and improve integrated course development, teaching quality, students physical and mental development, teacher development and international university enrollment consultation across all Nord Anglia bilingual schools in China.


Keeping tradition whilst innovating and developing

After more than twenty years since it began, international education in China has thrived. However, the outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic last year and the release of a new school enrollment lottery system in China have brought unprecedented challenges. Ms. Chen’s appointment at this point shows her recognition and confidence in the concept of international education.

"With its nearly 50 years of history in the field of international education, Nord Anglia Education now has 70 international schools around the world. They provide an important starting point for our bilingual schools in China to cultivate students’ international vision, introduce global educational resources, and provide local teachers with international professional training." Jenny Chen says, "This is what I feel after I returned to Nord Anglia. From the 11 years I worked at Nord Anglia, to my return after 8 years of departure, the biggest surprise was that I met many of the familiar Chinese and foreign colleagues who are still working hard in their positions, as well as the positive and determined spirit of our colleagues in the ever-growing Nord Anglia bilingual schools in China."

After a few weeks of fast-paced induction training, including online meetings with colleagues from all over the world and bilingual schools principals across the country, learning on the "Nord Anglia University" and "Global Campus", Jenny Chen has developed a deeper understanding of the current Nord Anglia philosophy. "Nord Anglia has never slowed down its progress. It has always kept pace with the most advanced education concepts in the world, and has laid a solid foundation for students from all over the world to welcome the unknown future with resources for literacy cultivation. Although Nord Anglia is still gaining experience in bilingual schools, it is exactly why Nord Anglia bilingual schools have an advantage. Having many years of experience in global education will provide rich soil for Nord Anglia to take root in China and help Chinese students and teachers develop. "


Greater possibilities at Nord Anglia Education

Although the Covid-19 epidemic has brought unprecedented challenges to the world, it has also brought unprecedented connections globally. Nord Anglia's "Global Campus" moved classroom teaching online, which, supplemented by books and academic resources, enabled students around the world to continue their learning. With these unique resources, Ms. Jenny Chen will lead the entire Chinese teaching team to provide Chinese children with more diverse learning experiences and opportunities for further studies.

She added: "For Chinese students, the aim of a bilingual education at senior high school level is to be able to seek high-quality university education overseas, in addition to the diversified high-quality education that optimizes their growth. And the long-term goal is to bring their knowledge and accomplishments back to China. I believe that China, as the world’s second largest economy, is very attractive to the students who are focused on long-term development. Therefore, we need students to have outstanding academic ability to meet long-term challenges." Therefore, Nord Anglia’s elementary and junior high schools will continue to implement the national compulsory syllabus, and requirements made by the local education authorities, while incorporating Nord Anglia’s international elements into the teaching process through an integrated design guided by educational technology, so that every student can benefit from a diverse and tailored education. In addition to the IB courses, Nord Anglia senior high schools will offer more diverse international courses, with regional variations, to bring more course choices and suitable enrollment routes to the academic-driven senior high school students.