Elite or Personalized? What Kind of Secondary Education is Ideally Needed?

Elite or Personalized? What Kind of Secondary Education is Ideally Needed?

On January 10, 2023, the University of Oxford released the entry admission decisions. As a top ranked university in the world, the competition for places remains intense. Despite of students from U.K., the highest number of overseas applications and admitted students was from China.

Although the official website of the University of Oxford has not announced the specific schools from which students are admitted, we see from several media reports that as of January 10, 2023, 130 students from some top Chinese international schools have been successfully admitted by the university. School lists are shown at the bottom of this article.

The principals and teachers from the schools mentioned above shared the good news to their WeChat Moments at the first time, as their high expectations and high intensity of studies finally paid off.

Elite education has formed the major characteristics of educational method in China. This educational feature has laid the foundation for China's economic development in the past few decades. However, many teachers and parents don't have a clear answer about what kinds of schools and education is ideally needed. Does our education aim to pursue elitism, or personalization and differentiation? Several experts in Chinese educational industry raise their voices on this question.

Shanker Bhatt

Mr.Bhatt has been instrumental in the development of international education for Chinese students for twenty years. He was the Founding Principal at the International Curriculum Centre of the High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China (Renda Fuzhong), Nanjing Jinling High School, Suzhou International Academy and Nottingham University Affiliated High school in Ningbo. He was also the Academic Principal at the Beijing Luhe International Academy. Apart from working in the sector of Middle and High school education Mr Bhatt has also worked for various universities as a lecturer, teacher trainer, K-12 education consultant, foundation and undergraduate program manager and researcher such as University of Nottingham Ningbo China, University of South Australia, Gujarat University and IIT Mumbai.

Mr.Bhatt has a special concern of parents choosing a school simply because one or two of its students have received offers from Oxbridge in a particular year without looking at the actual level of their child and whether s/he best fit into the culture, environment and ways of teaching and learning of the school. He has also written an article in length on this: https://bit.ly/3WiMO9s

In his point of view, it is important to understand if the school has been able to improve over a period of time and add value to the life of every student. Mr.Bhatt shared his thoughts on the mission of international schools and the definition of success during an interview:

"I have seen students achieving academically very high but their achievement could also be credited partly to the training centres that are preparing them. A good school goes beyond academics and beyond what a student can purchase outside the school. The key mission of any international school is to nurture the true potential of the child, so as to be able to greet and meet the immediate adult life anywhere in this world of his/her choice."

"I think it is also important to understand that inclusivity is much regarded as a top characteristic of being international. How do we otherwise understand and appreciate others without including them in our thoughts and actions? An international place of educating failing to create an inclusive culture in and out of classroom is simply not international."

""The definition of success to me is not merely graduating from a university with a degree but also to achieve the levels that a student in such universities should be achieving. I think the level of achievement has some good degree of correlation with how they were taught and cultivated during their high school years of adolescence. This is the period when schools can really make a difference in the way brains work to create what we call neurologically efficient or deficient person."

Dongping Yang

President of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, Professor at Department of Education, Beijing Institute of Technology

Mr.Yang also shared his point of view on the goal of high school education. He believes that, education is not only to help students enter top universities, but also to cultivate wholesome citizens for the society, to develop students as a good social citizen, a good professional, and a good family member. The basic education is to lay the foundation for students' lifelong development and happiness, rather than temporary scores and exam results.

"Every country in the world lists personality development as the most important educational goal. It is very clear that the function of education is to help students discover themselves. Comprehensive development is based on a hypothesis that children are all blank, they can be shaped and changed by others. However, the research of modern psychology advocates that every child is an independent individual, therefore, education is to discover the specific self."

"Middle school years only take a very limited period of time in life, so that education is supposed to pave the way for the future. No one can predict how far students can go and what kind of career they can achieve in the future."

"Teaching students according to their aptitude is hard to achieve. The school system and cultivating mode should both be change, providing flexible educational system and diversified courses, adopting hierarchical teaching, rather than unified model."

Yang Yao

Director of China Economic Research Center, Distinguished Professor at Liberal Arts College, Peking University

In combination with the current situation of China's education and industrial demand, Mr. Yao expressed his opinions on what kind of secondary education is truly needed. He noticed that, nowadays selection system starts from kindergarten stage, and that caused serious anxiety for a great number of families. A kind of "wasteful" learning method is arising therefrom, that is, overlearning for the examination even though the outcome is not outstanding at all.

"The foundation of education is not selection, but cultivation. Currently, education pays too much attention to the selection, therefore, from the beginning of the primary school stage, schools only teach students how to pass exams, ignoring the development of creativity. As we enter into an innovative society, if we continue to cultivate students in the same way as before, we may end up killing their creativities, which is related to the future of our country."

"Education inequity is a major obstacle to common prosperity. For families, as long as children are not good at studying, the most rational choice after graduation from junior high school is to work. This way forced to aggravate social differentiation, which becomes the most important obstacle to our common prosperity."

"Vocational education should not neglect knowledge learning and personality training. Our vocational education only teaches skills without explaining the underlying principles, which is the most fatal drawbacks. We should train the ability of thinking prior to the hand-on skills, so that students can learn faster."


From the perspectives above, those educational experts all agree that Chinese education should focus more on personalization and differenciation of each student, rather than elitism. Personal development is much more important for the future. A person with learning ability, adaptability and creativity can be better adopted by the society.

If you have any thoughts on this topic, feel free to leave us comments.


School NameNumber of Students Admitted
Shenzhen College Of International Education12
Guanghua Cambridge International School10
Shanghai Pinghe Bilingual School9
The Affiliated International School of Shenzhen University8
Qingdao No.2 Middle School7
Ulink College of Shanghai7
Acabridge College Shanghai6
Guangdong Country Garden School5
Suzhou Foreign Language School4
The Experimental High School Attached to Beijing Normal University4
Beijing National Day School3
Zhuhai No.1 High School3
Shanghai World Foreign Language International School3
Huaer Zizhu Academy3
Shanghai HD Bilingual School2
Xi'an Gaoxin NO.1 High School2
Chengdu Shude High School2
Chengdu Jiaxiang Foreign Languages School2
Beijing 101 Middle School2
Keystone Academy2
Ealing International College2
Guangzhou Foreign Language School2
Cogdel Cranleigh School Changsha2
Chongqing DEPU Foreign Language School1
Beijing Huijia Private School1
Beijing International Bilingual Academy1
RDFZ Chaoyang Branch School1
Chongqing Yucai Secondary School1
Wuxi Dipont School of Arts and Science1
Guangdong Guangya High School1
The Affiliated High School of South China Normal University1
Shenzhen Foreign Languages School1
Shenzhen Senior High School1
Shenzhen Academy of International Education1
Ningbo Xiaoshi High School1
Tianjin Yinghua International School1
North America International School1
Xiwai International School1
Guanghua Academy1
Shanghai Weiyu International School1
Chengdu Shishi High School1
Nanjing Foreign Language School1
Nanjing Jinling High School1
High School Affiliated To Nanjing Normal University1
Zhengzhou Foreign Language School1
Kang Chiao International School1
Jinan Licheng No.2 High School1
Hangzhou No.4 High School1
Hangzhou Xuejun High School1
Hangzhou Wickham International School1
Hangzhou Dongfang High School1