Equal parts English, equal parts Chinese, Kensington Wade School opens its doors officially in September and, helmed by principal Professor Hugo de Burgh, is already seeing the admissions flying in.
During a journalistic career that saw his founding of the Chinese Media Centre within the University of Westminster in 2005, Prof de Burgh was quickly convinced of the fundamental importance that China was having on the global economy and policy. He also noticed how speaking even a small amount of Mandarin was able to hugely improve his working relationships.
In 2008, on communicating this discovery to a friend, Lady Tessa Keswick, who was very interested in China and learning Chinese herself, it was agreed that the only way to learn a language and be “really good” is to start “very young”. The idea of creating a bilingual, Chinese school in London was born.
This ambitious scholastic enterprise was to be the first of its kind in Western Europe and would teach Chinese and English from the basics, capitalizing on the sponge-like nature of young children’s brains for languages.
“We work in the theory of immersion, the day is divided into two, 50 percent in Chinese and 50 percent in English, in the Chinese classroom you never speak English, and in the English classroom, you’re not permitted to speak one work of Chinese and young children find this perfectly easy to deal with straight away,” explains Principal Prof de Burgh.
Catching the children young would allow Kensington Wade alumni to speak and write Chinese and English perfectly upon graduation, not only making the children irresistible to the top, independent secondary schools in the country, but laying down the foundations for a distant career in Chinese business and international affairs.
“It’s the biggest market in the world, China is the main trading partner of 124 countries now, it dominates the economy of most of central Asia, is increasingly important in many African and Latin American countries and that’s without even trying,” says Prof de Burgh. “And it’s increasingly important here, we have a lot of investment, many of our universities would collapse if we didn’t have Chinese students.”
Clearly hitting upon a niche in the educational market, the ambitious prep school already boasts parental registrations for admissions in 2018, 2019 and 2020. The majority coming from British and international banking families looking to set the next generation ahead of the curve.
“There will be so many areas in the world where Chinese will be as valuable as English, management consultancy, finance, scientific research. Regardless of the area, Chinese will be useful everywhere,” says Prof de Burgh.
While this may be the first you hear of Kensington Wade, it certainly looks like it won’t be the last we hear of its alumni.