Elisa van de Bunt's Experience with WLSA in Shanghai!

Speaker at the WLSA & CAN Conference in Shanghai, Elisa van de Bunt, published an article online through a Dutch website. Elisa is from the Netherlands and works with the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam and is Director at vdbconsulting. The article, featured on ManagementSite, discusses Elisa’s experiences and impressions of Shanghai as a cultural hub and even the surprisingly dense pollution that surrounds it. Additionally, he mentions his contribution to the WLSA & CAN Conference and other presenter’s topics that he found beneficial to attendees.

Hosting a conference for attendees and presenters that come from many different countries and sometimes don’t even speak the same language can be difficult, however, this is such an important experience to strengthen cultural understanding. As Elisa remarks in this article that although some Chinese attendees did not speak English, they were eager to understand and ask for clarification.
We a WLSA, are so happy to hear that a presenter and attendee was able to leave this year’s conference with useful information, a new cultural experience, and new questions sparked for further growth!

Thank you Elisa for presenting at the WLSA & CAN Conference! 


Elisa van de Bunt

Click here to read the full article in Dutch. 

If your Dutch is a little rusty, see the English translation below! 

An East-West Dialogue About Education

Conference in Shanghai: About ‘From old School to Activated Classroom,’ ‘Educational organizations and the human scale.’
Just returned from Shanghai where I attended a conference from the World Leading Schools Association (WLSA) at Jiao Tong University. Theme: International Education: Exploring & Expanding its Relevance.

First Impressions:
The first thing that stands out, well-known by South-East Asia goers, is the warm humid heat when you step off the plane. The next is the Maglev magnet train, who takes you from the airport to the city with a speed of 300 km/h in 8 minutes. A distance of about 30 kilometers, what normally equals a 1-hour taxi ride.
Fight against air pollution
On the street around the hotel, you will see no crackling gasoline scooters, but electric ones. Also, there are many electric bikes. No luxurious bikes like in the Netherlands, but simple ones.
All of this in their fight against air pollution. In China these transformations happen in the twinkling of an eye, while with great difficulty, the city council in Amsterdam tries to get rid of the most polluted scooters. The disadvantages of Chinese governance are of course known, but from their advantages we can still learn something.

From old school to activated classroom
Cross cultural management in school organizations was, among other things, a discussed topic at the conference. What is a good approach for teachers and students? A debate followed with teachers from very diverse cultures about more modern methods of transferring knowledge. In doing so, the vulnerable teacher from North India made the biggest impression. She works at a school for very poor children. Her kids love to come to school. Not because their parents say so, but because they want to come themselves: they get free food and clothes.
The iPad / Facebook generation is no longer motivated by thick textbooks and pervasive scientific articles. Craig Blewett from South Africa pointed out that pedagogy in the electronic environment has been directly taken over from the old school, but needs innovation to reach the present generation.
In the Activated Classroom – A Pedagogy for EdTech, Craig explains this.

Craig draws a line of 6 C’s: from Consumption, in which the student passively undergoes the classes, through Curation, Conversating, Correction and Creation to Chaos. The successive steps encourage the student to actively engage with the subject matter. I often talk about it with colleagues at the university: students want easy-readable things on the internet. Classically educated scientists are horrified by this, but need to know about it. Memorizing things that need to be reproduced on the exam are outdated.

Responses to the presentation by the Chinese and other attendees
The Chinese student volunteers at this excellently organized conference were always present to provide a helping hand. Technical problems that always arise in these kinds of gathering were resolved smoothly and expertly.
The English presentations were translated simultaneously into Chinese. Also, next to the text on the pre-submitted slides, the translation was displayed in Chinese. Most of the attendees could understand English, but found it more pleasant to respond in their native language, after which the interpreter gave the reply in English.
Of course, such dialogue gives a bit of a ‘lost in translation’ feeling. In general, Chinese participants were eager to get acquainted with the new ideas and responded positively and asked for clarification. Criticism is not found politely, but do not think that they have no real interest. Experience shows that new concepts are put into practice quite quickly by them.

A Thousand Moments of Truth
In my WLSA workshop, I discussed the ROC Leiden, Inholland and Amarantis cases as an illustration of unbridled expansion. The human scale has been completely lost in these instances. The distance between the top and the bottom has become so large that, for example, in one of the new buildings of ROC Leiden, there were hardly any teaching spaces arranged. It is a sad heritage of real estate barons without any sense of the primary education process. ROC Leiden barely avoided bankruptcy due to a donation from the Ministry.
Short-term remedy: organize in smaller units, try to be more flexible than the standard bureaucracy and turn the pyramid around, according to Carlzon’s* vision at SAS Airlines. He pointed to the thousand moments of truth in the contact between passengers and SAS employees. Managing passengers and students can only be improved by redistributing responsibilities at work. Provide executives with a supporting role instead of a leading role.
The strange thing about these lessons is that this has been known for decades from research and practice. However, organizations disregard them, and/or are not familiar with them.
One of the attendees commented that this has to do with generational changes. New generations of executives are unfamiliar with the lessons of the past.
In my opinion the problem lies deeper. To date, these lessons are confirmed by research and publications. Many managers find it easier to adhere to the rule of bureaucracy. What is necessary is more empathy towards uncovering the moments of truths.

* Carlzon, Jan (1987), Moments of Truth, Ballinger Publishing Company.