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Workers like that were more likely to stay put if there were high-quality English-language schools for their children to attend." Dulwich College, which now has three branches in China, was only too happy to plug the gap.
The relaxation of attitudes in Beijing coincided with a change of Government in Britain and, under New Labour, a phasing out of the old Assisted Places scheme, under which independent schools were able to take on children from the state sector.
And as a former head of modern languages at Sherborne, he finds nothing incongruous in exporting the values of an ancient Dorset public school, founded in 1550, to the ultra-modern – and educated – surroundings of 21st? "The common bond is a passion for education: the desire to turn out well-behaved, well-organised children who understand the values of decency, honour and integrity.
What has most struck me in Qatar is how determined the Government is to build a first-class education system and to achieve that goal as quickly as possible." Niven finds parallels between Qatar and China, where he encountered the same enthusiasm for British schools during his time at Dulwich College, Shanghai.
At so many schools, pupils are just expected to sit there and listen.
If you ask questions, it is seen as challenging the authority of the teacher.
The famous Harrovian boaters may have looked out of place in downtown Bangkok but, educationally, the model worked.Sherborne Qatar would not have been possible without the patronage of a passionately Anglophile Qatari – Sheikh Abdullah bin Ahmed Al Thani, a member of the family that rules this tiny oil-rich Gulf state, where the population is little more than 200,000, but per capita income is the highest in the world.The Sheikh's own education was typical of a wealthy Qatari of his generation – he is in his late forties – some limited private schooling in Qatar supplemented by spells at summer schools in Britain – in Reading, Oxford, Lampeter, Hastings and Aberdeen. "The way we were taught in those days in Qatar was too mechanical."Of course you get the odd cowboy school where the main motivation is making money," Niven says."But that was not the reason why Dulwich decided to move into China.