Chinese official praises British approach to STEM

The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China showed its support for BIEA’s efforts to combat the growing gap between the number of STEM students graduating and the growing number of STEM jobs needed in vital industries.

Minister Counsellor for Education Wang Yongli had the opportunity to speak in front of an assembled audience of international journalists, educators, government officials and STEM experts. He spoke of the traditional strength that China had in terms of STEM education and engagement with its young people. He related an old saying that if you can master chemistry you can master the world. He then followed this by drawing attention back to the reason for the event as a whole by stating that in the twenty-first century this is no longer enough to succeed. He praised the UK’s approach to STEM and in particular the more creative and innovative aspects that were missing from the Chinese approach. He finished his speech with a wish for closer cooperation between China and the UK in engaging young people in STEM.

This need for creativity has been reflected in the desire for Chinese educators to learn from British examples, particularly in early-years education which is a key aim of the BIEA E-league programme. With China representing a formidable pool of global STEM talent, BIEA looks forward to the entry of Chinese teams into the 2019 BIEA International STEM Youth Innovation Competition to meet peers from around the world, make friends and swap ideas and innovations.

How to engage young people in STEM

Sarah Hedley, the National Skills Lead for Microsoft in the UK took part in the panel discussion on how to engage young people in STEM education during the BIEA STEM Conference on the 15th of January.

The event aimed to promote STEM education to young people and try to draw attention to the skills gap that is developing between the number of STEM graduates and the growing number of STEM jobs that are needed to sustain the economy. Sarah’s position at Microsoft, a key player in tech education and innovation around the world meant that she had some key insights as to the challenges faced by young people when engaging in STEM. In particular, Sarah focused on female participation in STEM and how at the age of 7 girls are keen to take part but by the age of 12, they are far less willing. The panel suggested increasing access to female role models in STEM and smashing preconceptions across STEM could lead to increased diversity which would benefit society as a whole.

Sarah also talked about how companies like Microsoft and the BSA, among others, use their resources to make STEM fun by coming into schools and teaching STEM skills in a way that young people find relatable and engaging. This was widely accepted by the panel as a key way to engage young people in subjects that traditionally are seen as fairly dry.

Day 6 & 7 Overseas Study Tour visits independent school and London sights

On their final couple of days, the early-years practitioners from the January 2019 BIEA Overseas Teacher Tour visited St. Teresa's school and got the chance to explore the sites of London.

The group visited St Teresa's School in Dorking. Boasting a nursery, primary and secondary section the school provides an outstanding independent boarding environment for girls. The group was greeted by the Principle Mike Farmer who is also a BIEA board member and given a tour of the school's ample facilities.

The group was particularly interested in the computerised evaluation facilities that the staff used to grade and assess their pupils. The group also got a second chance during their trip to engage with the concept of a forest school and develop their knowledge about what such a course entails and which of those lessons could successfully be transplanted to China. The group finished their tour with a look at the school's boarding facilities and listen to how modern boarding management works.

The teachers also visited the nursery, including the role-playing area, creation area, and the reading area. Children can choose their favourite corner, and the teachers will change the materials regularly according to their interests and development needs. The nursery offers the Forest Learning course every Thursday, and the forest course continues until Year 2.

Mike Famer presented the certificate of completion to the group, he also delivered a closing speech - "I hope that we can continue to cooperate with the directors of the nurseries in China and spread the excellent educational concepts of both countries to the benefit of the children." The teachers finished the day by sampling some fish & chips.

In the afternoon the group visited the main sites of London, including the British Museum, Horse Guards Parade, the London eye and finally finished with an afternoon tea on the riverside terrace at the Houses of Parliament.

BIEA forms partnership with the Born Free Foundation

The British International Education Association united with the Born Free Foundation to sign a partnership contact during the launch event of the second annual BIEA International STEM Youth Innovation Competition on the 15th of January 2019 at the Royal Institution in London.

With its background as a leading voice for the protection of animals in the wild and the rehabilitation of those who have been through captivity, the Born Free Foundation is a natural choice of partner for advising on the wildlife specific angle of the 2019 competition and beyond. BIEA hopes to inspire young people from around the world to work together to use technology and STEM skills to solve pressing global problems such as the extinction of vulnerable animal species. The Born Free Foundation provides an invaluable source of expertise when it comes to the application of technology to monitor and protect endangered animals around the world.

The cooperation agreement between these two organisations ultimately aims to help the education of young people across STEM disciplines and to promote the protection of wildlife on a global level. In 2019 BIEA and the Born Free Foundation will be producing the BIEA International STEM Youth Innovation Competition with the theme of fighting extinction through technology. Students will be challenged to use drone technology to find a way to help monitor and protect endangered species around the world. The competition officially launched after the two organisations signed the formal partnership agreement and the registration phase will stay open until the 31st of March 2019. BIEA is proud to announce that it has already received applications from 84 teams representing over 20 countries and regions through its pre-registration process.

BIEA believes that cooperating with the Born Free Foundation will add incalculable value to the 2019 competition and add some of the world’s leading wildlife experts to judge the feasibility of work created by the students. BIEA looks forward to working closely with the Born Free Foundation and to continue to deepen and strengthen their relationship into the future.

Can technology save a species from extinction? Get involved in the 2019 International STEM Youth Innovation Competition and find out. For more details, please visit:

About the Born Free Foundation

Born Free’s mission is to ensure that all wild animals, whether living in captivity or in the wild, are treated with compassion and respect and are able to live their lives according to their needs. Born Free opposes the exploitation of wild animals in captivity and campaigns to keep wildlife in the wild.

Born Free promotes Compassionate Conservation to enhance the survival of threatened species in the wild and protect natural habitats while respecting the needs of and safeguarding the welfare of individual animals. Born Free seeks to have a positive impact on animals in the wild and protect their ecosystems in perpetuity, for their own intrinsic value and for the critical roles they play within the natural world. For more information about Born Free please visit

British Council shows support for BIEA

The British International Education Association was pleased to host members of the British Council during its first STEM Conference on the 15th of January 2019. BIEA has a long history of working closely with the British Council, sharing the goal of exporting the best of British educational practice overseas.

Science Advisor: STEM and Public Engagement, Adrian Fenton represented the British Council during the panel discussion moderated by New Scientist Magazine on how to engage young people in STEM. It was widely agreed that young people could be encouraged into STEM education through making the perception of the subject fun through outreach and practical education that is supported by organisations such as the British Council around the world. It was also agreed that young people needed to be aware of the multitude of career options that were open to them, outside of traditional STEM paths and that similarly, access to role models could help drive up STEM engagement.

BIEA looks forward to working especially closely alongside the British Council in China though 2019 as it launches its flagship E-league and S-league programs in the country. BIEA is confident that the global expertise that the British Council brings to the table when it comes to promoting and sharing British values and education practices around the world will be invaluable for exporting BIEA educational programs to Chinese educators.

BIEA hosts Department for International Trade

On the 15th of January 2019, the British International Education Association hosted several members of the Department for International Trade at its first STEM Conference. Aiding BIEA’s to export the best of British education overseas, the Department for International Trade has been set up specifically to deal with British global trade in whatever environment post-Brexit Britain finds itself in.

Head of Education Geoff Gladding took the opportunity to say a few words before the official launch of the 2019 BIEA International STEM Youth Innovation Competition. He thanked BIEA for helping British education to leave a footprint around the world and continuing to boost the prestige and value of this crucial element of British soft power, particularly in the highly topical STEM field.

BIEA looks forward to continuing to deepen and expand its relationship with the Department, particularly when it comes to exporting the best of modern British educational practice into China’s booming education sector. 2019 will see the official launch of BIEA’s flagship E-league and S-league programs in China and BIEA looks forward to cooperating with the Department for International Trade in promoting these programs to Chinese educators throughout the country.


Early-Years group tour three concepts of learning

On the third and fourth days of the BIEA Overseas Study Tour, a group of early-years Chinese educators visited three British nurseries with differing characteristics to learn all about valuable management experience.

The Pilgrims’ school

 The teachers first visited the Pilgrims School, an independent day and boarding boy's primary school founded in 676 AD. Principal Tom Burden greeted the group at the door and led the teachers on a tour to introduce the background of the school.

Tom said that the school's historical background and teaching experience helped them discover that boys and girls have different characteristics in learning styles. The distinction between boys and girls’ schools is actually more beneficial to children's learning.

During the visit, students were taking music lessons, the teachers were there to observe the lesson. The music teacher improvised in various ways to help the children to practice vocalisation. The school had recently launched an activity based on the theme of "space", as such the music activities also adhered to the theme. The children sang a song called "astronaut".

Ann Bernadt Nursery

Next, the teachers visited the Ann Bernadt Nursery. This nursery contains children from all over the world. There was a map of the nationality of each child on the wall.

The director Lynne Cooper and the assistant director Levia Ostrove-Pound were very enthusiastic to welcome and lead the teacher training group to visit various indoor and outdoor activities. The wall with an explanation of different staff roles caught teachers' attention.


Later, the teachers had a hot discussion about teaching quality with the director Lynne. According to Lynne, the teachers in the nurseries in the UK are divided into different grades, such as level1, level2, level3, etc. The teacher-children ratio is different for different levels. Lynne emphasized that no matter what level the teachers belonged to, she believes that they have the ability to take care of the growth of young children, although there is a difference in the division of work.

New River Green Children’s Centre

New River Green Children's Center is a local government-managed children's centre that provides comprehensive childcare and education services for children aged from 6 months to 5 years. It also provides parents with a variety of services including courses, counselling, etc, such as breastfeeding, family support for children with special needs, and more.

Home cooperation can be said to be a major feature of the centre. The centre helps to promote the development of young children through the establishment of a good home cooperation model. The teacher training group was very interested in this model and had an in-depth discussion on how the nursery should carry out practical cooperation with the home environment.

BIEA overseas teachers embrace forest schools

Ciara Rush, Director of the Archway Children's Centre and Nursery School provided training for the day to a group of Chinese early-years educators on the BIEA Overseas Teacher Tour. Ciara is a graduate of the UK Master of Education PGCE program and has led several nurseries to achieve outstanding results. Ciara was also joined by Sadie Tosun, an expert in forest courses with many years of practical experience. The aim of the day was for the overseas teachers to get to grips with the concept of a forest school.

 What is a forest school?

At the beginning of the course, Sadie asked a very important question: Why is outdoor activity important? Whether dealing with children in China or the UK, it is inevitable that TV screens, mobile phones and other screen activities take up an increasing amount of children’s time, reducing the ability and opportunity for children to walk out of the room and get in touch with nature. This problem is a principal reason why more and more nurseries choose forest courses.

The concept of the Forest School originated in 1927 and was widely disseminated in Northern Europe and introduced to the United Kingdom in 1994. It is broadly centred around adults regularly providing opportunities to achieve and foster confidence through hands-on learning opportunities in woodlands or other natural environments. At Archway the children attend a two-hour forest course once a week.

Forest schools have many advantages, including:

  • Building children's confidence and independence
  • Improving social skills and teamwork
  • Developing physical motor skills
  • Fostering the spirit of adventure


Archway's Forest Course Curriculum Practice

Sadie also brought a group of children to simulate a lesson from the forest course for the group. The teachers discussed and recognised what was safe with the children, teaching them to feel the touch of natural materials. The teachers at the same time learned how the teachers in the nursery integrated forest teaching into other areas of EYFS (for example children could compare the length of branches in a mathematics class).

 Archway's back garden

The outdoor area of the ​​Archway Children’s Centre has been built into a large garden where children can also do some forest activities. The students took part in the activities together and had lively discussions with the teachers while they played.

The garden consisted of several distinct areas, namely: 1) Mud Kitchen:  mud shaping exercises that fostered the development of big muscles and fine movements. 2) Dancing Sticks: Children were provided with branches, ropes and fabrics of different sizes. The children used this material to make branches that could dance. 3) Pattern Making: Using open materials to let children record and express their ideas at any time. 4) Basic carpentry skills - using stumps, hammers and nails to work on stakes and learn the correct use of tools, and develop concentration.

After the end of the visit, Sadie discussed with the teachers the placement of tools in forest learning and shared the forest activity manuals and photos of the garden.

At the end of the day, Ciara shared a few touching words:

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn. Let the children participate, and let them get involved in hands-on activities, they can thus truly grow.”

After the trip, some of the participants attended the 2019 BIEA STEM Conference at the Royal Institution to learn about BIEA’s efforts in promoting STEM skills around the world through its global competition.

BIEA January 2019 Overseas Teacher Tour - learn the fundamentals of EYFS

Early-Years teachers on the January 2019 BIEA Overseas Study Tour visited the Archway Children’s Centre on the fourth day of their trip. Upon arrival at Archway, they were warmly welcomed by BIEA EYFS Course Manager, CPD Senior Course Instructor and Tales Toolkit founder Kate Shelley. Kate explained to the group; “how EYFS promotes the development of high-quality international nurseries”, and explained the concept of EYFS, its teaching and about the favourable environment needed for it to work. She also led the teachers on a tour of the nursery.

1. What is EYFS?

It is vital for the early years teachers who participated in the UK study tour to understand the central concept of the Early-Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). The aim of the lecture given by Kate Shelley was to help establish a systematic EYFS basic knowledge. Kate summed it up as the following:

“EYFS is a statutory early basic stage education framework that sets standards for children's learning and development from birth to pre-school stage, which is guided by the three principles of A Unique Child, Positive Relationships, and Enabling Environments, supporting the learning and development of young children in the areas of communication and language development, physical development, personal, social and emotional development, literacy, mathematics, understanding the world and art and design expressiveness.”

2. The teaching under the EYFS system

The focus of EYFS teaching

EYFS teaching is a topic that interests teachers who are eager to understand the UK EYFS system. Kate pointed out that EYFS teaching has a core point that must be kept in mind: teaching is a combination of teacher-child interaction in adult-led activities and interaction between adults and children in child-directed games. In response to this core point, the teachers presented a discussion on “the role of teachers in teaching”. During the discussion, the participants also raised the question of how British teachers observe and evaluate young children.

Observation-evaluation-plan of EYFS teaching

Kate patiently listened to the students' opinions on teaching issues and commented on their views. In response to the question of how to perform an observation-evaluation-planning cycle, Kate summarised the process as the teacher collecting evidence of the learning and development of the child through observation, including reading, listening, recording and description; based on the evidence for the child, the development is analysed and evaluated to plan the next development and learning stage of the child.
Inter-field relationship under EYFS.

Many of the participating teachers have been exposed to EYFS in their home country, but they did not fully understand the relationships between different areas laid down in EYFS. One teacher asked, "what is the relationship between the key areas of EYFS and specific areas?" In this regard, Kate believes that the most important thing is the development of key areas, but as long as the development process of key areas also includes activities in other fields in order to carry out comprehensive activities cross multiple fields.

3. A favourable environment

The "favourable environment" of the three principles of EYFS is one of the most important stages for the teachers adopting EYFS in China. Kate first explained the definition of a favourable environment in EYFS and then presented pictures of the sand playing area, water-playing area, role-playing game area and other learning areas existing in British nurseries. Kate's patience and teaching helped the teachers master the concept of a favourable environment under the EYFS system.

A teacher summarized Kate's interpretation of the “favourable environment” as: through openness and discovery materials and resources we can engage children and maximize learning, it can stimulate and reflect children's interest and development.

Kate had repeatedly emphasized in the process of creating the environment, “we should provide more open materials for young children to stimulate their creativity, we should also make full use of natural resources such as mud and wooden blocks.” This has the bonus of being environmentally friendly and allows children to get close to nature.

4. Observation

In the afternoon everyone accompanied the Director of the Archway Centre, Ciara to visit the nursery and learn more about how the nursery practised EYFS and completed learning objectives. During the observation process, there was a "nature and spelling" class for 3-5 years old children in the garden, providing the teachers with an opportunity to observe.

Note: Due to child protection, we are not allowed to take pictures of young children. If you would like to use the above pictures for any purpose, please consult Archway Children's Center.

5. Wonderful moments

Experience teaching from Tales Toolkit

Kate is not only the EYFS course manager at BIEA but she is also the founder of the TalesToolkit. Kate shared with teachers the teaching method she designed. “It begins with a "small pig", and started the path to story creation.”

Note: Tales Toolkit is a teaching method that guides children to create stories through related teaching aids. It is mainly used to assist children in creating stories, thus promoting their language ability development.

British preschool policy and direction

The teachers were not only fascinated by EYFS teaching but were also interested in the development of the British early years’ education industry as a whole. One teacher asked, "what is the social identity of British nursery teachers?" To which Kate responded:
“The welfare and entry requirements of preschool teachers in the UK are consistent with those of other stages. But there are also some parents who believe that the primary responsibility of preschool teachers is to look after their children. In recent years, the government has also increased its investment in early years education, as all sectors of society have come to realise that early years education is a long-term development process that will have a profound impact on the future learning and development of young children.”

The BIEA Overseas Study Tour is an opportunity for overseas teachers to get up close of the latest in British educational practices. If you are interested in being involved either as a host, expert or attendee please contact us.

BIEA International STEM Youth Innovation Competition officially open

BIEA International STEM Youth Innovation Competition officially open

On the 15th of January 2019, the 2nd annual International STEM Youth Innovation Competition was officially opened at a ceremony at London’s prestigious Royal Institution (Ri). The British International Education Association (BIEA) alongside its partner, the Born Free Foundation (BFF) announced the competition before an audience made up of educators, STEM professionals, members of industry and invited dignitaries. Working with the support of the British Science Association (BSA), the Royal Institution (Ri), Engineering UK and the Royal Airforce Museum (RAF Museum), BIEA called out for students around the world to get involved and sign up to take part.

Participating in the forum were prominent organisations such as the Department for International Trade (DiT), Embassy of China, the Born Free Foundation, Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS), New Scientist, Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the British Council, Microsoft, Tata Consultancy Services and more. Nearly 20 media outlets attended the conference including the BBC, China Daily, National Geographic, The Week, Computer Weekly and the European Times.

The conference featured presentations by Dr. Joshua Veitch-Michaelis (researcher) on machine learning and drone technology and its applications to wildlife observation, Dr. Alex Holmes (Head of STEM) from BIEA on how to teach STEM skills, Melissa Schiele on the use of water landing drones and marine conservation and final presentation by Dr. Liz Greengrass (Head of Conservation) and Howard Jones (CEO) on the work of the Born Free Foundation and their use of technology in conservation. The second half of the event featured a panel discussion based around how to engage young people in STEM careers and featured Sarah Hedley (National Skills Lead) Microsoft, Dr. Shaun Fitzgerald Director of the Royal Institution, Jane Dowden (Education Innovation Manager) from the British Science Association (BSA) and Adrian Fenton (Science Advisor: STEM and Public Engagement) from the British Council. The discussion was moderated by Penny Sarchet (News Editor) New Scientist Magazine. The general consensus of the panel was the STEM outreach activities from organisations like Microsoft, the Ri and the BSA (amongst others) have had a positive impact in allowing young people to have fun whilst they engage with role models from industry and finding out about STEM careers in the real world. It was generally agreed that the fun part of STEM school-based activities should be recognised as translating into potentially ‘fun’ careers for those with a STEM background.  The panel also agreed that parents and teachers needed to be kept updated with the eclectic mix of jobs and careers that come with a STEM background - careers that are not, in the words of Jane Dowden, “just teaching and research” for science graduates. Finally, it was agreed that alongside inspiration, activities should also encourage aspiration for young people to engage with STEM opportunities.

The theme of the 2019 competition is fighting extinction through technology and aims to inspire students around the world to use their STEM skills to solve global problems. Over 73 student teams from 17 countries have already pre-registered for the 2019 event and BIEA looks forward to welcoming even more as the registration phase will continue until the 31st of March 2019.

The competition was officially launched after a speech by Geoff Gladding, Head of Education at the Department for International Trade who thanked BIEA for helping British education leave a footprint around the world. Second to speak was Wang Yongli, Minister Councillor for Education at the Chinese Embassy who spoke about the difficulties encountered by the Chinese approach to STEM and how to improve it through creativity. He hoped that the competition would provide an opportunity for young people from the world including China to better engage in STEM and build new friendships. Finally, both Mr. Gladding and Mr. Wang took part in the final ribbon cutting ceremony in which BIEA STEM Chair David Hanson announced the competition officially open alongside Gareth Bullock (President of BIEA), Laura Gosset (Head of Education) from the Born Free Foundation and Andrew Holmes OBE.

BIEA received a fantastic reaction across its social media channels including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with support coming from The Week Junior, Science + Nature Magazine and guests including ex-MP Neil Carmichael and STEM Learning Regional Lead for London & South-East Ajay Sharman.

BIEA hopes to nurture both skills and passion for STEM in students globally to tackle the ever-growing skills gap between the number of STEM graduates and the number of STEM jobs that need to be filled. With a majority of global economies investing heavily in STEM education and related industries, it has never been more important for young people to get involved and build a passion for STEM. Working specifically with drone technology, the competition will help students build an appreciation for STEM as they work to solve the pressing issue of how to protect endangered animals from the threat of extinction. Students will work across a multidisciplinary set of challenges between the launch of the competition and the final event on the 4th of July 2019, including report writing, design and construction, presenting, editing, research and technical skills. Through the competition, students will increase their teamwork, independent research and critical thinking skills as well as see the applications of STEM outside of the classroom.

Students will have the chance to meet their peers from around the world at the final event which will take place on the 4th of July at the RAF Museum in London. They will have the chance to show off their work to expert judges and members of the public as well as to fly drones through an obstacle course and be in with a chance to win the £5000 grand-prize. All students taking part will also be eligible for the silver CREST Award from the British Science Association.

Can you save a species through technology? Sign your team up today and create a future that we want to visit.

At the time of publication, 73 teams from 59 schools had successfully pre-registered from 17 countries.