Recently, William Vanbergen, the founder and CEO of BE Education took the interview by Lifeweek magazine. In this interview, William explained to us what British elite education is and also shared some funny stories about his old schoolmate, Prince William.
Where the overseas study career began
Around ten years ago, William who had just graduated from university took a discount flight from London to Shanghai. He decided to continue his 2000-pound business.
“By chance, I was asked by a friend if I could help a Chinese student apply to Stowe School located in Buckingham. I spent a day talking to the child, telling him how to answer the frequently asked questions in interview, how to keep a straight back and show interest in rugby football. The kid got into the school eventually and his mother insisted on giving me 2,000 pounds as rewards.” said William.
He came to realize that wealthy families in China are eager to provide quality education resources for their children if it is within their reach. Perhaps it is deep rooted in the Confucius culture of China. So this was when William got a head start on his business--- helping Chinese students gain entry into UK schools, by utilizing his strong connections with leading UK school alumnus, highlighted by his confidence and spirit of adventure.
William Vanbergen, the founder and CEO of BE Education
Why choose UK independent schools?
Why would wealthy Chinese families bother to send their children to the distant England for education? What’s the difference between Chinese and UK education? Based on William’s opinion, public education in China is not worse than that in the UK, just as showed in the BBC documentary. Public education system of UK and that of China share a similar goal, to gain entry into a good university with high grades, only that China has its own exam-oriented education system.
“If we send a top-notch student in Beijing to Eton, he may get the highest score in math; if we send a student with poor academic performance to Beijing, he may come bottom in the academic ranking.” William described. The development of outstanding Chinese students are presented in a strip chart, with excellent academic performance but few extracurricular achievements; while students of Eton are more like distributed in normal distribution curve, with fair academic performance as well as other achievements.
Since academic stress of British independent schools comprises not only grades pressure, the students are given much time in doing sports, arts, music and drama activities, all of which are geared towards developing the pupils’ independence, perseverance, teamwork and creativity. These matter a lot to a person’s future achievement. Furthermore, discipline in British independent schools is as strict as in Chinese schools: students are subject to tight schedules. So William holds that: if one wants to achieve a good grade to go to college, he should stay in China; but if he cares more about long-term development, then he should go to England.
Every Eton boy has his hobbies
What an independent school could possibly offer?
William considers every kid as a gold mine, and the best education is to discover the gold through constant mining. Private schools cherish the concept that every child is unique, has his or her own shortages and advantages, and they cannot be measured by a single standard which traditional education depends on. So the key issue is to dig the gold and find out their sparkle.
Private schools provide 50 activities for students to choose. Students may find out which kind of activity best suits them, keep making progress and build their confidence. “Students will take all programmes for the first year. During this period they find what they’re interested in and what they’re good at. For the second year, they’re able to narrow their choices, so that the goal become more clarified” said William. The holistic education advocates the balance between classroom hours and extracurricular activities such as sports, music, art and drama. It is believed that music and art lessons may cultivate creativity.
What you accomplish from a sketch can be transformed into new ideas and new theories in business or scientific research fields. And drama helps to build your confidence. Just imagine the feeling when you’re facing 500 audience. Horrible, isn’t it? I still remember me trembling at the stage when I first acted in a play at Eton. “God, who are they?” I told to myself. But your ability gradually got promoted in this way. Prince William and I were on the same grade then. Now we can see he often needs to speak in front of 10,000 people.
Eton boys wear tuxedo as school uniform. This tradition has been kept for several centuries.
How to get into Eton College?
William enrolled in Eton in 1994. His father and grandfather were also Eton alumnus. Once William’s father knew the coming child was a boy, he went to Eton for registration straightly. The dormitory was a key battle to win. William recalled that he was brought to meet the dorm warden when he was at 6 or 7, because the dorm warden had the decision power. He got in finally because he was good at playing chess and won several champions for his dorm. Admission now is much fairer. “At 11, the candidate needs to get a recommendation from a preparatory school, pass an IQ test, then he is allowed to take the interview.”
Life at Eton
Sports help to develop one’s perseverance, team spirit and leadership. When studying at Eton, William spent 5 hours doing exercises in the afternoon. “3-hour rowing, 1-hour karate or judo, 1-hour weightlifting or cross-country running”.
He can never forget a quote from the then Head Master of Eton: “winter is the best season to get the education of Eton. In the rugby field, it’s freezing cold, wet and slippery, but this is where education lies about. Think yourself in a game. For half the time, you keep knocked down by your stronger and taller rival, and you know your team is about to lose. You have to struggle to your feet, think about how to win back the competition. It’s your tenacity and sense of responsibility that inspires you and your teammates.”
“The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton”, William mentioned this famous quote, “Napoleon had almost dominated the whole Europe, then in the battle of Waterloo he lost to Wellington who won with excellent leadership. This ability originated and got trained during his days in Eton.”
Each Eton boy has his talents
What learned in sports fields……
In Eton, William learned his most important lesson on the playground. He had average academic performance: “Good in science subjects, but average in liberal arts. Spelling was especially poor”, but he was active in sports: the team leader of the school’s Chess team, three national first prizes in rowing, good at karate and judo, medals in shooting, etc.
The most memorable competition to him was a final of UK School Rowing when he was 16: “we won all the quarterfinals and semi-finals, and at the final we met Radley. To our disappointment, we lost by 0.02 seconds”. Rowing expends enormous physical efforts, and feels like your body is burning. And the silver medal hanging around the chest was so depressing.
“We thought, if one of us had fought harder at the game or during the training, we could’ve won this time. This is the lesson I learned. You have to try your best at all times. So when we went back to school, we worked harder than before. And one month later, we met the same team again, and this time, we won way beyond them.”
This was what William learned from his failure in sports games, and it meant more than anything he had learned in classes. He was born in a wealthy family. His father was the founder of a food brand supplied to chain supermarkets, sales net of which are all over the UK. However, William was only provided with good education and had no extra financial support from his family. When he was young, he spent most of his off-time in front of racks. He even did part-time jobs to pay his tuition during college. This game that he lost again reminded him that one is not born rich, if you don’t try your best, you’ll lose everything you have.
Sports is an indispensable part of life
The classmate of Prince William
William used to go to Eton with Prince William. They had Latin classes together. “Both of our Latin were poor. Once at an exam, we copied each other’s answers and got caught by the teacher, because our answers were completely the same. So stupid, right? But he’s good at history, since the history of England was like family history to him. He’s smart and reliable. I believe he will be a great king”. William also felt sorry for the Prince, “We can choose what become of us in the future, but he can’t. He’s destined to be the King of England.”