Face-to-Face is a new feature from newzealandinc.com where we sit down for a chat with young business leaders from around the globe. We’ll be running a special series of these from China where we talk to young New Zealanders doing big things on the ground here.
Today newzealandinc.com looks at China through the lens of a life-long educator. Ryan Scott is a teacher at the prestigious Dulwich College in Shanghai in addition to now being co-ordinator of the program for rugby for International Schools. A small town Waikato boy at heart, Ryan came to China following time in Europe and Vietnam seeking a new challenge. Now established – we talk to Ryan about how he is helping to innovate education in China.
NZ Inc: New Zealand, Europe, Vietnam, now China – how’d all that happen?
I had a little bit of experience overseas out of high school. Lacking a bit of direction I went to Europe to do some voluntary work. Europe wasn’t really my thing so I went back to New Zealand and had a go in the diving industry as a scuba instructor. I enjoyed the teaching side of things but diving wasn’t really my cup of tea.
Growing up in a teaching environment it was probably destined that I end up at teachers college, which I completed at the University of Auckland. Following that I started teaching in the Bay of Plenty and loved it, loved the kids, loved the idea of an outdoor lifestyle and couldn’t get enough of it but the will to see the world won over and the international scene for teaching lured me abroad.
I applied for a job in Vietnam of all places – had no idea what the place was all about but five days later I was touching down in Hanoi. I walked out in board shorts and jandals to find it was the middle of winter and freezing. Made friends with a tailor very very quickly after that and got into it.
Soon after that I found myself working outside the classroom developing the curriculum for a new international school which was really exciting. Producing programs for both inside and outside the classroom, everything from the arts and higher thinking, PE and swimming lessons through to e-learning.
NZ Inc: Now teaching at Dulwhich College, how have you found that?
Wanting something new to do and a new challenge I took up an offer here in Shanghai, China. Moved up to a very prestigious British international school and took a post here.
NZ Inc: How did you come to be involved with the rugby at Dulwich?
Dulwich is a private British school with a mother institution in London which is apparently very renowned for its rugby. Initially they asked me, “do I coach rugby?” and I said “yeah I’m from New Zealand, know a thing or two about rugby, why not?” So I got my first team: an under-11 team of nine and ten year olds. At that stage there was about thirty players in the whole school.
NZ Inc: With only thirty players, why did you choose to pursue the sport so actively here in Shanghai?
I saw a need not just for rugby, but some sport, outdoor education and a bit of athleticisim amongst the student population. At the end of the day the students are all there for the academics, but as passionate teachers we like to see our pupils become well rounded. Rugby was what we knew, so that is what we supplied and got at the end of the day. We started with thirty and from there it just kept growing. With the help of some other kiwi teachers and some Brits who are all enthusiastic about rugby, we just kept promoting the game.
NZ Inc: Was that process successful for you?
We started within the school and we kept promoting within the school. I found out about another few schools that were playing at the time now we’ve ended up with 12-13 schools here playing rugby now. Through Saturday rugby we made it available to the masses by making it free, which is a big thing here in Shanghai. Generally if you want to play sport its quite expensive and here we don’t run trials, we don’t charge anything. Just come along, show us you can tackle properly and you can play rugby.
I think that it’s superb to get the kids involved in teams sports playing with peers. Friendship and sportsmanship are two things that our students tend to lack here in an academic world and that’s something that we feel rugby can change.
NZ Inc: What about China makes rugby a unique proposition here?
China moves at a million miles an hour. There’s always something new happening here and the opportunities are endless. In rugby alone, now that they’ve taken it on as a sport in the Olympics it’s become massive here. For me an opportunity arose and I’m now a part of the Chinese women’s rugby team and getting them ready for the Olympics and developing that team – and they look sensational.
NZ Inc: What about China – as a New Zealander abroad have you found the place challenging?
Coming to Shanghai for this position I kind of knew what I was coming into because I’d been here a lot. In saying that in the 10 years I’ve been coming here the place has just changed completely.
Challenges – the food it’s not your meat and two veg of the world – you’re going to experience some things and you’re going to ask questions – I think you’ve got to start looking at that not as a negative and start considering it a positive. It’s exciting. I wonder what it is. And generally the Chinese are quite excited about it all too because they know it’s not the norm for you and they’d rather you had a go first and then they tell you what it is. As long as you keep an open mind about it all it’s marvelous to be a part of. Just brilliant.
NZ Inc: Now that you’ve been there, done that – what would you say to kiwis back home?
Just get amongst it. Embrace it. Try everything. Get curious. Ask questions. Just try everything. Don’t hold back.
Some of the best food, experiences, scenery and people I’ve been lucky enough to come across are all in China and some of the best opportunities. You’ve got to get here. I can’t wait to see more.