By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
---- — CHAMPLAIN — Northeastern Clinton Central High School has welcomed a visitor from the Far East.
Jing Kao Li, principal of Hebei Xinji High School in the province of Hebei, China, recently made the long journey to Champlain as part of the China Exchange Initiative’s U.S.-China Administrator Shadowing Project.
Through the project, Li has been staying with Northeastern Clinton High School Principal Stephen Gratto since Oct. 27 and observing the teaching and learning practices in place at NCCS.
In turn, Gratto will visit China for two weeks this coming April. He will spend one week in Beijing attending conferences on education and a second week in Hebei at Li’s high school.
The China Exchange Initiative, based in Newton, Mass., is an organization conceived by philanthropist Houghton Freeman that strives to build relationships and increase exchange opportunities between pre-college-level schools in the United States and China.
In an interview with the Press-Republican, Li said through a translator that he chose to participate in the exchange, in part, because he is interested in learning about the advantages of the American education system.
“The education system in America is very famous in China,” Li said, adding that he is particularly interested in the level of creativity that American students seem to posses.
“Compared to the American students, the Chinese students lack imagination,” he said. “They are less creative.”
While both the Chinese and American education systems show great concern for bettering the lives of their students, according to Li, American schools place more emphasis on extracurricular activities, which he believes to be beneficial to students.
In China, for example, schools generally require that students receive far less exposure to music and art. And though some Chinese students participate in sports for fun, many schools do not have organized sports teams.
“The parents and the schools’ teachers (in China) are more concerned about the students’ basic knowledge about their textbook, but not many people care about how they’re doing in activities,” Li said.
Chinese students, however, do spend more time in school than American students.
At Li’s high school, which is considered to be of medium size with its 3,000 students, kids attend classes six days a week for 10 hours each day.
“The parents and teachers expect a lot from every single (child),” Li said.
In addition to NCCS, where his itinerary includes meeting with the High School’s Student Council, guidance counselors and special-education staff, Li’s trip, which is his first to the United States, has comprised stops in Boston, Lake Placid and Burlington, as well as a visit to CV-TEC in Plattsburgh.
“We have a population of students who wouldn’t make it out of High School without CV-TEC, so that’s hugely important that he sees that,” Gratto said.
“And I really want him to see the art classes and music classes because those are so important, and he needs to see that that’s part of our education that maybe does make our students unique.”
Li noted that he has observed a “high level of civilization” in America since his arrival and has enjoyed making friends at NCCS, including Gratto.
“The American people have an enthusiastic welcome of foreign people,” he said. “They are friendly.”
Emily Wysko, a freshman at Northeastern Clinton High School, took it upon herself to create a book of photos of the school and its staff to welcome Li to NCCS.
“She made a very nice book for him to take home and show people what happens in the school,” Gratto said.
While this first leg of the exchange serves as an opportunity for Gratto to introduce Li to the way of American schools, Gratto anticipates his journey to China in April will yield valuable information, as well.
“I figure that my top priority is preparing my students to compete in a global marketplace ... the Chinese economy is on course to surpass the U.S. economy in production within a few years,” he said.
“If our students can’t play on the same playing field as the Chinese, we will be in trouble, so the more information I can bring to them about what they’re up against and how other people are doing it, is a good thing.”
Email Ashleigh Livingston: alivingston@
pressrepublican.comTO LEARN MORE For more information about the China Exchange Initiative, visit www.thechina exchangeinitiative.org.