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May 1, 2013

Local school principal learns in China

Why China?

There are several reasons for visiting China that come to mind. 

One is to find out if they really have egg rolls there (I have been here for a week, and I haven’t seen one yet). 

Another is because it is probably the safest place to be with the current threat of violence from North Korea. 

The real reason, however, goes a bit deeper than that.

A few years ago, I was applying to be a foreign-exchange teacher in England. The person interviewing me asked a question that continues to stick in my mind and in my craw. 

“What will you say to people who ask you why American education lags behind education in other developed countries?” he queried.

My response was immediate and probably only a teeny bit defensive. 

“I would tell them not to believe everything that they hear.” 

I believed then, as I do now, that the American education system is one of the best in the world. 

Certainly, you hear facts bandied about regarding unimpressive American scores on standardized math and English tests, but does this really tell the whole story? 

Half of my goal for going to China was to determine if tales of our demise have any truth to them.

SHORTCOMINGS

Last fall, I applied to be part of the Chinese Administrator Exchange Initiative. This program, fully funded by the Chinese Education Department and the Freeman Foundation, brings Chinese school administrators to America and American school administrators to China. 

What country is more likely to have a significant political and economic effect on America in coming years than China?  

So here I sit at a 4,000-student high school (grades 10 through 12) in Xiniji City, Heibi Province, China, thinking back on what I have learned over the past week of meetings. 

At a recent presentation by the Heibei Education Division, Director of Basic Education Zeng Chaomin said: “Teachers in China talk too much. We focus too much on passing down knowledge but less on innovation and less on critical thinking. 

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