US educators embark on Chinese quest

Updated: 2014-04-14 11:09

By Michael Barris in New York (China Daily USA)

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Members of the School Superintendents Association, a Virginia-based professional group, will visit five Chinese cities for two weeks this summer to increase their understanding of the Asian nation to help them incorporate its language and culture into US school programs.

The "Discover Chinese" mission, planned between June 21 and July 5, is sponsored by SLG-Sino Language Gateway, a California provider of study-abroad Chinese language and cultural immersion programs, and the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council, a Chinese government office which works with Chinese living abroad. The Chinese Association for Science and Technology (CAST), California Chapter at Los Angeles spearheaded the project, led by Howie Yu, president of CAST-USA.

The mission's goal is to "help the superintendents or principals to initiate or expand their own Chinese program or culture program in their own school district or institution," SLG-Sino Language Gateway director Anna Yu said in an interview. "And also to establish meaningful partnerships with Chinese education institutions and educational officials in China."

Yu said "a lot of US grade K-12 educators have no idea how the Chinese education system works". With this trip they will "get a chance to talk to the educators and the school principals. They will get a very good idea of how the students are enrolled, how their grades are measured and the similarities or differences between the US and Chinese systems".

By visiting local and cultural attractions, she said, "they will have a good idea of what kind of country China is, in terms of its history, language, multicultural environment and its modern development of recent years."

China's breakthrough as an economic superpower and go-to destination for business dealings has raised the profile of the Chinese language in the world of commerce. With some 873 million people, or about one-fifth of the world's population, speaking Mandarin as their primary language, more US schools are offering Mandarin courses.

"Students need to have this skill to compete in the next-century workplace," Yu said.

Virginia-based AASA, an approximately 150-year-old organization with 10,000 member education professionals, represents educators at about 65 percent of US K-12 schools. The group strives to "support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to the highest quality public education for all children", according to its mission statement.

To that end, Discover Chinese will include discussions on K-12 education in US and China, US and Chinese student exchange programs, cross-border learning, online Chinese and English learning, teacher exchange, collaborate learning, establishing sister schools and joint-diploma programs.

When they are not engrossed in education-related discussions, the delegation's members will be treated to a variety of tourist attractions. After arriving in Beijing, the group will travel to Wuhan, home of the Yellow Crane Tower. They will then go to Chongqing, where they will see Diaoyu Fortress.

The delegation will include AASA COO Chuck Woodruff; Andrew Lee Smith, superintendent of Antelope Union High School, District No 50, in Wellton, Arizona; Christine Marie Syriac, superintendent of Seymour Public Schools, in Seymour, Connecticut; Sonia Beckford, principal of James Ryder Randall Elementary School in Clinton, Maryland; Judith Sue Grow, supervisor of modern language of Lenape Valley Regional High School in Stanhope, New Jersey; and San Deloris Sims, principal of Cooper Lane Elementary School in Landover Hills, Maryland.

 US educators embark on Chinese quest

US youngsters learn Chinese cooking skills at Sino Language Gateway summer camp in Beijing. Sino is a California provider of study-abroad Chinese language and cultural immersion programs. Provided to China Daily

(China Daily USA 04/14/2014 page1)