Educators from China tour Griswold public schools
By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Griswold - posted Mon., Nov. 12, 2012
Isabel, a Griswold fifth-grader, served as translator to two visiting dignitaries last week, using the Mandarin Chinese she spoke in school back in China. Two educators from Shandong province in China spent last week touring all three of Griswold’s public schools, taking notes, filming classes and hoping to bring some new ideas home to their schools.
Yang Shichen of Jinyi Primary School and Du Yizhi of No. 1 Experimental Primary School were among 20 Chinese school principals visiting seven different towns in Connecticut through a program of the state’s Department of Education. The pair explained through Isabel, who came to the U.S. from China five years ago, that schools in China are typically much larger than those in the U.S. For example, Jinyi Primary houses 3,121 students, while Experimental Primary educates 4,525 elementary-level children. “One class will have 30 to 40 children,” she said.
Griswold Superintendent Paul Smith hosted the two principals in his West Hartford home throughout the week. Smith had made three trips to China’s Shandong province during his tenure at the Bolton public schools. “Our hope is to establish a positive sister school relationship” between the two districts, similar to one in Bolton, he said.
One of the most dramatic differences between schools in the two nations is the teaching and learning style, said Smith. Memorization still plays a big role in Chinese education. “In China, the curriculum is naturally very standardized,” he said. “What they find fascinating is the creative element [in American schools].”
Du said that American teachers, unlike their Chinese counterparts, customize classroom activities to their students’ learning styles, for example, using games to help young children learn, or mixing teaching styles in the same classroom. “In China they don’t do that,” said Yang. “But the teachers like children to learn more.”
Chinese students are used to academic challenge, said Du. When faced with tough assignments, they work hard to make their parents proud. “Parents always want their children to be the best,” he said.
“We’re living in fascinating times,” said Smith. “We’re moving toward a common curriculum. China is moving away from that [focus on rote learning]. They want their students to be creative like American students.”