If someone had told me as I child that I would be visiting the world's most populous country, I don't know if I would have believed them.
But I write this after returning from a visit to China, which was a fascinating and life-changing experience for me. As invited delegates, Amy Gengo, assistant principal at the eSTEM Academy of Reynoldsburg High School, and I had an outstanding opportunity to deepen our understanding of China, to share best practices and to build partnerships with Chinese schools.
This program is sponsored by Confucius Institute Headquarters/Hanban and we traveled as guests of Hanban.
The College Board serves as the agent to administer this program in the U.S. and in that capacity, provides official delegation communications to selected participants on behalf of Hanban. There were approximately 220 members from all over the U.S. who were a part of our delegation.
This was my first visit to China and I did not know what to expect. Yes, visiting the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square were bucket-list items, but it was the children and the educational culture that really opened my eyes. I visited Beijing, China's capital, as well as Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, which is also their educational center. I experienced a thriving culture that, despite the political differences, is very similar to ours.
The importance of education in China's economy and future aspirations is clearly evident, as is the industrial development of its infrastructure. The students, just like ours, were amazing and I greatly enjoyed my interactions with them. I discovered that kids, particularly of middle school age, are kids, no matter where in the world you may go. I was greatly taken by China's emphasis on the arts. They take great pride in the development of and celebration of visual arts, dance, music and performance.
There is also a very keen sense and respect of history embedded in the educational structure. Children take great pride in learning about, discussing and sharing their history.
They are also very aware of what we in the U.S. promulgate from a "pop culture" perspective. We talked with kids during downtime about sports, television and music. I would like to see American schools make a shift from the overwhelming focus on assessment to place a greater emphasis on the arts.
Prior to our trip, we already had an existing partnership with a high school in China and we have virtual conversations with our sister school there while sharing ideas and best practices. Our students also talk to each other via that medium. While I was in China, we also forged two new partnerships with an elementary school and a middle school and we look forward to connecting with them.
We want our students to have a greater sense of the world and that it is so much greater than simply where we live. We want them to understand their responsibility to the world and how they can accomplish any dream that they may have.
I look forward to continuing to explore these new partnerships and instilling the lessons from my trip back in the district. This was a fantastic opportunity and I was as #reynproud in China as I am every day in Reynoldsburg!
Melvin Brown is superintendent of Reynoldsburg schools. This column is provided to ThisWeek Reynoldsburg by his office.