We frequently hear about the importance of today’s students being critical and innovative thinkers and globally aware citizens. But did you know that the same discussions are happening halfway around the globe? As part of the 7th Annual High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange held in Beijing, June 7–9, 2016, a U.S.–China Education Think Tank Dialogue was held with a theme of Educational Research, Policymaking and Innovation in the Knowledge-Based Economy. Participants in the dialogue included policy makers, teacher preparation faculty, researchers, principals, and teachers. (You can download the agenda by clicking here.)
The presentations addressed topics such as lessons of education reform and development in China and U.S. educational reform efforts, curriculum reform, vocational education, and innovative teaching practices. The scope and variety of presentations provided attendees with a unique and comprehensive overview of education in China today. Similar to U.S. efforts to address inequalities in education and to equip our youth with the skills and mindsets necessary to thrive in the 21st century, Chinese policy makers and school administrators are working to improve access to quality education in the western parts of the country, to develop more critical thinking skills and creativity, and to make K–12 classroom instruction more student-centered.
As part of China’s commitment to internationalize its education, all 300 million students study English, starting in Kindergarten.
While the United States shares some of the same education goals, we also have similar challenges. Our Chinese counterparts are increasing funding and support of rural and minority schools, identifying new ways of engaging the community, working to make the profession of teaching more respected and with competitive salaries, and providing schools with more autonomy. Another area of commonality is providing professional development for educators and administrators. Because of Shanghai students’ high PISA scores, there has been global interest in learning more about Shanghai teachers and schools. Data from a Teaching and Learning International Survey revealed that Shanghai teachers have 62 professional development days per academic year.
All new teachers participate in a multiple-year induction program that includes a mentor who is an expert teacher. This level of support requires a financial commitment, which is particularly noteworthy given that 100 new schools are built each year in Shanghai.
The Think Tank Dialogue offered rich learning opportunities for both U.S. and Chinese educators. Reflecting on the three days of presentations, it is clear that we have much more in common than the differences that divide us.
Given KDP’s commitment to advancing sustainability literacy, I met with our partner, the Beijing Association for Education for Sustainable Development (BAESD), which is interested in becoming an affiliate chapter of KDP. BAESD is involved in the establishment of a national Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) District and Green Development Exemplary District in the Shijingshan District. China’s commitment to ESD has set a good example worldwide in curriculum development, teacher training, and innovations in technology. As part of working together with educators and other countries to promote the well-being of human society, the group is interested in establishing a partnership with U.S. high schools that have incorporated either environmental education or sustainable education in their pedagogies and curriculum.
Being in China for the Think Tank Dialogue also provided an opportunity for me to meet with two of our Chinese chapters. Members of the Far East China School chapter shared the many ways that members use and benefit from KDP resources, such as listening to and discussing podcasts, reading articles from the Record, and using the professional development resources and tips shared in emails from KDP Headquarters. Chapter members are eagerly awaiting Convo 2017!
The KDP Asia–Pacific Network for International Education and Values Education (APNIEVE) chapter, which was established by KDP Laureate Dr. Zhou Nan-Zhoa, is interested in expanding membership beyond Shanghai. Some new goals were established for collaboration between KDP and APNIEVE related to joint research projects and participation in exchange programs for teachers, principals, and students.
An international experience such as my recent trip to China reminds me how much we can learn from talking with other educators, whether they are part of our local community or teach in schools around the world.
We share a deep-seeded belief that education is the path to a better life, and we strive to ensure that today’s youth are responsible global citizens who have the skills and understanding to address future challenges in an equitable manner.
We are united by a profession in which we all strive to continually improve our practice to ensure that every student reaches his or her full potential. It is a small world, after all.
Faye Snodgress, CAE, is the Executive Director for Kappa Delta Pi, International Honor Society in Education.