Salem City superintendent spends week in China on educational visit
Posted on 12/03/2012
SALEM — How do New Jersey schools compare to schools in China? One Salem County superintendent had the chance to get a first-hand look.
Salem City School District Superintendent Dr. Patrick Michel recently had an opportunity to spend a week in China as part of an educational program sponsored by Hanban-Confucious Institute Headquarters, and organized by not-for-profit organization The College Board.
With more and more international students vying for seats in university classrooms, the competition for a college education has become increasingly tough for American students.
“I walked away from this trip with the understanding that China is very serious about educating their children, and maximizing each child’s education,” said Michel. “I walked away saying ‘We’ve got work to do,’ not just here in Salem, but as a country.”
In his trips to different schools and speaking with Chinese educators, Michel said he found the biggest difference between American and Chinese education to be in each country’s perspective on school funding. Educators there found it interesting that many Americans perceive school taxes as a burden, whereas many Chinese view it as an investment, Michel said.
“When a principal there said that to us, I thought that was the biggest difference. I thought that statement said a lot,” he said.
Other differences were more obvious: Class sizes averaged around 45 to 50 students, all students had uniforms, and there was a heavy emphasis on teacher collaboration, Michel said.
As far as similarities, Michel said he found that children are same, no matter what part of the world they’re from. He described elementary students as very excited and enthusiastic to see their group, while middle and high school students were more subdued.
“The kids acted just like you’d expect kids here to act,” said Michel.
After the trip, Michel said he felt his experience in China reinforced the idea that American schools need to become more competitive with the rest of the world.
“It reinforced that we need to encourage our kids to continue taking challenging courses,” he said. “The trip validated that the IB program is right for kids who want to work hard and succeed through high school, and at the academic level beyond.”
Michel was selected as part of group of teachers, administrators and school board members from throughout the country to take part in the “2012 Chinese Bridge Delegation,” a program aimed at deepening American educators’ understanding of China — and to share practices and build partnerships with Chinese schools and universities.
The group departed for Beijing on Nov. 8, and stayed until Nov. 13. During their stay, they visited Hangzhou Primary School, toured the town of Wuzhen, visited the China Academy of Art — and much more.
“We went around to different schools, did all these different interviews with staff and students there, and really learned a lot,” Michel said. “It was really a wonderful experience.”
Michel said he applied to take part in the program to learn more about preparing students to compete academically on an international level, which is one of the aims of Salem’s new International Baccalaureate program.
According to a report from the Institute of International Education, international student enrollment in U.S. colleges and universities has increased to record high numbers in recent years — jumping 5-percent in the 2010-2011 school year to 723,277 students.
The increase is driven largely by an influx of students from China, according to the report.
Read the original article on nj.com