Lakota East journalism students hold up an article written by junior Mohinee Mukherjee about the differences between educational systems in China and in the United States.From left-to-right, Spark students, Mukherjee, junior Emily Chao and sophomores Angela Ferguson and Amanda Weisbrod. Photo taken by Adam Kiefaber of WestChesterBuzz.com.
Administrators from a large Chinese school district have requested more than 100 editions of Lakota East High School’s student-generated magazine Spark after its high school principal visited the Liberty Township school last November.
“They want to use the Spark to teach English in their curriculum, what better compliment could you get than that?” said Dean Hume, Lakota East journalism teacher and Spark advisor. “The administrators can say we use this publication to help our teachers teach our students proper grammar, how to write, how to use syntax, how to generate mood and tone, and how to report the news.
“I think it is a grand slam in the 9th inning with two outs for the English department.”
Well before Chinese school administrators requested copies of the award-winning publication, principal Yuan Ye of Jingman No. 1 High School in the Hubei Province of China visited Lakota East to learn more about the educational system in the United States.
During his visit, the principal, who comes from a very test-driven educational system in China, was fascinated by the creativity of the students.
“He was very intrigued about what was going on in our classrooms in particular to the creative and thinking ‘outside-the-box activities’ and how we move our students to be thinkers and not just memorizers,” Lakota East principal Keith Kline said.
“The Chinese are trying to focus more on critical thinking skills, creativity and teamwork and want to get away from their test-driven structure, which is huge for them. It is interesting because our country seems to be going in the opposite direction.”
Lakota East's Keith Kline participated in a principal exchange program in China this school year. Kline visited Chinese schools in April and was impressed with their students' work ethic. Photo by Adam Kiefaber of West ChesterBuzz.com.
Kline saw the Chinese educational system firsthand when he visited Yuan Ye’s high school in April. He reported back about the emphasis placed on tests, the length of the school day and the work ethic displayed by the students.
In order to get into Jingman and other high schools, Chinese students must pass a test in the 9th grade. Then, in the 12th grade, students must pass another exam to determine where they can go to college. Failure on either exam leads to an early introduction to the job market.
Chinese high school students also experience longer school days, which begin at 6 a.m., and progresses until an 11:30 lunch, picks back up at 2:30 and lasts until 10 p.m. The only evening students are away from school is Sunday, after they’ve completed mandatory study tables.
“Over there, the work ethic of their students and their society as a whole is much more elevated than it is here,” Kline said. “If I could marry their work ethic with our instruction there would be no stopping us. They are trying to get to where we are instructionally and once they do, that will certainly be a challenge for us as a country.”
During Kline’s visit in China, he showed Yuan Ye the article Spark junior reporter Mohinee Mukherjee wrote about the Chinese educator’s visit. The Chinese school district than decided that Spark could help teach its students the English language and about American teenage culture.
“It is incredible. I get chills just thinking about it,” sophomore Amanda Weisbrod said of the Spark being used as a study tool in China. “We are globally recognized now, not just nationally. To think that some of our stories are going to be read by people from all around world is just really, really awesome.”
While China looks to add some creative courses, students at Lakota East warn against a switch to a more test-driven approach in the United States.
“I am not a big fan of standardized tests. I hate them and I am pretty sure every student here hates them,” junior Emily Chao said. “If we did move towards standardized tests, we would become robots. We would literally just sit there and do stuff, and not to do it well.”
Sophomore Angela Ferguson, whose mom is Chinese, agreed with Chao and her fellow classmates.
“Obviously the Chinese are doing something right by going off their test scores and how it has affected their economy. At the same time, I think that it is placing their students at a real disadvantage because they are learning, but they are not growing,” Ferguson said.
“Schools are always talking about how we could be like China because they are doing so well, but I think if we continue with that mentality it is not going to lead us anywhere good.”
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