Leland and Gray Establishes Sister-Schools in China

By Dorinne Dorfman

March 26, 2012

DorinnePartnerLeland and Gray has expanded its Chinese-American education programs by establishing three sister-schools in Zhejiang Province. This development greatly enhances the commitment of Leland and Gray’s School Board, faculty, and administration to Chinese studies. Begun in 1999 with Journey East, a semester-long intensive Asian studies seminar open to all secondary students in the region, Chinese-American school partnerships have played a prominent role. On March 27th, the 6th Journey East delegation of students and teachers departed for a month of touring their theatrical production throughout China.

Sister-school partnerships between public and private American and Chinese schools have expanded in recent years as more Chinese students aspire to perfect their English and study in renowned American universities. Leland and Gray’s sister-schools, all of which are highly competitive public boarding schools, include Jinhua Art School, Yuhang High School, and Yunhe High School. The sister-school agreement commits to: collaboration and exchange of curriculum, instructional methods, and educational leadership; development of relationships between teachers and students through collaborative projects; arrangement of short- and long-term visits; and sharing programs and hosting exchanges.

 

DanceBestTrue to Chinese culture, the sister-school signing ceremonies in Zhejiang Province were lavish affairs, with celebratory banners and delicious banquets. Leland and Gray was one of seven schools from Vermont, Maine, and South Dakota partnering with Zhejiang schools, and the festivities reflected heartfelt appreciation for one another’s culture. In addition to traditional Chinese cuisine, feasts sometimes included steak and potatoes that even the Chinese used a knife and fork to eat. We spoke about the need for more creative, project-based, and student-centered classrooms, and the shared challenges we face to meet the needs of every student. They were especially interested in hearing about L&G’s Chinese teacher, Tong Chen, who is Vermont’s 2012 Teacher of the Year.

Class1The Chinese government has heavily invested in education in recent years. For example, dormitories have been added to many public schools for students to remain on campus throughout the week. As one English teacher said, “If the students go home, we can’t ensure that they finish their homework, or maybe their parents let them play hours of videogames.” School leaders, teachers, and especially students feel the pressure to achieve in every subject despite preferred learning styles or personal interests. However, virtually all students participate in co-curricular activities, which combined with their infectious enthusiasm, spreads an uplifting school climate. Students felt free to ask the visiting principals tough questions and to criticize the overemphasis on testing. Coming to America to study is a faraway dream for many, as their parents struggle to cover school fees and increasing living expenses. China’s cities and larger towns rival those in the U.S. in terms of development, technology, and economy.

Despite the challenges, many Chinese students have found their way to American schools and colleges. For a second season, Leland and Gray will host a summer camp for Chinese youth to learn from their American counterparts. Foremost, the sister-school partnerships pave a two-way street of mutual understanding, collaboration, and growth to promote intercultural learning on both sides of the planet.