Superintendent Picard Visits Beijing

Sunnyvale School District ensures teachers and staff receive regular and high quality in-service training. The superintendent, Dr. Benjamin Picard, is dedicated to continually seeking best practices in education to help improve the quality and effectiveness of our students’ learning. Most of the time, these insights are gathered and discussed at conventions and conferences. In November 2012, however, he received Board approval to visit China’s schools and universities through the Chinese Bridge Delegation program. Aside from expenses covered by the program, Dr. Picard paid his own travel expenses.

Dr. Picard was one of 420 educators, 30 from the Bay Area, who participated in the Chinese Bridge Delegation. This Chinese-sponsored program invites American educators to visit select government-run elementary and middle schools and universities. The eight-day tour began with orientations at the Hanban/Confucius Institutes Headquarters and included visits to the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. Then, the delegation headed off in small groups, each visiting different provinces around the country. Dr. Picard’s group visited Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, observing elementary school, middle school, and university classrooms. The visit also included a mega education center serving 150,000 students. One area of instruction that stood out for Dr. Picard was how seamlessly integrated and multi-disciplinary lessons can be. Students in music classes, for instance, would also be actively learning Chinese history and culture in their music lessons. The tour concluded in Beijing with school visits, group presentations and a farewell dinner.

The College Board organizes the Chinese Bridge Delegation program to help U.S. educators build and strengthen Chinese language and culture programs and establish partnerships between American and Chinese schools. The program facilitates cultural exchanges between American and Chinese educators. Through the program, the Chinese government hopes to help spread Chinese culture and language (Mandarin) to the Western world and encourages partnerships between sister schools in the two countries.

This highly-structured, heavily scheduled and sufficiently exhausting trip to China gave the American educators an inside look at Chinese classrooms and a unique opportunity to observe the Chinese education system in action. Dr. Picard reported that the trip was eye opening in that education is such a clear priority of the Chinese government and the quality and amount of resources allocated to educating their next generation far exceeds that of California. Through their educational system they strive to capture the Chinese spirit of Patriotism, Innovation, Inclusiveness and Virtue and they are clear about improving their standard of living through education.

Article by Nina Wong-Dobkin

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