China trip instalment 3
After a wonderful week in Shanghai, we flew to Guangzhou and quickly on to Ganzhou which is about a 45 minute flight from Guangzhou. Ganzhou is considered to be a provincial town in China even though it is probably about the size of Auckland. Many people we spoke with were curious about why we would even go there. Well, the reason was simple - we were invited to visit by Gannan Normal University – a university with about 20,000 students who all live on the university site!
We were met at the airport by Zoe’s friend, Lu, who works for the university in the International Department; and from then on we were looked after and treated wonderfully well. Every meal was an opportunity to try lots of different Chinese cuisine and we were taken to see many interesting sights. We even went to an outlet store where I managed to get a pair of New Balance shoes for 190RMB ($43NZ). Urs loves shoes which is why we went shoe shopping, but I was the one who ended up buying shoes! I left my old ones in China and brought home my new ones (no spare room in my bag!)
While at the university we were privileged to speak to a group of teacher trainees. They seemed to respond well to our presentation and asked some really probing questions. We particularly enjoyed our conversations with certain professors and lecturers who have the same passion for education as we do. In fact, everywhere we went in China, we met up with educationalists with whom we made instant connections. Hopefully, we will return one day and continue our conversations with them. There are definitely some things that we could contribute to their educational thinking, particularly around personalisation of learning. But there are many things that they can contribute to our thinking. We have come back with some changed ideas and new ways of thinking – for which we are very grateful.
We gave many presentations while in Ganzhou – to university students, faculty, principals and senior leaders, and students of a vocational college who were very enthusiastic and interested in what we had to say. We met with the Professor of the International Department and we visited a couple of schools – one school, which was opened by the University a few years ago to be a “model” school, was run by a very famous principal in China. We very much enjoyed our time conversing with him.
All too soon our time in Ganzhou came to an end and we hopped on a plane and flew to Guangzhou for the final leg of our trip. Amy, one of the agents that we work with here in NZ, met us at the airport and the next day we had a very circuitous trip via bus, taxi and private car to get to a brand new private school on the outskirts of Guangzhou. The school was opened in September and listening to them speak brought back many fond memories of our experiences of opening Amesbury School eight years ago. This school will grow to 4000 students with all of them living on site during the week. Wow!
Our last day in China was a BIG one. We started with a visit to ETU School Guangzhou which is a completely separate private school housed within a school of 4000 students. After a tour of the school, observing a lesson and a delicious lunch with the principal and senior leaders of the school, we were then taken to a meeting with a company which specializes in early years curriculum research and production. They picked our brains a bit and I think we were able to give some useful advice. From there we travelled to Guangzhou Daohe Kindergarten - a very beautiful (and expensive) private early childhood centre. That evening, in the beautiful surroundings of the Kindergarten, we gave our last presentation in China to a group of about 80 parents. We then set off to the airport to catch our flight home at 12.30am.
There were many highlights of being in China, but I have to say that the memories that linger in my mind are of the faces of the young parents we talked to at salons in Beijing and Guangzhou who showed such eagerness to be the very best parents they can be for their children, but feel stuck on a treadmill of expectation that means they have to keep working hard to provide a high quality of life and keep pushing their children to be academically successful because they believe that is the only path to success for them. I can only hope that the messages we gave them and the stories we told will provide some inspiration for them as they work to resolve this very difficult dilemma.
Nga mihi nui