China trip offers insights to district

In November, Dr. Farrell visited China as part of a U.S. delegation from across the country.  He traveled to several cities, visiting schools to learn their approach and to share how we do things in the U.S.  Last night, he presented a brief overview of his trip and some of the key observations he made.

One of the most amazing things was the length of the school day and the number of students in each class.  The average ratio was 60 students per teacher.  Students were often crammed three to a small desk area.  Dr. Farrell showed photos of rooms filled to overflowing, with students elbow-to-elbow with fellow students.

A typical school day sees students arriving at 7 am.  Their day starts at 7:30 with exercises held in groups of 50 to hundreds.  Class work goes until noon, with a break from noon to 2 pm.  Often, instruction is provided by “talking head” teachers, presenting in 45-minute segments, one after another, while students listen and take notes.

After their break, students return for another 3-4 hours of instruction.  Those at day school then return home; however, those at boarding school take another break and are back in the classroom from 8-10pm.

China’s education system is currently very passive – instructors present information to students with little interaction.  The desire is to move to a more facilitative process, encouraging lifelong learning.  This is also the U.S. goal, but we are much farther along on the continuum than most Chinese schools appear to be.

Some of the specific changes the Chinese would like to make are to help their students become more creative and integrate their education with the life skills they will need to be successful.  They also see the value in providing more time to allow their children to be children – versus the 9-11 hours of instruction they receive now.

While in China, Dr. Farrell signed a partnership agreement with a middle school.  We will be exploring ways for our students to communicate and collaborate to learn from each other, such as Skype classes.  We will also be exploring other opportunities for partnerships with Chinese schools for the future.

The trip was good timing for Dr. Farrell to check in on the progress our six (NOTE: the correct number is eight) Chinese language students are making with their online language course.  He learned Chinese is extremely difficult to learn via online training, which tied in with what he learned on the trip.  The Curriculum & Instruction committee will be exploring options to make it affordable for us to offer a live teacher to our students.  In addition, World Languages will be reviewed overall in two years.  We will examine the languages we offer to determine if they are still appropriate, plus look for possibilities to expand our language offerings to younger students.

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2 Responses to “China trip offers insights to district”

  1. Tim Baugh Says:

    Andrea,

    I want to commend you for this site and your effort for the Milford school district. They are both outstanding.

    I would also like to ask why are we concerned with “6” yes 6 kids learning Chinese?? Is this going to help/improve our district?

    My wife (Kathy Baugh) teaches at the high school. She teaches business courses- Accounting/Business Law etc. These courses are either being cut, or given to the “OAKS” to teach. The “OAKS” is a lesser quality product period. I dare you go to watch her classe’s for a week, and then go watch an “OAKS” class for a week. Make your own judgement.

    We (Milford School District) are more concerned with saying “we offer Chinese” than offering a solid education.

    Andrea, please tell me your thoughts…

    Tim Baugh

  2. andreabrady Says:

    Hi Tim,
    Thanks for the nice comment – I’m glad you’re finding value from the blog, and it’s always helpful to hear those in the community are either in favor – or not – of what I’m doing as a school board member.

    Re: Chinese, while right now there are only 6 students in the class, this is a growing area and one we feel is important to offer, at least as a test. The class right now is online, so the cost is extremely low. However, due to the complexity of this language, the online classes are not going well. We are therefore looking into the possibility of grants and shared services to be able to offer Chinese through a standard class starting next year. We’ll see what we’re able to do.

    If interest does not increase, we will certainly not keep the class (unless there are changes in state requirements). And if we are not able to work it out to offer a qualified teacher, we likely will not keep the online classes, either.

    Re: the Oaks, I have not sat in on a class so I cannot comment from personal experience. I do know the Oaks uses a curriculum that has been developed specifically for business classes; it is used nationally and is supposed to be excellent. This is not meant as any commentary on our teachers or what they were teaching – once again, I have no direct experience with any of our business teachers – but the Oaks is able to provide this curriculum and those certified to teach it at no cost to the district.

    In a time when budgets are so tight, we have to find new ways of delivering a solid education and effective classes. I know our curriculum people are evaluating the Oaks program; I will check with them on the experience so far. As with Chinese, if the classes are not effective or appropriate, we will do something different. But if they are good, solid classes, then this is the best way for us to deliver that material from a benefit/cost standpoint.

    My goal overall is to find the most efficient ways of delivering the best education possible. There do have to be sacrifices as schools fight to meet mandates while funding is continually shrinking. People everywhere are stretched tight; I believe it’s my responsibility as a school board member to recommend and support the most balanced approach between quality and cost. There is always “higher quality” – but can we afford it? And what else do we have to give up to get that “higher quality” in one area?

    In general, my basic hope is we are able to keep our teachers and continue to offer our students an excellent education. That is becoming more challenging every day. We all – the board, administration, teachers, parents, students & the community – have to work together, look for creative options, and embrace change in order to make it through.

    Thanks again for the comment – would love to hear your thoughts on what I posted here, and other thoughts as well.

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