Thursday, April 14, 2011

April 14, 2011

Today we visited the Shijiazhuang Foreign Language School and the Shijiazhuang Arts School. Both specialty schools have incredible programs, dedicated teachers, and passionate students. They are two of Shijiazhuang's finest schools!  

 Shijiazhuang Foreign Language School is a large, wealthy, private K -12 school serving 10,000 students.  Tuition is expensive, about 9000 yuan ($1376) per year. Academic classes are taught in the morning and related arts classes are taught in the afternoon. Class offerings include English, Japanese, Russian, painting, music, robotics, machining, physical education and others. Students are instructed in all subject areas and receive additional training in their area of interest or talent. The school principal made it clear that the goal of this school is to promote cooperation, communication, and innovation. Research, discussion, criticism, and innovation are considered new '"learning styles" and are embraced by both students and staff. After a tour of the school, we were given the opportunity to interview teachers and administrators. Grace and Jane, both kindergarten principals, were eager to tell me about the school's kindergarten program for 3-6 year old students. They emphasized that over the past few years the preschool philosophy of this school has changed from a focus on academics to one of socialization and that this shift has impacted the learning of students in a most positive way.  I was amazed to learn that the kindergarten day begins at 8:00 AM and ends at 6:00 PM!

The Shijiazhuang Art School is a poorer, but very competitive specialty school serving about 1000 talented performing arts students. Although a public school, families pay 4600 yuan ($703) for their children to attend each year. Students of some programs are enrolled beginning at age 11 and can continue through grade 12. Entrance requirements are strict and include passing an exam as well as an audition. The school reminded me very much of a US magnet school. Specialized programs in the areas of music, dance, drama, and Beijing Opera are taught by nationally recognized master teachers. We visited many classrooms and watched long and difficult, yet incredible, practice sessions performed by students  ......  and teachers!!  Practice and determination are the keys to success in this school. It was no surprise to learn that students from the Shijiazhuang Art School performed at the 2008 Olympic Games and that some are now famous performers! Our visit ended with a magnificent full-costumed performance in the school auditorium.  As we entered the room, all of the students in the audience applauded us to show their appreciation of our visit! After the performance we were invited to join them on the stage for pictures where they applauded us a second time. This was truly a humbling experience for us!

Once again, the students of China touched this blogger's heart and left beautiful memories that will not be forgotten!

posted by Connie Skipper

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