A global perspective
For all of the differences between the educational systems in the United States and China, Pete Roback was struck by the many similarities he saw.
Roback, an assistant administrator at Rosemount High School, traveled to Beijing, Jinan and Shanghai over the summer on a professional development scholarship from a group called Education First. The group specializes in student-led tours but is in its second year of offering professional development tours. Roback, who applied for the scholarship in the interest of bringing back a more global perspective to RHS, was one of 25 administrators and teachers from around the United States in his group.
The trip was a mix of sight-seeing, school visits and professional exchange.
The verdict? We're not so different after all.
"I think you read and see a lot of different data. Chinese students are doing so well on these international tests," Roback said. "But when it comes right down to it, we're more alike than different."
Chinese is becoming increasingly important at RHS. Diamond Path School of Environmental Studies has been offering lessons in Mandarin Chinese since it became one of the district's three magnet programs, and RHS is adding a third level of Mandarin this year to accommodate a growing number of students interested in the language.
Physically, the schools in China are very different than what students are used to at RHS. The floors are concrete. There is no heat or air conditioning, and technology is scarce.
"It's very teacher driven," Roback said. "It's very top-heavy. The teacher is the lecturer in the classroom and the students sit down and listen."
Most classrooms had a single computer, but that was it for technology.
Education is a high-stakes proposition for many Chinese students. Efforts focus on two main tests, one to get into high school and another to get into college. Students work very hard, but are often under a lot of stress.
Roback said there was an interest among Chinese teachers and administrators in adopting American methods in some things, with more learning based on student-inquiry and creativity.
When it was all over, Roback came back to RHS feeling fortunate for the resources and opportunities available here.
"It makes you kind of pinch yourself," he said.