Schools to build ties with China

"Global awareness" is a catchphrase on the lips of many educators, but one group of privately operated schools is working to bring that concept home to its students in a more concrete form.

This spring, Nobel Learning Communities, based in Media, Pa., will set up Internet connections between some of the 168 private and public schools it operates in the United States and a group of private Chinese schools in the cities of Louyang, Beijing, and Qingdao. In July, 20 Nobel students and teachers from the US schools will visit their counterparts in China, and in January 2002, Chinese students and teachers will visit the US schools.

The Internet linkage and the student and teacher visits are the beginning of what Nobel envisions as a series of cultural and curricular ties between the two groups of schools.

Nobel not only sees the ties with the Chinese schools as one piece of a globally oriented curriculum, but also as a recognition of China's increasing importance in the world economy.

"Our curriculum is really committed to preparing children to live in the 21st century," says Lynn Fontana, Nobel's vice president of education. "When you look at the economic powers growing in the 21st century, you look at China."

One Nobel school, the Philadelphia Academy Charter School, currently offers Chinese to its students in Grades 3 to 8, but the company hopes eventually to teach both Chinese language and culture in all its schools, using the Internet connection to help students on both sides of the exchange hone their language skills.

Dr. Fontana says Nobel is also enthusiastic about Chinese and American teachers exchanging advice on best practices.

Chinese teachers might learn from US notions about engaging children in inquiry, she suggests, while US teachers could benefit from studying how Chinese children acquire foreign language skills.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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