SF State News {University Communications}

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Educators compare notes: China and the U.S.

December 17, 2007 -- When a group of San Francisco educators visited China and Hong Kong last summer, they returned with fresh insights into teaching at home and abroad, along with a new perspective on what it means to prepare pupils for a globalized society.

Chinese students in Guangzhou

Chinese students in Guangzhou

The June 2007 trip was part of a summer course taken by students in the College of Education's master's program. Fourteen students faced a rigorous itinerary when they landed in Hong Kong, before moving on to Guangzhou in southern China.

"We took students to the economic engine of the world to look at educational practices in transnational spaces," explained David Hemphill, associate dean of the College of Education. "Students had their eyes opened to the high quality educational practices in China and were sobered by the influence of globalization on education today."

The students conducted intensive observations in eight schools that included Cantonese and English speaking schools; a school for new immigrants; an Islamic school; and a prestigious international private school. In addition, they attended academic lectures and meetings with educational non-profit organizations.

"The trip was a transformative experience for us all," said Ming-Yeh Lee, associate professor of administration and interdisciplinary studies. "We witnessed firsthand how globalization is impacting the flow of immigrants into China and Hong Kong, and how schools are responding."

Student Carlos Soto was interested in seeing how schools were shaping pupils' notions of citizenship. "China's schools are preparing new immigrants to integrate into the mainstream culture and helping more privileged Chinese pupils aspire to be global citizens," said Soto, who works with the San Francisco urban education program Making Waves. "Many of the students I teach in California see themselves not as global citizens, but simply as a citizen of their own block."

Students captured their findings in research papers examining such issues as language policy, global citizenship and comparisons of teaching style. Many students combine their studies with an existing teaching career or community work, so their cross-cultural analysis will also inform their continuing contribution to education in the Bay Area.

"It was amazing to see the differences," said Veronica Lee, a first grade teacher at the Convent of the Sacred Heart School in San Francisco. "The largest class size we saw in China was 72 children with one teacher. In the U.S. the average size is between 25 and 35 pupils. Despite large classes, the schools really fostered a sense of pride and honor in the pupils through reward schemes such as becoming a prefect or wearing a colored arm band."

Hemphill and Lee jointly developed last summer's course curriculum. The course is one of a growing number of activities and partnerships between SF State and top Asian universities such as the University of Hong Kong, Beijing Normal University, and Hsin Chu National Education University.

In addition, SF State was the first institution in the Western U.S. to house a Confucius Institute, which provides Chinese language instruction to students and training for teachers of Chinese language.

The students' trip was underwritten with support from SF State alumnus Chris Larsen, CEO and Chairman of Prosper Marketplace, Inc.

-- Elaine Bible

-- Michael Bruntz


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