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October 17, 2006 > A visit from the Far East

A visit from the Far East

by Linda Stone

"It's so colorful," said one of seven teachers from Qiu Shi Primary School in Hangzhou, China about the children's artwork on the walls at Delaine Eastin Elementary School in Union City.

On Oct. 4, a delegation of seven teachers and their principal, Hong Zhu, wanted to visit a public school after visiting International School of the Peninsula in Palo Alto, a private school, to compare the two programs, and then compare those two with their own curriculum.

According to the Chinese Ministry of Education, children attend school for 12 years. In primary schools, students must pass language and math exams to graduate. Although students are allowed up to six hours of school per day, after school education plays an important role in "the all-round development of primary and secondary school students." Children may take part in scientific, cultural, and recreational activities organized by children's palaces, children's clubs, scientific and technological centers for teenagers, and other similar institutions. These activities are designed "to mould the students' temperament and temper their willpower."

Qui Shi Elementary is a K-6 school with about 1,500 students split between three different campuses. Qui Shi roughly means, "seeking the truth." It has 80 students from various countries around the world who attend.

The teachers and principal were very excited to talk about what they saw at Eastin and with help from Assistant Principal Hui Stevens who speaks Mandarin, they were able to express themselves.

Their comments ranged from how Eastin's classrooms are much less structured than they are in China to how bright, large and colorful the school is. "The school is big, well designed and pretty," noted one teacher. They also said that they liked how the children sat closer to each other and the way the tables in the kindergarten class were grouped by task. "The creativity of your students that comes through artwork is impressive, how they express themselves. We also focus on individual creativity like you do."

When asked about special education in China, they said it was a concern. They found it interesting that our schools promote inclusion of these children. Qiu Shi has a different site for special education and these students are generally not assimilated into the regular classrooms. As far as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, this concept is not recognized. If a student has "over activity" problems then it is up to the parents to take him or her to a doctor for an evaluation.

The delegation pointed out that their school, part of the Qiu Shi Education Group, is more advanced than ours. They have more instruction in language arts and math. "That's a focus for us." Moreover, they are very proud of their accomplishments. Homework is given beginning in the third grade and is kept to 30 minutes. As the children progress through school, more time is added. English is taught from third grade in public schools and in first grade in private schools.

School is not just focused on language and math. They also have performances, lots of art, band music and sports; and were quick to point out that China is recognized by the international community in sports competitions.

Qiu Shi staff have Internet access and display photos from their visits on their website at

Upon return to China, the group planned to discuss their observations including things they might change and what they would like to change.

Bearing gifts, the group gave Eastin's principal, John Mattos, a tie and he remarked that their visit made the world a bit smaller and he would make his school available for future visits.

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