By Gerhard Schneibel
gerhard@reporternewspapers.net

Marist School teachers who will visit China from March 3 to 13 said they hope to learn about the country’s educational system, capable of producing bilingual graduates despite classes of as many as 50 students being common.

Twelfth-grade world literature teacher Tracy Kaminer organized the trip after receiving an American Councils for International Education grant to spend three weeks in Tibet in 2007. During that trip, 18 teachers from across the United States studied the Chinese educational system “with the idea that we would come back to our schools and teach about China,” Kaminer said.

“It was an incredible experience, and it was an experience that was life-changing. I loved being with the teachers from all around the country, but what I thought would be amazing would be to be with teachers from my school on a similar kind of trip,” she said.

The Catholic high school in Brookhaven will send 12 teachers on the March trip.

This school year, Marist has hosted Liping Gui, a teacher from the Quzhou No. 2 Middle School in Quzhou, a city of more than 2 million people about a four-hour drive south of Shanghai. She teaches Chinese language and culture at Marist; a grant from the American Councils for International Education pays her salary.

“I think the teachers from Marist will have the chance to communicate with my schoolteachers and with my home kids,” she said. “I think the teachers, they are going to have very detailed information about what exactly is going on in Chinese middle schools and high schools.”

Chinese students are “very disciplined, behaved and pay respect to the teachers,” but might not always be as well-rounded as their American counterparts, she said.

“We basically think American students, they are very creative,” the Chinese educator said. “How do you balance the academic and athletic performances? We try to learn how to agitate the kids to be an integrated person. That is, you have more than just the raw ability. People try to develop the kids in a lot of aspects.”

She will accompany the Marist teachers to China, where they will visit Quzhou.

The trip is sponsored by the American Councils for International Education. Each teacher will pursue his or her own subject.

“The science teacher is interested in the Three Gorges Dam project for environmental issues,” Kaminer said. “The math teacher wants to learn how math is taught in China and how they are so successful. The history teacher is going to actually start a history course on Chinese history next year, so she has lots of things she’ll want to look into.”

Biology and chemistry teacher Laura McGregor said she hopes to bring back some ideas to use in her classroom.

“I’m interested to see exactly how the Chinese educational system has become so successful. They obviously are producing a large number of academic scholars, and so I’m interested to actually be in their school setting and see how they’re doing that,” she said.

China is home to nearly one-fifth of the world’s population and has a “very different lifestyle than what we have here in Atlanta,” she said.

“The students that I teach are entering a global world. When they start their lives as adults in the workplace, everything they do is going to be on a global scale,” she said. “We’re just all so excited to have this opportunity. It’s really a trip of a lifetime, and the people that I’m going with are just fantastic and are going to transfer this experience back into the classroom.”