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A cultural exchange
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Oct. 6, 2014

By Gabe Licht
Editor

DELANO, MN – What are the differences in education between Delano and its sister school in the Tianjin municipality? Chinese students and staff recently had an opportunity to explore that question starting during homecoming week as they visited Delano schools.

“We want to let our students experience American lives,” school minister Wang Ran said through interpreter “Alice” Geng Qian, an English teacher at his school.

Alice and Wang Ran were joined by school minister Qi Zhenggun. The three talked about differences between the two schools, as well as some similarities.

One major difference is the amount of time their students spend in school, starting at 7:30 a.m. and finishing at 5 p.m. each day.

Another key difference is how classes are organized and the reasoning behind those decisions.

Teachers move from classroom to classroom as students stay stationary.

“American schools pay more attention to personality development and Chinese pay more attention to unity,” Wang Ran said. “We always organize them and have competition for the class against other classes, so each is united.”

Student Liu Pinshmo (Edison) also spoke about that structure.

“We work as a team always because we stay in the same class,” Edison said.

Each school day begins with gymnastics. Student Ma Wenhan said their time in the gym is much different than it is in Delano.

“Gym class is much different,” Ma Wenhan said. “Everyone is playing hard. They really like sports. We have more exercises and fewer games.”

Their school sports include basketball, soccer, badminton and ping pong.

They don’t have a homecoming, which made the timing of the visit more memorable.

“Homecoming here was very exciting,” Ma Wenhan said.

“The students are very enthusiastic,” Edison said. “The guy behind me was always cheering.”

Curriculum also differs between the two schools. For example, Ma Wenhan learned English beginning in third grade and many students are learning English as early as kindergarten.

“It’s all different,” Edison said when asked to compare the two schools. “They can change their subjects every year. We can only change them in our second year.”

Testing between the two schools also varies greatly. While it’s not uncommon for Delano students to have tests on a regular basis, everything comes down to one test for their Chinese counterparts.

“The college entry exam is very important in their lives,” Alice said. “It can change their lives and help them be successful.”

College entry is much more competitive in China, with a vastly different college system than what exists in the US.

Some different features in Delano have inspired changes in its sister school.

“We have colorful posters on the walls, which we learned from you, and the decoration in the teachers’ offices,” Wang Ran said. “We do our best to realize the effect the environment has on the students.”

One aspect of environment won’t change, as Wang Ran’s school has 2,000 students within its three high school grades and 3,000 between three middle school grades.

The Chinese students, in particular, seemed to appreciate the small town atmosphere and Minnesota-nice mentality.

“Everyone here is very friendly,” Ma Wenhan said. “Many people smile and say hello. My host family gave me a warm welcome and talked to me.”

Lanette Faul, Delano’s China Club advisor, said local students are also received very well when they visit their Chinese friends.

“When our students go there, they are welcomed,” Faul said. “It’s amazing how we’re treated.”

Faul also noted that, because of the Chinese school’s size, the process to become a host, and subsequently have the opportunity to visit America, is very competitive.

The program that forged the relationship between Delano and its sister school began in the 1980s, with a formal agreement signed in 2005 to share students and staff. Over that time, more than 100 students and staff have been a part of the program.

Delano students and staff will have the opportunity to visit their Chinese counterparts during spring break.

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