Confucius Institute at the University of Utah Builds Bridges Between American and Chinese Educators

From March 8 to March 18, the Confucius Institute at the University of Utah (CIUU), in partnership with the Confucius Institute at Arizona State University (CIASU), led a ten-day tour of China designed to facilitate exchange between American and Chinese educators. The US delegation was made up of 10 educators from Utah and 11 from Arizona, representing teachers, administrators and curriculum designers from multiple school districts in the two states. With the support of Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban) and University of Utah’s partner school Sichuan University (SCU), delegates toured schools in Shanghai and in Sichuan Province, interacted with local educators and students, and explored Chinese cultural sites.

Thanks to an existing partnership between Utah School Board of Education and the Shanghai Jiading School District, delegates were able to visit four schools in Shanghai, including Shanghai Jiading No.1 High School, Shanghai Experimental School of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Jiading Youth Technology and Innovation Center, and Jiading No. 1 High School Affiliated Primary School.

At Shanghai Jiading No.1 High School, delegates were welcomed by Vice-Principal Wenjie Guan, who introduced the group to the school’s mission. Delegates had a chance to tour the school’s laboratory building and interact with students at work in labs focused on different science disciplines, including artificial intelligence, 3D printing, architecture & civil engineering, applied mathematics, and drone research. Students were able to use fluent English to talk with the delegation about their innovative courses and current projects.

After visiting the four campuses in Shanghai, the American teachers were impressed by the schools’ cutting-edge curriculum and innovative philosophy. As a take-away from the visit, the delegation expressed interest in continuing to forge these educational partnerships and exchanges that benefit both teachers and students.

In Sichuan Province, educators had a chance to visit the Chengdu Jiaxiang Foreign Languages School, Dujiangyan Senior High School, Beijie Foreign Language Experimental School, and the post-earthquake reconstructed Yingxiu Primary School. These four schools warmly welcomed the delegation, and the educators were able to observe classes in calligraphy, Chinese painting and English, allowing them to get a feel for the local classroom culture and teaching style. The American teachers were then able to share video footage from the Utah Chinese Dual Language Immersion program with the local Chinese students.

Finally, the delegation visited Sichuan University, CIUU’s partner institution, where they met with the University Vice President, Dr. Shijing Yan, and the Dean of the School of Overseas Education, Dr. Wei Gao. The Vice President introduced SCU’s current situation and future goals and spoke about the future of SCU’s partnership with Utah and Arizona.

To help expand the delegates’ understanding of Chinese culture, SCU organized a set of cultural activities and experiences during the trip. In Shanghai, delegates explored the Shanghai Museum, Yu Gardens and the Bund before embarking on a cruise tour down the Huangpu River. In Sichuan, the delegates visited the Sichuan University Museum, the Dujiangyan Irrigation System, the Sanxingdui archeological site, the Chengdu Giant Panda Research Base, the Yingxiu Earthquake site and the preserved earthquake ruins of Xuankou Middle School.

The Educators saw solid benefits from this tour of China — not only were they able to experience the Chinese education system, but they were also able to learn more about Chinese culture and history.

As Jennifer Lemmon, a 4th Grade English Partner-Teacher in the Chinese DLI Program in the Washington County School District, put it, “I was so impressed with the desire the Chinese people all had in sharing and collaborating with countries around the world. It is this attitude of learning and working together that I hope to emulate and teach back here in America. No matter our differences, we all have great things to share with each other. Staying open-minded and curious will be the way we improve and help each other to succeed.”

Since its establishment in 2007, CIUU has worked to share Chinese culture with the Utah community through educational and cultural activities, and especially through the support of Utah’s Chinese Dual Language Immersion program. By facilitating this exchange and communication both in-state and overseas, CIUU strengthens ties between American and China and serves as Utah’s bridge to China.