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Chinese Principals Visit BHS

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday September 29, 2006

“Berkeley schools are big but schools in China are bigger,” was the observation made by the delegation of 17 school principals from the TangGu district of Tianjin in China, who were visiting Berkeley High School on Wednesday. 

The visit, a collaboration between the China American Business and Education Center (CABEC) of Cal State East Bay and the Educational Bureau Office of TangGu, TianJin, was organized to observe the differences between the Chinese and the American education systems, and to see how schools are administered in the United States. 

“The center has been doing training programs for Chinese government officers for quite some time now,” said Nancy Mangold of the CABEC, who was hosting the delegation. “We usually work with bankers, business and other government officials. Principals from elementary, middle and high schools in China are visiting us for the first time. We are interested to see their reactions.” 

The delegation was given the same tour prospective BHS parents are given. Berkeley High parents Vicky Elliot and Toby Kahn took the Chinese principals around the new administrative building, the career center, library, swimming pool, classrooms and the other areas of the campus. 

The principals said they were impressed by the school cafeteria and listened intently as BUSD spokesperson Mark Coplan talked about the new school nutrition program. 

“We put a lot of effort into school nutrition as well,” said Xing Zhibai, vice director of the TanGu TianJin Educational Bureau.  

“We have a dietitian who specializes in nutrition,” he said. “Children are given a rice, a vegetable, a meat and a dairy meal. Noodles and steamed buns are also very popular. No junk food is allowed into the schools. Chinese food is traditionally very well balanced and we try to stick to the old ways. Therefore children grow up thinner than most kids in the U.S.” 

At the career counseling center, headmaster Guo Qingwen of the No. 1 Secondary Specialized School in TangGu asked about the percentage of students who went on to college. Qingwen said there is immense competition among students in China to get into the best colleges. 

According to Mangold, the education system in China is more rigid. 

“It is all about getting into a good college,” she said. “Students are mainly taught to pass tests. The focus is on academics and there is a lack of extracurricular like art and music. The visiting principals want to take a look at extracurricular in the U.S. school system and get some ideas from there. Berkeley High is known for its arts, drama and sports programs. However, how much of all this they will be able to implement we will know once they return to China.” 

The principals pointed out that education in China was also carried out at a much larger scale.  

“We have a large population, therefore the population in schools is also larger. Middle and high schools have more than 5,500 children at times,” said Lieu Yin, director of the Education Bureau. “The behavior of the kids when classes get over is however pretty much the same,” he added smiling as a group of seniors passed him talking loudly. 

The delegation also visited Berkeley High’s Chinese Mandarin language class, which was introduced this school year, and asked the students questions in Mandarin. 

Other than the Mandarin class, Mangold translated for the principals during their tour. “Because of the presence of the communist government in China they had to learn Chinese and Russian at that time,” Mangold explained. “Students however learn English in schools now.”