Palliser continues to develop connections in China

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Representatives from Qingdao say education systems have much in common

Palliser Regional Schools marked another step forward Thursday in exposing its students to the larger world while sharing the excellent educational experience provided here with international students.

A delegation from the city of Qingdao and its municipal education bureau visited Thursday with school board trustees, senior administration and other central office staff before touring Kate Andrews High School and R.I. Baker Middle School, both in Coaldale.

The group had visited the Palliser Alternative Outreach School and Heritage Christian Academy upon arriving in Calgary a day earlier.

The visit follows on the heels of an international recruitment trip to China by Associate Superintendent Education Services Pat Rivard and Director of Learning Tom Hamer in December.

The Lethbridge stop included an overview of Palliser’s educational philosophies and a presentation on the Palliser Beyond Borders program, which offers an international student program including online studies.

Qingdao, which is responsible for educating 1.57 million students and has a teaching and support staff of more than 180,000, is ranked tops in China for the education it delivers and is known for its innovation.

Board Chair Colleen Deitz said a memorandum of understanding is an exciting next step in building partnerships to expand educational opportunities to students in Palliser and in Qingdao.

Deitz, who visited China as part of a Palliser delegation more than a year ago, said she was most struck by the size of China and the sheer volume of students being educated. One school she visited had a student population equal to all of Palliser’s. Yet, the process of building partnerships between Palliser and a system like Qingdao’s still advances based on connections made one person at a time.

Thursday’s delegation included the husband of an agent who visited Palliser about a year ago as part of a familiarization tour. That agent organized tours of schools in Qingdao for Hamer and Rivard this past winter.

Deitz said she respects Qingdao’s reputation for excellence in education.

“They have excellent schools and they’re looking for quality programs,” Deitz said. “We may not speak the same language or have the same culture but we still have the same values. We all want more for our children than we had for ourselves. Those values have no barriers.”

Sifeng Zhang, director of the Department of Curriculum Design and Educational Research, said the Qingdao contingent appreciated the opportunity to visit Palliser schools and central office.

“We appreciated its educational philosophy and found that we have much in common between us,” he said, through a translator. “We also hope to co-operate with Palliser schools and we want to deploy various kinds of activities central to the students.”

Later Thursday, Palliser’s Acting Superintendent Dr. Garry Andrews joined Hamer at Lethbridge County’s administrative office to meet a delegation from Anyang, a city in about 600 kilometres west of Qingdao. The delegation, including municipal and education officials, was in Lethbridge for a two-day visit to foster closer economic, educational and cultural ties.

That both delegations were in Lethbridge on the same day was coincidental.

As part of their visit, the delegation visited Lethbridge schools, met with city officials, and visited Lethbridge County’s offices. Palliser and Anyang officials signed school friendship agreements, expressing a willingness to explore working together.