Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chongqing Day 2

Today we visited the Chongqing Jianshaw High School for grades 7-12. During the drive we got a better sense of the layout of this massive city. Chongqing consists of six different districts, which contain areas that would be considered cities on their own. Altogether it has over 33 million people, making it one of the largest cities in the world. It is known as the "fog city" because of the fog that hangs over it; it is said that dogs in Chongqing bark at the sun when it comes out because they don't know what it is! The sprawling metropolis is located in a mountainous area, very lush and containing everything from farms on the hillsides to factories in the valleys. The famous Yangtze river runs by one of the city's central business districts. During the hour and a half drive to the school we would pass farms and go through a tunnel or over a bridge and find ourselves passing through an area with tall buildings and a million plus population. I also learned that this area was the seat of Chiang Kai Shek's Nationalist government in the 30's and 40's. In fact, his headquarters was in the building across the street from our hotel.

Chongqing Jianshaw High School is located on a mountain overlooking a beautiful valley. We toured the campus and met with the vice principal, a party official, and a teacher. We spoke with them about different ways to connect our students. One of the most promising is through a class that they have on research and experimentation, in which the students develop questions about real world problems and do research and experiments to determine how to solve them. They thought it would be great to do this together! We also mentioned other ways to connect students like sharing pictures and writings about "a day in the life" of American and Chinese students.

We were curious about the level of English proficiency of the Chinese students, and they shared their English textbooks. While their proficiency, of course, varies based on the individual student, the level of the curriculum was very high. This would make such exchanges possible!

We also learned some more about the examination process. At this school 1000 students apply for 100 spots for 7th grade. They go to regular local schools if they do not get in. In 9th grade students take a test in math, science, Chinese, English and other areas. If they do well on the test they move on to a top high school; the level of the school they can attend is based on their scores. (80% of student in this 7-9 middle school go on to the high school there.) If they don't do well they either go to a less selective school, a vocational school, or right into the workforce depending upon their scores. (In China mandatory schooling is only through 9th grade.) In 12th grade they take another multi-subject exam. These results determine the level of college (1st through 3rd tier) they can attend or if they will be able to attend college at all. Everything is based on test scores and nothing else. It is interesting to note that the top middle and high schools all have boarding components so that students who live in far reaching parts of the provinces can attend them.

Here are some random facts that I have learned:
-Chinese has only one syllable words except proper nouns.
-We noticed that we did not see any cemeteries in our travels and learned that everyone is cremated.

I also forgot to share that we experienced a traditional Chongqing dinner two night ago- a boiling hot pot in the middle of the table divided in two, one spicy and one not. The broth is so hot that you only need to cook most thing for about 15 seconds. It was delicious! Here is the list of what we ate:
Duck intestine
Cold cut beef bologna
Cow stomach
Beef meatball
River fish
Yogurt drink: aloe
Lotus root
Winter melon

This evening we flew into Hong Kong, our final destination. It's interesting to note that mainland Chinese need to get a visa to visit Hong Kong and we needed to go through passport control and customs, as if it's a foreign country. Today is the 15th anniversary of the handover of the city from British to Chinese control, and it will be interesting to see what noticeable differences there are, if any, between Hong Kong and the cities we have visited thus far. I am curious about Internet access in particular.

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