Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Last Day in Beijing

This morning we visited the Tsinghua School. It is known as the best high school in the country because it is affiliated with the best university in the country. The school has 4000 students in grades 7-12. Interestingly, there is an international school of about 400 students for grades 1-12 on the grounds of the public school. This is generally for students who are not Chinese citizens. (It was interesting to walk into a second grade classroom and see a similar curriculum as ours- Words Their Way, Everyday Math, writers workshop.) We saw some middle school classes and met with the vice principals of both of the schools to learn more about the schools and to discuss connections that we might be able to forge between our schools. We also met with a large group of students from the main school and asked them questions about their school and a typical school day. It seems as if the elementary curriculum is very diverse in nature but, beginning in middle school, the emphasis is almost completely on core academic subjects with very little arts, extracurriculars, or athletics. Some of these subjects are available, but generally only for students who have already demonstrated strong musical, artistic, or athletic abilities.

In the early afternoon we went to an old section of Beijing to take a rickshaw ride through the narrow, winding streets. It was interesting to imagine that the whole city was like that before the incredible building that began in the 40's. We then went to a tea room where we learned about and sampled many different kinds of teas that are popular in China. I am not much of a tea drinker, but they were delicious! We then climbed a bell tower that was built in the 1700's and was used to announce the time across Beijing. From there we went to an acrobatics show that was extraordinary!

One of my goals for this trip was to gain first-hand experience with the degree to which the government restricts and censors information. I have run into many roadblocks online and will share some thoughts on that soon. Tomorrow we leave our hotel at 5:30am for a flight to Xian. We are slated to visit two schools in Xian tomorrow.

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