Marshfield School District administrators visit China
Developing relationships and potential for Chinese students to attend Marshfield High School primary goals
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Administrators from the Marshfield School District recently spent a week in the Jiangsu province of China to establish relationships with schools in the area and promote a possible exchange of students, educators, and best practices between the two countries. Marshfield School District Superintendent Dee Wells made the trip along with the district’s Director of Business Services Pat Saucerman and Marshfield High School Assistant Principal Mike Nicksic.
From April 10-19, the Marshfield contingent met with various schools, students, educators, administrators, and public officials and learned about the Chinese educational culture.
“The main purpose was basically to establish partnerships and relationships with our Chinese counterparts for purposes of international exchange,” Saucerman said. “I think the first step would be to look at steps to take to have students come and attend Marshfield High School. That’s pretty much the first step in the process here.”
Saucerman added that he envisions students coming from China to Marshfield as “one of several different aspects of what we call ‘the entire international program,’ namely the potential for staff maybe teaching abroad from Marshfield at some point, the development of online coursework that could involve a virtual program where students from China could take some of our Marshfield High School coursework, the development of foreign languages related to other cultures, possibly Mandarin.”
He added that other countries could become a part of this international exchange program at a later time and that China is the jumping off point because the University of Wisconsin Colleges system has already established relationships with some Chinese school systems. By bringing the high school into the mix, it allows for the potential of a Chinese student to attend Marshfield High School and possibly continue his or her education in the UW system.
While the initial goal is to bring Chinese students to Marshfield, Saucerman said that it is a possibility that Marshfield students would have the option to spend time in China but that a more likely scenario would be for an educator from Marshfield to teach in China for a semester. He also mentioned the possibility of an instructor coming from China to Marshfield and helping with language services.
Saucerman added that exposing students to new and different cultures was a crucial element of developing these international relationships.
“It’s about really trying to establish different opportunities to get our students more exposure to kind of the world as a whole, other cultures, other countries. We don’t have any desire to stop with just the Chinese partnerships. Our hope is that we are able to create a multitude of different partnerships with different countries and different types of student exchange,” Saucerman said.
Both Saucerman and Wells said that a goal for the Marshfield School District in establishing international relationships is to take best practices from other countries and potentially adopt and use them at home.
“The idea here is that there’s always value in learning from other countries, the approaches that they take in terms of their instructional practice. Hopefully they’ll learn from us as well. We really want to try to create an environment at Marshfield High School where students have an opportunity to interact with students that they would otherwise not have an opportunity to interact with,” Saucerman said.
Wells said that by implementing the best practices and ideas from many countries and cultures, a school district could improve itself. Wells also noted the differences between the educational cultures of China and America.
“Their culture was so interesting to us,” Wells said, adding that the students in China have a strong desire to receive an American education and experience a western culture. She said that an American degree tends to be more balanced, touching on many different disciplines, where the Chinese curriculum may focus more narrowly on a specific subject.
“They (Chinese students) want that western degree because it’s different. It’s more of a liberal arts-, humanities-type of thing instead of just (for example) architecture,” Wells said. “They’re really into the creativity and the critical thinking and the innovation (of an American education). They’re trying to bring that into their curriculum because their curriculum is very structured.”
Saucerman said that from what he has gathered the Chinese educational system emphasizes learning through memorization and repetition while the American educational model tends to put more focus on problem solving and critical thinking skills.
While in China, Wells signed a memorandum of understanding with Liangfeng High School in the city of Zhangjiagang to become a sister school of Marshfield High School and taking the first step toward a potential student exchange. Liangfeng High School was chosen to pair with Marshfield because both schools are considered high performing institutions in their respective geographical areas.
Saucerman said that the Department of Homeland Security would have to approve the exchange program, and once that happens the school district can start to look for potential host families that students from Liangfeng High School could stay with when they attend school in Marshfield. Depending on approval from Homeland Security, Saucerman said the hope was to begin bringing Liangfeng students to Marshfield High School next school year.
About 15 students from the Jiangsu Province will be visiting Marshfield this summer for two weeks. During that time the students will take American coursework and have the opportunity to earn district credit.