Three Iowa educators just returned from an eight-day whirlwind tour of the world’s most populous nation, China. Lyle Schwartz, superintendent of the South Hamilton Community Schools in Jewell, explains the goals of the trip. Schwartz says, "To explore the Chinese culture and language and ultimately to increase the awareness of culture and language from China in the United States."
Schwartz and the other Iowans were part of a 400-member delegation from America. He was surprised by a few things during the extensive tour, which included a visit to the city of Harbin in northeastern China. "My eyes were opened a little bit in that there’s over 30 cities in China that are bigger than New York City," Schwartz says.
They visited an elementary school with an enrollment of 5,300 as well as a high school that was even larger. It was what would be considered a magnet or advanced placement school in the U.S. "One out of ten students that apply to this high school are accepted," Schwartz says. "That’s a little bit different. It wasn’t a private school but a public school. Their system operates differently in that regard."
He was also a bit taken aback by the English proficiency of the Chinese students. He says the 3rd and 4th graders spoke English very well. He says in just a very few years, China will be the largest English-speaking country in the world.
Schwartz was joined on the trip by two other Iowa educators from area education agencies in Cedar Rapids and Muscatine.