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January 30. 2013 9:59PM

Chinese educators share ideas with Keene State College


Monday night Keene State College held a dinner for Chinese educators who came to Keene this week to discuss teaching and future collaborations between Shanghai Chongming District schools and the College. (COURTESY)

KEENE - Keene State College hosted 25 educators from Shanghai, China, this week for an exchange of ideas around approaches to teaching and how to help students succeed.

Keene State College is also hoping the connections with the Chinese educators will help the college create a more international and diversified campus, said Keene State Associate Provost Ann Rancourt.

"Keene State College right now is being quite purposeful in internationalizing its campus," Rancourt said.

Keene State College Professor of Education Yi Gong has played a big role in building the contacts and relationships with the Chinese educators.

The visitors included middle and high school principals, kindergarten directors, an after school program director and a Shanghai Chongming District Department of Education official. More and more Chinese students are interested in studying in the United States and there is a possibility created through Gong that Keene State would establish a partnership with Wuxi teacher's College in China, she said.

Keene State Interim Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies Wayne Hartz said the two days with the visiting educators were a lot of fun.

"There was a genuine sense of learning and sharing," he said. While China has mastered education in math, science and engineering, Chinese students and educators are hungry for America's expertise in a liberal arts education that teaches critical thinking skills and problem-solving, he said.

On the U.S. side, students are entering an increasingly international work force once they leave college, so learning both to work with and in other cultures is vital, said Hartz.

Said Rancourt: "We hear from our governments that we have to educate students to compete, but I'm of the mindset that in the 21th century, if we don't teach our students to collaborate, we're going to hell in a hand basket."

She suggested world issues such as the environment and climate as fields of study the students could approach, perhaps through a China to Keene Internet course.

"We're talking about water issues. We're talking about climate issues. We're talking about international issues. We're talking about problems that are issues around the world," she said.

Gong said discussions with the Chinese educators began about two years ago via Skype conferences.

Hartz said Keene State plans to continue the discussions and build on the connections.

"I think it's slow, steady progress. It's like dating. You keep working toward a common interest to see where there are opportunities. We have to keep doing this work, its important work," he said.

mpierce@unionleader.com


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