Principal Trevor Watkins Shares Experiences on Recent Education Excursion to China

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(COVINGTON, La.) Principal Trevor Watkins recently traveled to China this past October for a 12-day inside look at their schools and educational system. Watkins traveled with multiple Catholic school principals to do three things: meet prospective students for a possible exchange program, learn about the Chinese educational system, present our educational techniques to Chinese principals.

Watkins, who had visited China before in the 1980s, had no fear visiting the Communist country and had a completely different experience from his initial visit.

“(China) is much more westernized, more prosperous; the entire country seems to be under construction,”  Watkins said.

Watkins went on to mention how impressed he was with both China’s investment in infrastructure and its educational system, noting that the schools’ facilities and technology are state-of-the-art. For example, Watkins visited music classes where each student has an individualized computer program tailored to the student, which the teacher can monitor to track their progress. Another example was a geography class that is a virtual lab, in which all the walls and ceiling can have the environment of study subject projected (i.e. Earth, moon, solar system).

Watkins noticed many differences on the teaching techniques between the Chinese system and the U.S. system.

“The Chinese teaching perspective is a very traditional, top-down educational system. The teacher stands in front of the class and lectures, however long the class is, then the teacher leaves. Students sit in class and take notes. That’s it,”  Watkins said.

Watkins also mentioned that the Chinese school day and year are both longer compared to the U.S. school system. Furthermore, he had the impression that Chinese students work a lot harder; this could partially be attributed to the final comprehensive exam taken at the end of high school in China.

“Depending on how you do on the exam determines if you go to college or what area you study, and how good of a college,” Watkins said.

However, Watkins was not convinced that the Chinese students were necessarily learning any more, compared to U.S. students.

President Trevor Watkins shares general information about St. Paul’s School with Chinese Principals at EIC Education Agency (the program Watkins traveled with) Event in Shijiazhuang, Hebei China. (Photo courtesy EIC Education Agency)

“I’m not sure in this day and age that the time spent learning in that very traditional method is as effective as some methods of teaching and learning in our school,” Watkins said.

Watkins also noted how the Chinese school administrators recognize that in order to advance economically, students need to be innovative, something they have been criticized for in the past.  For this reason, many Chinese students seek out U.S. universities and, now, high schools.

“Exchanges between our two countries — be it students, business or otherwise — could be very mutually beneficial,” Watkins said. “In general, we have a lot to learn from them, and they have a lot to learn from us.”

(All photos courtesy EIC Education Agency)
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