China’s public schools foster innovation in young students

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Part of the activities for my Chinese cultural program was to engage with the community by merging in the culture. One day we went to a rural area in Shandong to teach a class to Chinese students in an elementary school. Rural areas in China are not as developed as metropolitan cities in China. As a result, my study group and I thought that perhaps the conditions of this elementary school were not advance as the ones in the big cities.  We were also told that this school was a public school mainly funded by the donations that companies made. Due to these two facts, we started to draw a picture in our heads of how this school was going to be. Before arriving, my study group and I had prepared activities to teach the children at school. (I taught them the song “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”) We were excited and also a bit nervous because we knew that our language professors were not going to help us most of the time. So we had to use all the Chinese that we have learned to teach Chinese students.

Right after our bus pulled up to the school parking lot, all the pictures that I had draw in my mind of this school were shattered. This is because the school facilities were better than the ones that I went to. Frankly, the school’s facilities were much better than the ones that I have normally seen. The Administration of this school had taken incredible measures to distribute the budget and provide modern infrastructure for the school. I recall they had several recreational facilities, a garden with several medicinal plants, a wall dedicated to national heroes, science lab, tech lab — you name it. We were able to see elementary school students use cutting edge technology, such as 3D printers. I was amazed by this since I have never seen one before, and now I am looking an 11-year-old kid using one nonchalantly.

I chose to talk about this place because it was a great experience; here I was able to become a teacher for a few hours using a language that I never thought of understanding, but there I was: teaching a class. I think UN Goal #9 applies here, “Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.” This school was all about fostering innovation, and the best part was that young students are learning things that they would use for sure in the near future.

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