A recent trip to China gave Augusta Preparatory Day Schools Head of Schools Becky Gilmore a greater appreciation for the primary goal shared by Chinese and American educators.
“The principals and the teachers that I met from China are as concerned about the success, happiness and the academic preparation of their students as we are,” said Gilmore, who returned from China on Oct. 31. “(They) want to do what they can to prepare them for successfully, happy lives and for college and universities.”
In an effort to further Augusta Prep’s global reach in China, Gilmore spent nine days in Shanghai and three other Chinese cities where she visited schools, met with principals and students and participated in an educational reform seminar for Chinese schools.
Gilmore was one of 12 independent school leaders from across the country sent to China by the Ameson Foundation, which encourages cultural and educational exchanges between the United States and China.
Last January, the Foundation was responsible for bringing five Chinese students to Augusta Prep for five weeks and will do so again this year, Gilmore said.
While in China, Gilmore and her colleagues visited four schools in Shanghai, Jiangyin, Nanjing and Jiangsu. There, they consulted with educators to enhance American high school programs, which are taught in English and compare to advance placement courses offered in the U.S.
Gilmore saw first-hand how the Chinese classroom differs from the American learning environment.
“It’s now very much focused on memorization and logical thinking rather than critical thinking and creativity,” Gilmore said. “The Chinese are trying to broaden their systems.”
Gilmore noted that within many Chinese classrooms, class sizes are larger and there is less personal interaction with students. In addition, students often carry a much larger subject load than their American counterparts.
The trip, Gilmore said, also was important in paving the way for 24 Augusta Prep students to visit schools in Shangai and Bejing in June.
“It’s just part of Augusta Prep’s interest in increasing our students’ global perspectives,” she said. “It’s a lot of different things coming together, which is very cool.”
To get the authentic Chinese experience, Gilmore visited a Shanghai mausoleum and tried exotic cuisine such as jellyfish and even duck tongue.
“That was one of the most unusual things I ate,” she said. “Of course, it was good.”