Three administrators in Rowland Unified face the New year with a fresh perspective on public education.

Assistant Superintendent Rosemary Aguilar joined principals Mercedes Lovie and Kevin Depart on a nine day trip to China. The educational journey was sponsored by the College Board, the group that runs SAT and AP tests.

"It was a cultural exchange that gave American educators a chance to learn about the Chinese educational system," explained Lovie, the popular principal at Blandford Elementary in Rowland Heights.

And what a cultural experience the whirlwind tour turned out to be.

"It was an amazing trip, I learned so much about China. Now I have a much better understanding of our global society,"

Mercedes Lovie works with Chinese students in Beijing. (Photo courtesy of Rowland Unified)
Lovie continued.

Fortunately, most Chinese students study English in school, so communication wasn't a problem. In fact, the Rowland educators said everyone wanted to practice their English with them.

"They were very friendly. Beijing was every bit as sophisticated as other world capitals like London and Paris. One street reminded me of Rodeo Drive with all the upscale stores we have here," she added.

The local teachers found striking differences in the educational systems. In China, universal education begins at the age of 3. And classes routinely have 50 in elementary grades to 75 in middle school, all lined up in orderly rows.

"One teacher asked me why we put 2+2=4 or 3+3=6 on the front board. In China,students are expected to know that from memory," Lovie pondered. "I told him our children learn from seeing things. That's why we have so many posters on classroom walls. In China, teachers lecture their classes. Learning there is done orally."

Assistant Superintendent Aguilar pointed out that 450 educators from across the United States took the trip. They all paid $1,000 for the cultural exchange.

"Everyone had to apply for the program. We had to write an essay on how the trip would help us become better educators," Aguilar said. "We were surprised when three of us from Rowland were chosen."

The top administrator described the exchange as a rich, rigorous program that kept them busy from 8 in the morning to 9 at night.

"The people were very friendly. I gained a new appreciation for the Chinese language," the head of the schools division noted. "If Americans want to compete globally, we need educational exchanges like this."

Of course, the administrators learned even more out of the classroom.

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