“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” according to a well-known Chinese proverb attributed to Lao Tzu.
The journey was actually 7,000 miles, and the step was into an airplane, but the spirit of the proverb held true when a group of 20 educators from the Anhui Province in eastern China visited Stony Brook University for an in-depth, 10-day workshop to explore today’s American education system.
The wheels of collaboration began to turn after representatives from the government of the Anhui Province contacted Stony Brook’s Office of Global Affairs in hopes of sending a delegation of school administrators, principals and assistant principals to Stony Brook to learn more about the American education system in the 21st century.
“After learning of the group’s interest, Global Affairs reached out to the School of Professional Development to develop the unique 10-day educational training program,” said Jun Liu, Stony Brook’s Vice Provost for Global Affairs and Dean of International Academic Programs and Services. “The program was designed to be an in-depth, cross-cultural teaching and learning opportunity.”
The event kicked off January 10 at the Charles B. Wang Center as Liu hosted a short tea breakfast before the opening panel discussion.
“We have more than 2,700 students from China on campus,” he said. “We hope programs like this will enable us to exchange ideas and forge deeper partnerships with our colleagues in China.”
In his opening remarks, Liu outlined four key touchpoints for Global Affairs:
- Aggressively recruit more high-quality applicants
- Establish alumni chapters in China
- Strengthen partnerships (Stony Brook currently has 40 academic partnerships in China)
- Run training programs
After the tea reception, delegates congregated in the Wang Center’s Chapel for a spirited in-depth discussion on current issues in American public education. Speakers included Roger Tilles and Judith Chin, both members of the New York State Board of Regents, as well as Paul Casciano, superintendent of the Port Jefferson School District, and Michael Hynes, superintendent of the Patchogue-Medford School District.
“I’ve been on the Board for many years and the problems haven’t changed,” said Tilles, Board of Regents, Nassau County. “Administrators do a great job, but we’re a long way from providing the quality of education or the equality of education that we strive for.”
Addressing the current controversy surrounding teacher evaluations in New York State, Tilles noted a move in the last 10 years to blame the teachers instead of other factors, and says we need to better align the standards and goals of the teachers with the standards and goals of the students.
“Poverty and culture affect learning,” said Tilles. “When you start looking at education in economic terms, the fix becomes very expensive.”
The panel also addressed the new skills required by the modern workforce.
“The workplace requires more complex skills in order to maintain better-paying jobs,” said Chin, Board of Regents, Queens County. “How we’ve educated students in the past won’t be enough in the future.”
The event ran through January 21, featuring nine informative workshops and seminars that included participation by many professors and administrators from several local school districts. The program also featured site visits to the Port Jefferson and Patchogue-Medford school districts. The delegation also had an opportunity to partake in social events — highlighted by a day trip to New York City.
“The expectation is that the visiting administrators will continue their relationship with us when they return to China, and will promote our University with their students,” said Liu.
In addition to sharing knowledge and goodwill, this program also represented a recruitment opportunity for Stony Brook. In the end, the groundbreaking event was beneficial for both sides, and attendees were able to take home some valuable knowledge on current American education philosophies and how to integrate them with their own goals.
“The planning of the school visits was detailed and provided us with the opportunity to understand the U.S. school system from a holistic perspective,” said attendee XianFa Lu. “The lectures were detailed and inspirational, especially the parts that compared the U.S. and China systems.”
“The School of Professional Development and its Educational Leadership Program are grateful to the Office of Global Affairs for making this collaboration with the principals of the Anhui Province of China possible,” said Craig Markson, Assistant Dean, School of Professional Development and Interim Director, Educational Leadership Program at Stony Brook. “While we heard about the cultural differences in how China and the United States organize and implement their educational systems, we all benefited from the sharing of ideas on our common goal of how to best prepare students for success in the ever-changing 21st century global economy.”