The education system in China has often been criticized for focusing too much on academic results and neglecting to develop well-rounded students. However, one school in Changchun is changing all that.
According to Cui Zhenji, headmaster of the Middle School Affiliated to Jilin University, a good education not only gets students into the universities they want to go, but also empowers them to pursue their own dreams and aspirations and helps them develop into well-balanced individuals.
Cui Zhenji, headmaster of the Middle School Affiliated to Jilin University, thinks that extracurricular activities and real-world experience is the best form of education. With experience, the students can develop their critical thinking skills, goals and beliefs. [chinanews.com]
The school is very popular among students and parents in Changchun, capital city of northeast China's Jilin Province. Although the Junior Middle School and Senior Middle School only accept a little over 1,000 students and 500 students each year respectively, they each receive over 8,000 and 3,000 applications a year.
The reason is simple: the school has an excellent teaching faculty and offers a rich variety of extracurricular activities.
In 1996, when Cui took over the helm as principal of the school, one of the first things she did was to streamline the teaching faculty, winnowing out the teachers who were not up to standard.
Cui was familiar with the teaching methods in Western countries and was very opposed to the way in which education in China often focused on rote memorizing and cramming. So the first step she took was to upgrade the faculty's teaching skills.
In Cui's opinion, an excellent teacher should not only teach students academic knowledge, but also knowledge of culture, society and life. At the beginning of each semester, all the teachers take a one-week intensive training course. Famous scholars and experts are invited to the school to give the teachers lectures.
Ensuring the quality of the school's teachers was crucial to the next step of her plan, which was to offer the students a variety of extracurricular experiences to supplement their academic studies.
Military training for the students was arranged to enhance their team spirit and independence. Second-grade students were offered a chance to take part in the 'experiencing rural life' activity, in which students live, study and eat together with their rural counterparts. The aim is to expose the urban students to a way of life that they may not be aware of and which can teach them empathy and gratitude. Third-grade students are taken to Beijing where they visit the usual scenic spots and renowned universities to broaden their worldview and help them visualize their future goals.
"These activities usually last 7 to 10 days and are held during the normal school term," said Cui.
In addition, the school's students are required to finish 56 hours of community service during each winter holiday and summer holiday. They are encouraged to take part in public welfare activities, such as volunteering at nursing homes, kindergartens and factories.
The school also offers incentives in the form of praise and recognition for students who participate wholeheartedly in these activities.
The school also offers many opportunities for the students to develop their versatile talents, including football, volleyball, basketball, athletics, gymnastics, and chess clubs. Arts and science festivals are also often held and students can choose to take part in optional school trips such as visits to old revolutionary areas or to foreign countries.
Another feature of the school is its highly regarded mentoring system in which each student is assigned two teachers as mentors. One of the teachers will be from the university and the other from the high school. They are responsible for providing the student with academic and personal guidance.
Taking advantage of the educational resources of Jilin University, the school employs excellent teachers and researchers to act as counseling teachers for the senior middle school students. These students can carry out research programs under the guidance of these teachers after they finish their normal school work. Several of these students have won awards at the National Youth Science and Technology Innovation Contest for their research papers.
"Extracurricular activities and real-world experience is the best form of education. With experience, the students can develop their critical thinking skills, goals and beliefs," said Cui. Although the school does focus on getting its students into universities, Cui says that the school's main goal is to produce students who are well-rounded, capable and hard-working.
(Source: chinanews.com/ Translated and edited by womenofchina.cn)
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