Back in 2018, Mick Homer, a teacher at Upton Infant School in Dorset, headed to China along with 12 other teachers from various Primary and Secondary schools across the UK. This fully funded trip is part of OneWorld Education UK's Global Youth Ambassador Project and is open to teachers who work in a school currently partnered with us, or looking to do so.
Here is Mick's account of his week long trip-of-a-lifetime to China, November 2018.
Sunday 11th November 2018
I arrived in Beijing at 5am, following an eleven hour flight, to find that my luggage had been left in Brussels where I had taken my connecting flight ten hours earlier! Luckily I had packed a change of clothes in my hand luggage, so I reported the missing bag to the airline and met up with my Chinese translator who took me and two other English teachers on a visit to Tian'an Men Square and The Forbidden City. Despite our jet lag, this was a fantastic experience and we were quickly immersed in the Chinese culture. The sheer scale of this place was mind blowing! In the afternoon we caught a 186mph bullet train to Zhengzhou where we would spend the next few days.
Monday 12th November 2018
The next morning we were picked up from our hotel and taken to Xianggun Lu Primary School. We were met by a welcoming party of staff and students who escorted us to a very posh board room. After hearing about their school, we then went outside to find the playgrounds filled with literally thousands of children! Standing in rows, they performed their morning exercises to music, before heading off to various activities which we observed one by one. These activities included dancing, football, basketball, remote-controlled boat racing, skipping games, singing, model village building, traditional Chinese calligraphy, paper cutting, puppetry and even target shooting! The talents and creativity on display were staggering and it was lovely to see how this school was trying to place an increased emphasis on creativity despite the strong academic focus of the Chinese curriculum. I was particularly intrigued by how the children's skills were showcased - something we could do more of in our school to further develop the children's love of learning.
In the afternoon, we then visited Xinghua Er Primary School where it became apparent that the creativity and talents of children was not unique to the previous school. Again we were welcomed into an elaborate board room where we discussed the difference between Chinese and English education, before being shown around their school. Here the children were leaf pressing, playing xylophones, learning traditional Chinese and playing football on a full sized artificial grass pitch was surrounded by a full sized athletics track! The facilities on offer to these children were only comparable to what you would find at a University in England.
Tuesday 13th November 2018
In the early hours of the morning, my suitcase arrived, so after donning some clean clothes we were whisked off to the local Department of Education. Here, we met a number of school principles and the lady in charge of education for the district. We discussed each of our schools at length and then spent the afternoon visiting two of their schools.
First we visited Kangping Primary School where we were treated to a highly professional show by some of their students. This included traditional dancing, tai chi and singing. Following the performances, the principle asked me to sign a partnership agreement with her so that we could begin to make international links between our two schools. This is a very exciting opportunity for our school and throughout the rest of the year I will be working to establish links with this school, and others, to deepen our children's understanding of the world and what it means to be a global citizen within it.
Next we went to Juyuan Lu Primary School where we were quickly ushered into a classroom and asked to teach a class of 5th graders. There were sixty children in this class and the classrooms were smaller than ours! (I will never moan about the size of our classrooms again!) Working alongside two other teachers, we taught the story of our lost suitcases using physical actions. They all really enjoyed the lesson, particularly when I told them I had no clean pants until our luggage arrived! Due to the class sizes in China, teachers have to work very hard on developing the children's listening and attention skills and they do this through a range of strategies and expectations. It will be worth experimenting with different strategies within our school to see what impact this could have on our children's learning.
Wednesday 14th November 2018
The next day we caught another bullet train to Xi'an where we stayed for the remainder of our time in China. Here we met up with teachers from America, Australia, New Zealand and many more from the UK. This enabled us to network with schools from across the globe and I am hopeful that we will continue to develop relationships with their schools to provide our pupils with a truly global education.
Thursday 15th and Friday 16th November 2018
Over the next two days we all attended an international education summit focussing on how to develop our curriculum to teach our children about the importance of global citizenship. During the summit I gave a talk to a number of attendees about our school and following this we signed more partnership agreements with Chinese Primary Schools and Kindergartens.
On Friday afternoon, we visited Xi'an Jinkai No.1 Schol where we watched a fantastic English lesson in which the children applied their verbal skills whilst learning about impact of a healthy breakfast on their bodies. I was amazed by the children's English skills and I was particularly impressed by how they had linked the subjects together, teaching science throughout an English lesson. These cross-curricular links are easily achievable in our school and this is certainly something which I will begin to apply during our literacy lessons in particular.
Saturday 17th November 2018
On our final day in China, we were lucky enough to have time to visit the Terra-cotta Army. This army of life-sized model warriors was discovered in 1974 and excavated over the next 35 years. It is now described as the eighth wonder of the world and one of the greatest discoveries in the history of archaeology. This was yet another mind-blowing experience and, again, the sheer scale was staggering.
What a fantastic experience this was! Not only did I get the opportunity to visit a number of Chinese schools, but I also met educators from all over the world. It is evident that education systems vary hugely across the globe. however, we are all experiencing similar issues as we work towards our common goal of providing our children with the best opportunities possible in their future. Throughout the week, I have set up links with a number of schools and educators from across the world and I am now committed to ensuring that these links are strengthened and maintained to ensure that our children are given as many global learning opportunities as possible. We now hope that some Chinese children will come to spend some time with us in our school and that some more of our teachers will have opportunities to travel abroad for similar programmes in the future.