Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Janesville International Education Program (JIEP) - Why China?

A BOE Commissioner raised several questions at the last Board meeting regarding our focus on China and the cost of the trips.  Tomorrow’s blog will cover the costs which were paid from revenue from the summer institute, donations and grants.  Today I will answer the question, “Why China?”

Six years ago then school board member now Senator, Tim Cullen challenged us to reconsider the world languages we were teaching.  A study committee was formed and it was decided that the SDJ would start teaching Mandarin Chinese because it was the most spoken language in the world.   In 6 years time the School District of Janesville (SDJ) received an award for having one of the best Chinese programs in the nation and doors started opening.  At the same time Kennedy Elementary School received national recognition as a Blue Ribbon School. This recognition was the first ever for the SDJ.  The national recognition became international recognition with a journal article written by Principal Allison DeGraaf after the article was published in China.

Opportunities for international connections started to multiply and grew faster than any of us expected.  The Asia Society invited me to China and I took Commissioner Hesslebacher along.  Then, Dr Smiley was invited to travel there.  The purpose of the travel was to set up partner schools and form collaborative relationships with schools in China.
As we did the work and took advantage of opportunities we realized that:

  1. Global awareness is really important to our children as we prepare them for a workforce that looks different than it looks today.  We also want to raise children that are kind, culturally sensitive and ethical across continents. 
  2. We realized that student achievement is a concern and issue all over the world.  The Chinese are good at math and science:  we our good at raising creative, innovative kids who are problem solvers.  We can learn from each other.
  3. Technology plays a huge role in all of this and with Dr. Smiley’s vision for connecting us around the world we are finding new avenues to share information, interact with each other and build relationships.
  4. English is not spoken everywhere in the world.  We need to learn the language of other countries.
  5. We found that we can increase enrollment and bring in revenue because there are educators and students and parents very eager to have an American education.

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