British preparatory schools may seem downright otherworldly to many Chinese students. But that distance is being quickly bridged for Beijing’s Dadi Kindergarten, via a close new partnership between the Beijing Department of Education and England’s esteemed St James’ boarding school.
The partnership kicked off on February 2, when a group of Beijing head teachers arrived in the northeastern port of Grimsby, England to spend a week at St James. The Sino-British coalition inked a long-term agreement to "promote education between the two countries" according to the local Telegraph newspaper. Their first, and most concrete, joint initiative will be the coordination of internet video classes and online study between St James and Dadi, a way for the former to expose students to Asian culture, and for the latter’s students to boost their English language skills. From there, the campuses will swap teaching techniques and other resources.
The collaboration looks promising to Dadi teacher Zou Ping, who said: "I’m looking forward to more communication between the schools, the teachers and the pupils. In the future it will be more important to work more globally. Pupils starting at an early age and communicating will have a more open-eye view to see other cultures and connect."
One of the chief officiaters during the Dadi teachers’ visit was not a veteran St James administrator, but unread someone with a deeply personal tie to such transcontinental ventures. Ian Li, an 18-year-old St James senior student who hails from Beijing, was asked to serve as an interpreter throughout the week. He arrived in Grimsby four years ago, culture shocked and unable to speak English fluently. Now he is the embodiment of everything Dadi and St James hope to achieve with their new partnership.
"I was a bit nervous at the beginning but as it went on I began to feel much better," Li said of his interpreting task for the Dadi delegation. "It was my first time translating. When I arrived I couldn’t speak fluently but now I can communicate quite well.
Li added: "It will be good to build a relationship between China and England, as the school wants to do more internet ‘Skyping’ and learn different cultures from an early age."
Photo: Courtesy of The Telegraph.