by American local media- GreaterAnnapolisPatch
Sixty five executives from China visited The Key School last week to learn more about independent schools and to get an idea on how to model similar schools in their country.
The visit from a group of MBA students from the University of Beijing was part of a program led by the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy, which hosts groups from Beijing University's National School of Development each year, according to a release.
During the annual visits, Chinese visitors participate in lectures, seminars and training sessions in partnership with U.S. companies and government agencies as they examine public leadership opportunities, according to the release.
The group was broken into four smaller groups and given tours of Key’s campus. Each group had a translator, as the majority of the visitors did not speak fluent English.
“The very reason we wanted to see a school—all of these people have kids,” said John Yang, a professor of management and internatioal dean of the Beijing International MBA program at University of Beijing, which in China is called Peking University.
Yang, who received his Ph.D. from Columbia and is also a dean at Fordham University, was very enthusiastic about the visit.
“You remember the ‘Tiger Mother’ debate?” he said. “It is very important to see the educational philosophy here. Also private schools are likely to be emerging in China—we have private schools, but very few.”
When the large group of Chinese men and women began touring the normally placid Key School campus, the reactions of both visitors and students amounted to a study in cultural differences.
Women carrying parasols to shade the sun were the first curiosity among the Westerners. Then there were the cameras.
Many of the visitors seemed determined to photographically document each and every slice of Key school-life, including the students.
And quite a few of the kids, who understandably aren’t accustomed to strangers taking their photos, weren’t sure how to behave. A couple of preschoolers screamed and ran away, while one middle school student called out, “Put my photo on Facebook.”
Whether either party understood the irony of that statement is uncertain—Facebook is banned in most parts of China.
The visitors were interested in every facet of an American private school. Questions were asked about cost, curriculum, educationals philosophies, if the school has an orchestra and college acceptance rates.
“All of our students are college bound—100% of students go to university after this,” said Marcella Yedid, Key's Head of School.
One woman asked Key’s Yedid if all students are made to feel welcome at the school.
“We pride ourselves on the fact we are a very welcoming community,” she said.
Yedid then shared the story of a boy from Tibet who began third grade at Key this year, well after the school year started.
“The young man has been embraced by everyone,” she said. “We have something in common as human beings.”
Yedid addressed the woman directly.
“If your child wanted to come, I don’t think your child would feel at all out of place,” she said.
The visitors also had the opportunity to question three middle school students.
Their questions were about student government and the “dreams” (goals) of the students.
One answered she wanted to be a lawyer, another said she wanted to be a doctor and the third said he wasn’t sure, but was interested in math and science. All responses yielded applause from the visitors.
During one part of the tour Yang asked Yedid if they could stop to see a seventh grade civics class.
“This is very interesting to us,” he said.
Though two completely different cultures—one group from a rigid, communist county and the other from a school that encourages independence of thought and creativity in all aspects of life—the two groups seemed to embrace one another as if old friends.
Perhaps education and a brighter future were the equalizers.
“Peking University has continually played the essential role of pioneers in the course of China's modernization,” according to the university’s website.
Why was The Key School selected for the group, who also toured business, entertainment and government facilities in New York and Washington, D.C., during their U.S. trip?
"We searched a lot of private schools around the D.C. area," said Jiehong Lou, program coordinator for the University of Maryland's School of Public Policy China Program. "The location is good and they are famous for their very beautiful campus."
Lou said another determining factor was the size of the campus, which is big enough to accomodate a large group. The final factor was the school administration being extremely responsive.
"We also had some other private schools, but we picked it because they were very, very kind," Lou said. "They showed a lot of interest in hosting us."
At the conclusion of the visit, gifts were exchanged and the Chinese delegation was off to their next stop—the World Bank.