Lakes District Secondary School (LDSS) has formed a new partnership that will benefit local students as well as School District 91.
LDSS principal Mike Skinner signed a memorandum of understanding in April for a ‘twinning’ venture with Xianghe Number One School which is situated 50 kilometres outside of Beijing, China. [Twinning is when two schools in different locations are paired together to communicate and share ideas.]
Xianghe Number One School is a coeducational public school that has approximately 3,400 students enrolled.
The offer for a twinning agreement came from the Chinese school during recent negotiations as part of the school district’s newly formed business company.
Xianghe Number One School is also looking at building a B.C. certified school on their campus in China and the School District 91 company is involved in the process.
“We are looking at having this up and running by September 2012 and it will just start with a small group of Grade 10 students,” said Ray LeMoigne, School District 91 superintendent.
Chinese students enrolled at the school would be working towards a B.C. Dogwood certificate via a three year program.
He said that some of the students would enroll in a dual track model, where they would continue on with their Chinese studies as well as work towards their Dogwood, while others would take Chinese studies up to Grade 9 then solely focus on their Dogwood. “It will be a big workload for those that take the dual track option,” LeMoigne said.
“A Dogwood is highly valued and recognized around the world by post secondary institutions. The Chinese want to graduate with foreign certification so graduating with a Dogwood is highly desirable.”
Canadian teachers will teach a B.C. based curriculum at the B.C. certified school in China and all classes must be taught in English, as a first language.
In Chinese schools all students are taught English as a second language.
The B.C. certified school will also bring benefits back to School District 91 through school fees that will be paid by Chinese students attending the school. There will also be an opportunity for these students to temporarily come to Canada and enroll in School District 91 schools for up to one year as part of their Dogwood studies.
Mike Skinner, LDSS principal as well as LDSS teachers Tracy Brown and Craig Little travelled to China in June and had the chance to see how the Xianghe Number One School operates.
“It is quite a big school and we got to see first hand the differences and similarities between our schools,” Skinner said.
“The students are very interested in us as Canadians. They asked about Canada and are interested in improving their English language skills.”
“I learned that it is very easy for us as Canadians to travel to China. For the Chinese it is difficult to travel to Canada as there are visa requirements.”
Skinner said they spent two days at the ‘sister’ school and met with English teachers and the school principal.
“I have never been to China before and I was interested to see how cosmopolitan it is … and how big. There are more middle class people in China than the entire population of North America.”
China is a highly populated country, with over 20 million people living in the city of Beijing.”They are interested in Canada because it is such a large country with a small population. It is a great experience and it is a unique opportunity for LDSS. We are excited to move forward.”
Four students from Fraser Lake and Fort St. James are currently in China on exchange programs and Skinner said he is looking forward to hearing about their experiences when they return.
He hopes that in the future, LDSS students will also be able to visit China on similar exchange programs.
There are many exciting prospects available to both LDSS and Xianghe Number One School through the twinning agreement.
There will be the possibility for a teacher exchange program where Chinese English teachers can work at LDSS and improve their English skills. “There would also the potential for local teachers to travel to China and learn Chinese, but that would be down the way as the demand for Chinese language isn’t as great in our schools,” LeMoigne said.
“Most exciting is the opportunities that will be presented to all of the students. We are looking at developing one month long winter and spring camps. Students can travel from China to the local area and improve their English skills while they are immersed in Canadian culture. Local students will have the opportunity to participate in these camps as well.”
Local families will be able to host the students during their stay. As well they will have an opportunity to stay in dorm rooms for a couple of nights as part of a University of Northern British Columbia initiative.
“We want them to be able to experience a Canadian university environment,” he said.
Through twinning, LDSS students will be able to connect with their Chinese counterparts via the internet for student forums and discussions.
They will also have the opportunity to work on joint book reports and participate in online novel studies as well as online debates and other joint projects.
“It is quite exciting and will broaden the educational experience for all of the students,” LeMoigne said,
The Nechako Valley Secondary School (NVSS) in Vanderhoof has also been paired with a Beijing school.
The school district is now expecting a reciprocal visit to be paid by Chinese teachers and officials in mid August.
“They are working on arranging their visas to come to Canada at the moment,” he added.