The overall purpose of the delegation was to promote understanding and relationships between Washington’s K-12 and higher education representatives and their counterparts in Chengdu. In addition to State Superintendent Randy Dorn, the American delegation included representatives from the school directors, district administrators, community colleges, and universities.
As a first time visitor to China, one of my initial reactions was about the huge population differences. Chengdu is only the fourth largest city in China with a population of over 14 million. By way of comparison, New York is by far our largest city at 8.5 million; and it’s more than double the population of Los Angeles, the second largest with 3.8 million. In fact, the city of Chengdu has about double the population of Washington State and their K-12 schools enroll more students than our entire state.
That comment provided a cautionary note similar to the message Yong Zhao has presented at several conferences in Washington State. While the work ethic of American students can certainly be questioned, an increasing number of our students can apply their learning to new contexts and many can even create new knowledge. Along with Zhao, I hope our focus on standards, assessment, and international competitiveness doesn't stifle that aspect of our students’ education.