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Notes from the Road: Spring China Trip

My Mother’s Day was spent in Shanghai speaking to a mother’s book group about U.S. education and studying in New England.  The evening before, I had given the same talk to a different audience: a Christian mom’s group.  

Before I made my way to Shanghai I was in Fujian Province’s Zhang Zhou city, a non-descript city of one million known for its bananas.  Along with eating delicious fruit, I was visiting the Li Ren Sino-American School. This is a private high school of 10,000 kids where 20 are enrolled in a special “school within a school,” taking American courses taught in English by a wonderful teacher from New Hampshire.  Here, I spoke to a small crowd of 4,000 teachers and students also about American education and studying in New England. 

What stuck me at every stop of my intense, ten-day sweep across China this spring was the interest in studying overseas and the particular interest in our schools.  At a time when many of our schools in the U.S. are faced with budget cuts and other challenges, the interest in China in our small classes, focus on critical thinking and “project based learning” is truly overwhelming.

Safety and clean air top the list of concerns of the moms groups that I spoke to.  We tend to take our air quality for granted yet after breathing brown air in Beijing for three days, I have a deeper appreciation for Maine’s pristine air and incredible natural beauty.  As a mother of three, I have at times taken for granted the fact that we live in such a beautiful region. I felt for these mothers in China: trying to make sense of our education system, our schools and the different regions in the U.S. from so far away.  I was touched by their concerns for their one child and their desire to offer their son or daughter a coveted American education. When I returned, I brought home a deep sense of appreciation of our schools and region.   

- Suzanne Fox